Tarvaris Jackson would have rather been playing the past two games instead of sitting out with a groin injury, but he still found some value in watching veteran Kelly Holcomb operate the Minnesota Vikings offense while standing on the sidelines.
"Just seeing things from a different perspective and seeing how Kelly does things with the offense kind of helped me out," Jackson said.
Of course, Jackson's performance has to improve when he is expected to return next week when the Vikings travel to Chicago. After opening the season as a "manager of the game" that head coach Brad Childress likes to instill in his quarterbacks – Jackson was 13 of 23 for 163 yards, one touchdown and one interception against Atlanta – the second-year quarterback regressed badly in his second outing.
His 75.1 passer rating from the opener plummeted to a horrible 26.4 – there is no sugarcoating that outing – when he went on the road to face the division-rival Detroit Lions. In a game that was close throughout, Jackson completed 17 of 33 passes for 166 yards but threw four interceptions.
He'll face similar circumstances next Sunday and is obviously hoping for better results. He'll be on the road facing a divisional opponent in the Bears, another team that employs primarily a Cover-2 defense that the Lions and Vikings both use, but Jackson said he's not only looking forward to proving to himself that he's better than his four-interception outing, but also wants to gain the confidence of his supporting cast.
"Not just proving to everybody else, but to prove to my teammates and my coaches that I'm not going to go out there and have four turnovers. I haven't played since then and that's another thing that's kind of frustrating – after a game like that to sit out and watch two games because I had the injury," he said. "I'm just ready to get out there and have fun."
The veteran Holcomb has played the entire last two games with Jackson on the sidelines and, while he has thrown only one interception, he hasn't produced any wins either. Jackson, however, is looking at things with a big-picture approach when it comes to the offense, not just concentrating on the quarterback position.
"As an offense, we haven't scored that many points, but we're real close to having that breakout game. I thought it was going to be the Kansas City game and I thought it was going to be (the Green Bay) game," Jackson said
He believes the Vikings were getting some good yards with both the rushing and passing game, but that they need to put points on the board. The statistics bear that out – to a degree.
The passing game is ranked 27th in the NFL, but with rookie sensation Adrian Peterson leading the way the running game is ninth in the league, leading to a 24th-ranked offense overall. That's also where the Vikings rank in points per game, but that ranking is probably inflated when discussing the offense. Three touchdowns have been scored by the defense, but even without those 21 points, the team would still be ahead of the New Orleans Saints and St. Louis Rams, two teams who were considered playoff contenders before the season began but who are both winless.
Jackson believes that the team's approach against Green Bay, when they appeared to throw the ball downfield more than had at any point in this young season.
"We had to. If we don't stretch the field, (opponents) are going to start putting guys in the box. Even though we didn't covert a lot of the passes down the field – we did some of them – but the ones that we don't convert, they still know that we're going to take chances down the field. When you throw the football down the field, that kind of helps our running game so you can't put that eighth guy in the box.
"If you keep running the football on every play and we can't complete a ball downfield, I'd keep eight guys in the box also."
That downfield approach may have been a strategy reserved more for the Packers, who play their cornerbacks in more man coverage than Detroit or Chicago, so Jackson's first exposure to the football field in almost a month next Sunday could bring a return to more underneath passes.
But there is hope, according to two former Vikings coaches. Former running backs coach Dean Dalton and former linebackers coach Pete Bercich said this weekend on "Vikings Game Plan" on Fox television that Jackson's mobility has to keep defenses a bit more honest.
Whether or not that translates into more wins from the 2006 second-round pick remains to be seen.
Jackson's Return: Pros and Cons
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