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Both the present (this week against Denver) and the near-term future rests in the hands of many of the team's younger, developmental players. Will Sidney Rice be able to contribute this week? Can Tarvaris Jackson bounce back?

Rice poised to become key player for team’s future

Rookie wide receiver Sidney Rice is questionable for this week’s regular-season finale against the Denver Broncos due to a high ankle sprain.  But taking a step back, he’s shown enough this season to secure a primary spot in the team’s future, which is being built around young talent.

In fact, Rice was mentioned in a recent story about the NFL’s next wave of stars.

“Rice’s rookie season has been cut short by a high ankle sprain he suffered in Week 15, but the 6-4, 202-pound speedster with good hands has a great future in Minnesota ahead of him,” the story says.

“He has the explosive game to complement the pop Adrian Peterson provides in the running game.  Now it's up to the Vikings to find a quarterback who can consistently get the ball downfield to Rice to give him a chance to make big plays.”

Herrera earns overachiever mention

Guard Anthony Herrera earned mention from ESPN columnist Len Pasquarelli as one of the league’s top overachievers this season.

“He began the season as a reserve, playing behind Artis Hicks, but was inserted into the starting lineup after the fourth game and the Minnesota running attack flourished,” Pasquarelli documents.  “The Vikings, who are the NFL's top-rated running team, averaged 135 rushing yards the first four games and 174.7 yards in the 11 games since Herrera became a starter.”

There’s no question that Herrera’s entry into the starting lineup coincides with the team’s emergence in the running game.

Veteran QB rumors will heat up soon

Which Tarvaris Jackson will play this week at Denver?  The one who posted lofty quarterback passer ratings during the team’s five-game winning streak, or the erratic, inexperienced player we’ve seen the past two weeks?

Regardless, once the season ends, the talk of bringing in a veteran quarterback will heat up in earnest.  While most of the talk has been about Philadelphia’s Donovan McNabb and an instant solution at the position, the more likely route is for veteran insurance that won’t be seen to impede the continued potential development of Jackson.

This AP report by Dave Goldberg, suggests the latter.

“Tarvaris Jackson, in his second year, showed flashes, especially during the winning streak, when he had games with passer ratings of 139, 110 and 95,” Goldberg says.  “He's been shaky lately.  But like [Arizona’s Matt] Leinart, he's just in his second season, so there's room for improvement.

“There are rumors of QBs on the way, notably Donovan McNabb, although his departure from Philly isn't as likely as some people believe.  A better bet might be a Chad Pennington type who can be to Jackson as Warner has been to Leinart in Arizona.”

Help at WR also needed

Jackson has gotten most of the criticism for the failures in the passing game of late, but it’s no secret the team could still use a true No. 1 receiver.

“The running game is there with Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor, as is the defense,” according to Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News.  “The Vikings need QB Tarvaris Jackson to make a quantum leap in 2008, and they have to get him better weapons.  I covered the Washington game last weekend and the Vikings started two NFL discards at wide receiver, Bobby Wade and Robert Ferguson.  You accelerate the development of your quarterback by giving him better weapons.

“Even Tom Brady's game took a step forward this season when the Patriots added Randy Moss and Wes Welker.  When the Vikings can win a game with the football in the air, they will be Super Bowl-ready.”

Extra Points

Wide receiver Jason Carter, who was with the Vikings last season and in training camp this summer, was promoted to Carolina’s active roster last week.

The New England Patriots signed tight end Stephen Spach, who was in training camp with the Vikings this summer.

Quarterback Tyler Thigpen, a seventh-round draft pick by the Vikings this spring, is now on injured reserve with the Kansas City Chiefs.  Thigpen suffered a freak season-ending knee injury in practice recently and is out for the season.  The good news was that Thigpen’s MCL injury will not require surgery.

Another ex-Viking now with the Chiefs is defensive end Khreem Smith, who was recently promoted from their practice squad to the active roster.  Smith spent time on Minnesota’s practice squad and was active late last season with the Vikings.

Other stories:

>Scott cited for marijuana possession
>Leber wins good guy award
>Vikings’ RB Peterson punishes tacklers
>Vikings become Cowboys fans for final game
>Close friends Sharper, Walker to square off
>Winfield likely to miss Denver game
>A victory in Denver should be easy enough?
>This guy responsible for 5-game winning streak?
>Ex-Viking Pinner signed by Saints
>Peterson front-runner for rookie of the year?
>Vikings at Broncos preview

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