Tarvaris Jackson looked to be progressing as a starting quarterback until his last two prime-time performances. Those two games have the Vikings holding off on making any offseason decisions, but the speculation on other possibilities is just beginning.
The Vikings' biggest question entering their regular-season finale on Sunday at Denver has to be whether Tarvaris Jackson
is this team's long-term answer at quarterback.
As Jackson put together a few impressive performances during a five-game winning streak that ended with Sunday's 32-21 loss against Washington, it appeared the 2006 second-round pick out of Alabama State might be turning the corner.
That no longer appears to be the case.
In the Vikings' 20-13 victory over Chicago on Dec. 17, Jackson threw three interceptions and no touchdown passes and had a 50.0 rating. He was equally as unimpressive against Washington, throwing two first-half interceptions. The Redskins turned the second pick into a touchdown.
In this two-game span, Jackson has five interceptions and one touchdown pass. The performances were reminiscent of earlier this season when Jackson struggled in losses at Detroit and Dallas.
Coach Brad Childress has talked all season about getting a chance to see Jackson play on a regular basis and is staying with that theme.
"I want to see the rest of the season obviously, and I am not looking at this as our last game," said Childress, whose team would need to beat Denver and have Dallas win at Washington on Sunday in order to get into the playoffs. "The best thing I think to do is we always step back and we talk about it, Rick (Spielman, the Vikings' vice president of player personnel) and I will talk about it, the coaches will talk about it, and you are always better served just to step away and look at things a little bit from a distance."
While the Vikings certainly aren't going to jettison Jackson, they also could consider other short-term options at the quarterback position for 2008. One name that could come up would be Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb
; Childress was either McNabb's position coach or offensive coordinator for seven seasons in Philadelphia.
Having the ability to run an offense that has a threat like Adrian Peterson
in the backfield certainly could interest McNabb. The question then becomes what would it take to pry him away from the Eagles?
QB Tarvaris Jackson has struggled in the past two games after a few good outings. Jackson completed 25 of 41 passes for 220 yards with a touchdown and two rushing scores in Sunday's 32-21 loss to Washington. Jackson's key mistakes included two first-half interceptions — one of which Washington turned into a touchdown — and he finished with a 63.1 quarterback rating. That figure was a dismal 34.5 in the opening half. During the first four games of the Vikings' five-game winning streak that ended Sunday, Jackson threw four touchdowns and two interceptions and did not have a rating below 79.9. But in the past two games, he has thrown five interceptions and one touchdown.
RB Adrian Peterson has become the focus of everyone's defense, and because of struggles in the passing game, the rookie has been held in check the past three games. This included a 27-yard, nine-carry performance on Sunday; Peterson has failed to reach the 100-yard mark in the past three games, gaining three yards against San Francisco and 78 against the Bears. Peterson's days of seeing seven-man fronts are over until the Vikings prove they can make teams pay for stacking the box.
RB Chester Taylor had only six carries for 14 yards against the Redskins and has been handed the ball 11 times in the past two games. Taylor hasn't seen his carries reach double digits since the Vikings' 42-10 victory over Detroit on Dec. 2. He rushed for 70 yards on 14 attempts in that game. The veteran did tie for the team lead in receptions on Sunday, catching five balls for 42 yards.
TE Visanthe Shiancoe caught four passes for 20 yards but had a key fumble in the second quarter after catching a five-yard pass. The Vikings had driven to the Redskins' 45-yard line and trailed only 9-0 at that point. Shiancoe, who signed a five-year, $18.2 million free-agent deal with Minnesota last offseason, was expected to provide the Vikings with the pass-catching tight end they felt they needed in the West Coast offense. That hasn't happened.
WR Sidney Rice sat out Sunday night's game because of a sprained ankle that also could keep him out of the regular-season finale Sunday at Denver. Rice leads the Vikings with four touchdown receptions this season and his absence makes an already suspect passing game that much weaker.
WR Robert Ferguson caught four passes for 51 yards against Washington. Ferguson's reception total has been up-and-down this season, but he does have at least one catch in the past four games.
WR Bobby Wade only had three catches for 34 yards against the Redskins and now has a team-leading 49 receptions entering the regular-season finale. Wade, signed as a free agent from Tennessee last offseason, surprisingly only has one touchdown catch on the season.
WR Aundrae Allison continues to be the Vikings' primary kickoff return man. He struggled in this area against the Redskins, fumbling one ball, bobbling another and making some overall questionable decisions. The rookie, who had a 104-yard return in the Dec. 2 victory over Detroit, averaged 22 yards on five returns Sunday.
WR Troy Williamson dressed for the first time in three games Sunday and finished tied for the team lead with five catches for 39 yards. Williamson has not been used consistently in this offense and it would not be a shock if the Vikings and the seventh overall pick in the 2005 draft part company after this season.
CB Antoine Winfield missed Sunday's game because of a pectoral strain near his left shoulder. Winfield did not practice during the week so his absence was not a surprise. He likely will play this Sunday against Denver.
CB Marcus McCauley struggled in place of Winfield, giving up one touchdown and biting on a halfback pass from Clinton Portis on another. McCauley had played well in four games earlier this season when he replaced the injured Winfield, but this was a tough night for the third-round pick from Fresno State.
LB Chad Greenway, who entered Sunday's game second on the Vikings in tackles, led the team with 11 against the Redskins. Greenway, playing his first NFL season after missing all of 2006 because of a knee injury, has made strides throughout the season and developed into a solid weakside linebacker.
DE Kenechi Udeze continues to start at left end but also rotates over to play the right side on occasion with Ray Edwards (four-game suspension for violating the NFL's steroid policy) and Erasmus James (knee) out of the lineup. Udeze moves to the right whenever Jayme Mitchell checks into the game. Mitchell clearly is more comfortable on the left side.