Tarvaris Jackson won't let himself become a numbers guy.
His promotion on the depth chart earlier in the preseason, leapfrogging Mike McMahon and moving into the title of the team's No. 2 quarterback, didn't appear to take him by surprise. Then again, judging from his comments, demeanor, and evaluations from teammates and coaches it appears not much catches the rookie quarterback off guard.
Exhibition games hardly make a career, but even so, Jackson is meeting or exceeding all expectations in the preseason. In three games, he has completed 18 of 28 passes for 220 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. For a second-round draft pick (64th overall) out of Alabama State, the zero interceptions might be the most glaring statistic mentioned.
"There's lots of stuff I still have to correct and I have to work on that and try to get better," Jackson said, playing the predictable role of keeping both feet planted on the turf.
Jackson's decision-making, accuracy and practice work ethic have many inside the organization excited about the Vikings' future at quarterback. But Jackson doesn't want to talk about the future. Instead, he maintains the businesslike approach.
"I don't let all the other stuff get to me," Jackson said. "Football's my main priority. By concentrating on football and not letting anything else bother me is how I got to where I am. Whether I play and when I play is not my position. I just have to do the best I can. Whether I'm with the ones, the twos or the threes, I just have to go out there and try to execute."
It appears to be an ideal situation for the Vikings. Brad Johnson, the consummate professional, is their No. 1 quarterback for now. That practically guarantees the offense a consistent, stay-the-course approach with a 14-year veteran signal-caller who has won a Super Bowl and seen practically every situation.
Jackson, meanwhile, can sit back and attempt to absorb everything he sees and hears.
"Brad pops in a lot of information to me," Jackson said. "He's very quick to offer help so I don't have to ask a lot of questions, but when I do he's very helpful. A lot of stuff I get from him – I don't need to ask about – I just watch and learn."
Jackson's game plan is music to offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's ears.
"No one is going to outwork him," Bevell said. "I have been pleasantly surprised with how fast he has picked up this offense."
But there is much more to learn. "My decision-making can always get better," Jackson said. "I have to get better at reading blitzes and reading defenses and that will lead to better decision-making."
Second-year receiver Troy Williamson, who because of Nate Burleson's offseason departure to Seattle and Koren Robinson's battles off the field that led to his outright release Saturday, is expected to be the team's go-to receiver. Mention the future of a Jackson-to-Williamson connection and he smiles ear to ear.
"He loves to stand up and throw the ball from the pocket and he's very, very smart," Williamson said. "I look forward to playing with him."
Jackson does, too. "It's always good when receivers are confident in you," Jackson said. "They do a lot for you and they've got your back along with the other teammates and coaches. It's good to know he's got confidence in me because I've got a lot of confidence in him."
Jackson Remains Grounded Despite Success
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