Vikings Leaving Fate in Jackson's Hands

The Vikings have left the starting quarterback seat unchallenged in 2007 and now again in 2008. That means Tarvaris Jackson will have the opportunity to step forward and lead an improved cast of teammates.

As the Vikings prepare for their minicamp this weekend, many eyes are going to be on quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. Perhaps no player is going to be under a bigger microscope than Jackson. With all of the additions the Vikings have made over the last 14 months – Adrian Peterson, Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice to the offense and Jared Allen and Madieu Williams to the defense – much of the focus boils down to the quarterback position.

In many ways, Jackson's progress will be just as vital as any of the acquisitions the Vikings have made through the draft and free agency. In just as many ways, the future of the organization is as much tied to Jackson's ascent as any player on the roster.

To his skeptics, Jackson is being viewed as the key to the coaching future of Brad Childress. When he was drafted in 2006, Jackson had the "project" tag applied to him. The expectation at the time was that he would spend two years behind Brad Johnson and be competing this year for the Vikings' starting QB job. That all changed when Johnson was released following the 2006 season. Childress expressed confidence in Jackson. So much so that the team made no effort to sign a veteran quarterback to truly give competition to Jackson's status as a starter – not even a player like Jeff Garcia, who was well-versed in the exact type of West Coast Offense Childress operated in Philadelphia. Brooks Bollinger and Kelly Holcomb are not considered starting material in this the NFL these days. The same is true this year, as Gus Frerotte isn't being given the opportunity to challenge Jackson for the starting role.

Instead, the Vikings concentrated on finding true backups, with acquisitions like Holcomb and Bollinger last year. This offseason, the Vikings didn't go after any of the top available quarterbacks on the free agent market, instead signing Frerotte to be one of Jackson's backups. The same was true in the draft. The Vikings refused to make a move to get quarterback Brian Brohm, who was available when the Vikings made their first pick in the 2008 draft – moving up not to get Brohm but, instead, safety Tyrell Johnson.

While there is no guarantee that Jackson will have a long leash with Childress, it has become crystal clear that the Vikings intend to live and die with No. 7 as their starting QB to begin the 2008 season. How that plays itself out will go a long way to determining the futures of both Jackson and Childress beyond the 2008 season. That process starts in earnest this week at minicamp. Childress remains steadfast in his confidence that Jackson will continue to improve and become the QB the organization envisioned when it traded up into the end of the second round to take him in 2006.

It is time for Jackson to live up to those expectations. The Vikings have built a team around him that is capable of making a deep playoff run. Now it's Jackson's turn to prove his doubters wrong and give the Vikings the push they need to break through as a powerhouse in the NFC.

MONDAY NOTES

  • The 49ers begin their OTA sessions today and there is a battle brewing at quarterback that has a distinct Vikings flavor. Head coach Mike Nolan called the battle a "three-way race." Two of the QBs involved are former Vikings castoffs – Shaun Hill and J.T. O'Sullivan. The other is former No. 1 overall draft pick Alex Smith.

  • From the "Fall From Grace Department" comes this: Mike Vanderjagt sits atop the all-time list of field goal percentage. But, after washing out with Dallas in 2006, his career has spiraled to the point that no team took a chance on him at all in 2007 or during the free agency period this year. The former Colts and Cowboys kicker signed a deal with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL Friday.

  • The first of the football preview issues are starting to hit newsstands and Pro Football Weekly isn't showing the Vikings nearly as much love as many had expected. PFW picks the Vikings to finish second in the NFC North with an 8-8 record.


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