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Three key problems with passing game?

This is no slam on anyone they currently have as coaches or players, but the overall dynamics and the right pieces in the right roles just aren’t there yet.  In some cases, more experience is needed.  In some, another key addition would do wonders.

Here are three key problems behind the team’s deficient passing attack to this point, in this writer's opinion.

1.  Jackson isn’t quite ready yet.

Everyone expected quarterback Tarvaris Jackson to experience growing pains in his first season as a starter.  But the painful truth is that it has probably been the difference in at least two games (Detroit and Dallas) the team has lost this season.

Jackson has yet to truly get into any kind of rhythm with the passing game and he’s missed too many key opportunities at clutch plays and potential big plays because of inaccuracy.  He has looked indecisive at times and holds the ball too long.  But other than the Detroit game, he has not been careless with the football.  He has not forced throws into coverage and seems to be reading the defenses and going through his progressions well.  Yet in every game in which he’s played this year, he’s had a handful of key plays where he simply didn’t make the throw.  That will get better with experience.

The reality is that the Vikings are stuck between a rock and a hard place as to how to handle Jackson at this point.  He needs the experience, but they want to win now.  Ultimately, the Vikings have little choice but to stick with Jackson.

It is NOT all Jackson’s fault, though.

2.  Receivers are not getting open.

It has become clear that the Vikings simply do not have a legitimate No. 1 receiver.  They do not have one true go-to guy that can be effective in all areas of the passing game.

Troy Williamson has tremendous vertical speed and the potential to be dangerous run-after-the-catch option on a crossing route.  But he lacks the polish, refinement and consistency to be confused with Marvin Harrison as a reliable No. 1 receiver.

Bobby Wade is an effective slot receiver with the opposition’s No. 3 cornerback lining up across from him and often going in motion.  He simply does not have the getaway quickness to consistently create separation, particularly against top-flight defenders.  Too many of the passes he sees are contested because he has not been able to truly separate from the coverage.

Sidney Rice might have the upside potential to develop into a legitimate No. 1 receiver, but he is not there yet.  He hasn’t consistently been able to put the ball away yet and is still learning the finer points of pass routes and recognizing coverages.  He could eventually be the answer, however.

Veteran Robert Ferguson is really more of a No. 3 receiver, as well.  Rookie Aundrae Allison has lots of upside but is still too raw at this point.

3.  Inconsistency on pass protection.

The pass protection from the offensive line has been subpar, particularly on longer drops, which dramatically affects play-calling.  The Vikings are especially vulnerable to premier speed pass rushers off the edge, where both offensive tackles have struggled in one-on-one situations.

You can often help out on one side or the other, but if both need help, you’ve limited your options and made coverage an easier proposition for the defense.

Both Bryant McKinnie and Ryan Cook have done well at times, but both have also looked totally overmatched at times.

NFL Draft shortened, shifted

NFL owners agreed on Tuesday to reduce the allotted time in Round 1 of the annual draft from 15 minutes to 10 minutes.  In the second round, the time will be reduced from 10 minutes to 7.

The league has also moved the starting time of the draft nudged from Noon in New York to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, which will carry only the first two rounds this year.  The rest of the draft (Rounds 3-7) will occur on Sunday.

This is purely a business decision to create broader viewership to the West Coast and keep nominal fans in front of the tube during the monotony of the first couple rounds.

The second day of the draft, which will now start an hour earlier at 10:00 a.m. in the East, will now stretch even deeper into the day, since there will be five rounds instead of four.

Vikings work out a pair of players

The Vikings had two NFL veteran players in for workouts this Tuesday, linebacker Wesly Mallard and defensive tackle Marcus Bell.

Mallard, a six-year veteran, was originally a sixth-round draft pick by the New York Giants in 2002.  He finished the 2003 season on injured reserve with a knee injury.  Then he suffered a torn left ACL early in the 2004 season and once again finished the year on IR.  The Giants opted not to tender him a contract offer following the season and he signed with New England in April, 2005.  He was up and down a couple time early that season with the Patriots before being released once again and subsequently signing with Tampa Bay, where he finished the 2006 season.  He went to training camp with the Denver Broncos this summer but was released on the final wave of opening season roster cuts.

Vikings fans may remember Mallard as the player who fielded a blocked Giants punt by Jack Brewer and ran it 20 yards for a first-down in a game Minnesota lost at the Meadowlands in 2003.

Mallard (6015, 221, 4.45-4.58) came out as a safety-linebacker in-betweener who has good speed and athleticism but is primarily a special teams player.

Bell is a seven-year NFL veteran who spent three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals (2001-03) and three seasons with the Detroit Lions (2004-06).  His career stats include 165 tackles and 6.5 sacks.  He was released by the Lions this spring and signed with the New York Giants, but a knee injury landed him on IR and he was subsequently released.

Bell (6012, 325, 5.25) is a sturdy run defender who is primarily a nose tackle but has seen action at both inside spots.  He played his college ball at Memphis.

Both Mallard and Bell are viable prospects for the active roster should injuries create a roster spot.

Extra Points

The positive publicity across the country continues for Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who is definitely the real deal.

Ex-Vikings safety Greg Blue was in for a workout with the Carolina Panthers earlier this week.

In six games since returning to the Washington Redskins, ex-Vikings cornerback Fred Smoot has started 2 games, played in 2 games and been inactive with a hamstring injury for 2 games.  Besides the hamstring injury, he has also missed practice time with arm, shoulder and more hamstring injuries.  He has 15 tackles and 2 passes defensed so far this season.

The Houston Texans signed running back Adimchinobe Echemandu from their practice squad recently.  The former Viking went to training camp with the Oakland Raiders this summer and began the season on their active roster.  Former Packers RB Samkan Gado was released to make room for Echemandu.

Another former Viking, wide receiver Koren Robinson, is expected to play as a No. 5 receiver and kickoff returner this week with the Packers.

Other stories:

>Jackson says he can ‘play around’ injury
>Spielman applauds draft changes
>Williamson’s agent under investigation
>Third quarter turned tide in Dallas game

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