Notebook: Offense Still Needs Tuning

The Vikings have added several parts at the skill positions on offense, but so far this preseason they are showing there is still work to be done. Plus, see which former Vikings were flying in and out of NFL locales around the country, along with other personnel decisions of note.

While the Vikings show signs of progress on offense, there have been several areas of scrutiny, either holdover concerns from last year or new questions that have surfaced this preseason.

While the Vikings were one of the league's more penalized teams last year, they placed special emphasis on avoiding presnap penalties in offseason workouts and training camp practices. For good reason – they were tied for third-most false starts in the league last year with 27.

When an offensive player would commit a false start in training camp, he would be punished by jogging the remaining length of the field. It was an effort to stress the importance of avoiding presnap penalties.

However, the Vikings had three false starts on Saturday and right tackle Ryan Cook accounted for two of them in the first half of Saturday's loss to Seattle. He didn't curry the favor of his coaches with those early moves.

"I believe it is mental toughness. You have to be able to sit in there," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "The first one he had Patrick Kerney on him. All he did was line up here and he slid out and it made him flinch. He knows the cadence that we are going on. We have the advantage; he knows what we have called it on. Then when we go on a silent count, he knows our silent count tempo and when we are going to snap the ball. It is just a matter of concentration and sitting in there."

Dropped passes were another issue the Vikings were looking to eliminate this offseason, especially with 2005 No. 7 overall draft pick Troy Williamson.

When Williamson didn't come up with a long would-be touchdown pass in Saturday's game, it became a topic of conversation among Vikings fans as to whether or not the ball was catchable.

"It was close," Bevell said. "I would say that Tarvaris (Jackson) put a good ball on it. I don't know if he was going full speed, if he could lay out. We missed it by six inches at most, so we can look at it and analyze it as much as we can. Would I say Troy has done a great job in camp? I think he has come a long way. I think we expect him to catch that ball now, I think he expects to catch that ball now, and we need to see it."

It didn't help the analysis the critiquing of other players that the potential touchdown pass wasn't caught. It also underscored the fact that Jackson hasn't had a touchdown all preseason But neither have any of the other quarterbacks on the team – only wide receiver Bobby Wade has thrown a touchdown pass on an end around play Saturday night.

"It's concerning – the fact that obviously we want to get the ball in the end zone and we want to finish some drives," Bevell said. "But on the other hand, these preseason games, we've been going into games with doing what we do, just running the offense that we have used in training camp. We haven't sat back, we haven't game planned them, we haven't really particularly paid as much attention as we normally would of (like), ‘Hey, what are they going to do to us in the red zone? What plays do we want to attack their coverage with?' We have been going, ‘Hey, these are the ones that we have been running at camp and that's what we are going to go with.' Usually those plays are designed to beat our defense, not necessarily the team that we are playing, unless they happen to play that same coverage."


With former Vikings head coach Mike Tice in Jacksonville, it's no surprise that town has become the Vikings Southeast.

The Jaguars on Monday signed former Vikings DT Joe Anoai, a rookie free agent acquired by the Vikings this year, and LB Chris Claiborne, who was with the team from 2003-2004.

Another player who was with the Vikings from 2003-2004, kicker Aaron Elling, was cut by the Jaguars, as was former Vikings TE Jermaine Wiggins. Wiggins played with the team from 2004-06 and led the team in receiving in 2004 and 2005 with Tice as head coach.

The Houston Texans released another former Vikings tight end, Ben Steele, who was cut from the Vikings before he had the opportunity to make the team in 2004. He then ripped the Vikings' decision and signed with Green Bay.


Given the Vikings' penchant for secrecy surrounding potential future roster moves, it's hard to know if their public statements should be taken at face value or not.

Before the draft, head coach Brad Childress talked openly about his respect for former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn's talents. And then the Vikings proceeded to pass on Quinn when he was available with the No. 7 overall pick. Instead, the team drafted exciting running back Adrian Peterson while Quinn continued to fall another 14 slots in the draft before Cleveland traded up to pick him. Childress this offseason also dismissed rumors of the Vikings' interest in former Texans quarterback David Carr, and this time Childress and the Vikings passed on Carr.

It's hardly on the level of Quinn subterfuge, but the Vikings say that wide receiver Todd Lowber, who was released on Monday as part of the first wave of roster cuts, is still a possibility for the practice squad.

"Yeah, there is a lot of skill with him – speed obviously is the one that we talk about, but there was a lot of just the little nuances and intricacies of the game that he didn't quite understand yet that maybe you get him on a practice squad and try to continue to bring him along and teach him those things," Bevell said.

Lowber, however, didn't want to hear talk of the practice squad last week when Viking Update talked to him about his prospects.

"That's the business aspect of it because to put a guy on practice squad, it's not as easy as you think, especially if he has protection, because you have to make that guy available to the rest of the league first. That's why I want the opportunity to show what I can do just in case that is the plan," Lowber said last week before having the first pass of his preseason directed his way on Saturday night. "Let me show what I can do. Before you make a decision to put me on the practice squad, let me show what I can really do in a real game when the bullets are flying. That's the only opportunity I want because I can do everything these guys can do.

"I know that sounds like, you just started playing football, but I learn very fast. I'm a quick learner. I know that if I'm given the opportunity, there is no way that they are going to be able to deny me. I'm ready, I'm prepared and they've been preparing me. They are good coaches here and they know they've coached me up so when they put me in the game they know I'm going to be able to perform. This is a business and I have to be able to market myself. I haven't been able to do that, only to one team and that's very frustrating. I'm not letting it get to me – I'll never take a day off, I'll never take a play off. When it comes my turn, I'll go full speed."


The Vikings announced their roster cuts yesterday and today, but the team didn't mention the released of tight end Braden Jones, who was placed on the waived-injured list with a thigh injury. He wasn't at practice on Monday and was simply deleted from the roster on Tuesday.

Jones had two catches for 29 yards – including a 24-yarder – against the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday and would be a solid practice-squad candidate, if not a 53-man roster addition if the Vikings can get him back before another team signs him.


The Vikings' Midwest location will serve them rather average this season. They register in the middle of the NFL pack for miles traveled in 2007 at 15th. St. Louis, the leader in miles, isn't served nearly as well by its central location. The Rams will travel 34,352 miles this year, according to the league.

While the Rams might be the surprise winner, the rest of the top five (all coastal teams) probably are no surprise – Seattle at 33,586, Miami at 29,724, San Diego at 28,398 and Oakland at 27,721.

Viking Update Top Stories