Vikings Expect Plenty of Blitzes

With a young, relatively inexperienced quarterback at the helm, the Vikings are expecting plenty of blitzes from the Atlanta Falcons in the season opener, but the offense added several other parts in hopes of taking some of the aggressiveness out of opposing defenses.

One of the biggest issues facing the Vikings has been whether they are asking too much of Tarvaris Jackson by making him their starting quarterback.

We'll begin to find out beginning Sunday as the Vikings open their season against Atlanta at the Metrodome. Coming off a 6-10 finish in 2006, expectations aren't very high.

In fact, entering the week, there were concerns about the Vikings facing their first blackout in a decade. That hasn't happened since 1997 — the year before receiver Randy Moss arrived.

As of Tuesday, the Vikings had 3,500 tickets remaining and had not sold out any of their games. This includes the Sept. 30 meeting with arch-rival Green Bay. The Packers game is usually sold out days after single-game tickets go on sale.

Jackson, a second-round pick out of Division I-AA Alabama State, played in four games last season and started the final two. The Vikings lost both contests, and Jackson clearly had a long way to go in learning the West Coast system the Vikings utilize.

He spent much of his offseason at the team's Winter Park complex working with the coaching staff and trying to learn the intricacies of the scheme.

Jackson's preseason performance didn't reveal much about where he's at in his development. His most extensive action came in the third preseason game when he played into the third quarter against Seattle. With the Seahawks using some of their blitz packages, Jackson did not look completely overmatched but also rushed himself at times.

He played only one series in the Vikings' preseason finale against Dallas and threw at least two balls that could have been picked off. Jackson completed 20 of 38 passes for 225 yards with no interceptions or touchdowns in his exhibition appearances.

While the addition of first-round pick Adrian Peterson to a backfield that includes 1,000-yard rusher Chester Taylor will make the Vikings running game dangerous, there is little doubt about how new Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will approach this game.

Atlanta will not only load up the box and dare Jackson to pass the ball, but the Falcons will come at him with a variety of blitzes that will test his ability to remain in the pocket and find receivers. It wouldn't be surprising if Jackson also takes off running with the ball.

He battled a knee injury for much of last season and appears much more willing to run now that the knee is feeling better.

Among Jackson's receiving options will be newcomers Bobby Wade and Robert Ferguson. Wade, signed as a free agent during the offseason, appeared to be developing a chemistry with Jackson in the preseason.

Wade, who will be used primarily out of the slot, caught five passes for 85 yards against the Seahawks. Troy Williamson, who has been a disappointment since being the seventh overall pick of the 2005 draft, also remains an option although it appears anything the Vikings get from the receiver will be a plus.

One interesting thing will be to see what type of impact there is now that offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has taken over the primary play-calling duties from coach Brad Childress. Bevell called plays in the exhibition games and appears more willing to throw downfield than Childress was last season.


  • The Vikings have said that Erasmus James will be their starting right defensive end when he has proven he's completely recovered from the knee injury that ended his 2006 season. While James is back on the field, he does not appear to be 100 percent yet. Thus, it's expected second-year player Ray Edwards will get the start against Atlanta instead of James. James, though, still will see playing time as the Vikings rotate several players on the line in order to keep them fresh.

  • Kenechi Udeze has won the starting job at left end over Darrion Scott. Scott can still expect to see plenty of time not only at left end but also replacing nose tackle Pat Williams in the nickel defense.

  • S Mike Doss continued to sit out because of an injury to his left calf and his status is in doubt for Sunday's game.

  • S Tank Williams also has a calf injury and was limited in Wednesday's practice.

  • DE Darrion Scott has a shoulder injury and was limited in Wednesday's practice.

  • WR Bobby Wade is coming off a sprained ankle and was limited in Wednesday's practice.

  • LB Vinny Ciurciu continues to recover from a broken finger suffered in the preseason and was limited in Wednesday's practice.

  • WR Robert Ferguson has an ankle injury and was limited in Wednesday's practice.

  • LB E.J. Henderson sat out Wednesday's practice because of illness.

  • RG Artis Hicks is expected to start Sunday but Anthony Herrera appears to still be in the mix.

  • TE Garrett Mills was claimed off waivers from the New England Patriots. Mills, a fourth-round pick from Tulsa in 2006, also can play fullback and H-back. He was inactive for nine games last season with New England and spent the rest of the season on injured reserve because of a hip injury.

  • QB Tyler Thigpen was claimed off waivers by the Kansas City Chiefs, foiling the Vikings plan to put one of their two seventh-round drafts picks on the practice squad. The Vikings kept Brooks Bollinger as their third quarterback instead of Thigpen. Philadelphia and Carolina also were interested in Thigpen.

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