Jackson Prepares For More After First Test

Tarvaris Jackson passed the first test of his 2008 preseason, but he'll likely continue to be the quarterback under the microscope for the next couple of months.

Coach Brad Childress mentioned repeatedly throughout the offseason that he felt Tarvaris Jackson was taking important steps toward improving as a quarterback.

Despite this feeling, Jackson remained the Vikings' biggest question mark entering training camp as many wanted to see what he could do once the games started.

Evidently, Childress could have been included in that group.

In the Vikings' first preseason game against Seattle on Aug. 8, Jackson opened by attempting 11 passes and the Vikings did not utilize one of the NFL's top-ranked rushing games until early in the second quarter.

The plan was twofold for Minnesota. First, it meant that while star running back Adrian Peterson got on the field, he did not touch the ball and thus avoided any real risk of injury. Second, it enabled Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to get a preliminary read on Jackson's growth entering his second season as a starter.

Both coaches had to be encouraged by the results. Jackson completed eight of 11 passes for 118 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions during three series of work. He finished with a 137.7 passer rating.

"I thought Tarvaris was sharp from the standpoint of ball out," Childress said. "He didn't really need to make any plays with his feet. He did a decent job sliding."

One of the primary things that was mentioned about Jackson during the offseason was that his confidence level appeared to be much higher and that he was more in control.

That was evident against Seattle as Jackson was able to keep his poise in situations where he had struggled in the past.

"Even though it's the preseason, like Coach said, it's still a confidence booster," Jackson said. "You compete every time you go on the field. We've still got some work to do."

One of Jackson's best throws against the Seahawks occurred on a third-and-10 play from the Seattle 25-yard line.

Jackson, working from the shotgun, had Peterson as his primary receiver but quickly saw the running back was covered. Jackson then scrambled to his left, saw Bernard Berrian was open and hit the receiver at the 12-yard line. Berrian stumbled out of bounds at the 6-yard line and Jackson connected with fullback Thomas Tapeh for a touchdown on the next play.

Asked about the pass to Berrian, Childress said: "We always say be a thrower first, but don't throw first. I thought he did a good job of easing out of the pocket and keeping his eyes down the field."

It also had to be considered a good sign that Jackson seemed to have chemistry with Berrian, who was signed away from Chicago during the offseason and will serve as the type of vertical threat the Vikings lacked last season.

Berrian caught two passes for 43 yards and had another reception wiped out by a holding penalty. "He looked sharp," Berrian said of Jackson. "He looked really good. Jackson had some good completions and had some short immediate throws when he needed to."

NOTES

  • RB Chester Taylor rushed for a career-high 1,216 yards in 2006, his first season with the Vikings. Now, entering the third year of a four-year free-agent deal he signed, Taylor is clearly the No. 2 running back behind Adrian Peterson. But running backs coach Eric Bieniemy said there is more than enough room for both. "Chester's role is still the same. His role has not changed," Bieniemy said. "Chester is one of the better backs in this league. We've got to find ways to get him out on the field and utilize him. Obviously, we have a very good player in Adrian Peterson, but also we have a very good one in Chester Taylor. The thing about it is there are not enough balls to go around. You can only have one. But there's room for Chester on the field."

  • Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell worked from the sidelines for the first time during the Vikings' preseason opener. Quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers, meanwhile, was in the press box. The Vikings are going to evaluate the switch in the exhibition season but very well will stick with it during the regular season.

  • How much different has Brad Childress run his third training camp compared to his first? In 2006, Childress scheduled full-pads practices on 12 consecutive days. This year, the Vikings were in full pads for only four of their first 21 practices and that included a joint-session with the Kansas City Chiefs. "It's a beautiful thing," veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield said. "Probably the easiest camp that I've been through."

  • The Vikings most spirited training camp practice was on Aug. 4. With the team in full pads during the morning session, coach Brad Childress surprised his players by calling for a "sudden change" drill. He deviated from the practice script and called for a live team situation to see how the players would respond. On the first play, defensive end Jared Allen overwhelmed backup left tackle Drew Radovich and tackled running back Chester Taylor for a 5-yard loss.

  • Coach Brad Childress was sporting a full beard when he came off vacation in late July. He then wore a goatee for the first week-plus of training camp but was back to having just a mustache by the time the first preseason game rolled around last Friday.

  • DE Brian Robison, expected to back up Pro Bowl player Jared Allen on the right side, underwent surgery to remove a varicose vein from his left leg. Robison is expected to be out for a couple of weeks. That has enabled Otis Grigsby to work with the second team at right end. Grigsby was playing well with the third team at left end.

  • S Tyrell Johnson, the Vikings' second-round choice in April, started along with Darren Sharper in the preseason opener. Newcomer Madieu Williams did not play after experiencing neck spasm. That enabled Johnson to get work with the first- and second-team defense.

  • LB Erin Henderson, an undrafted rookie free agent and the brother of Vikings starting middle linebacker E.J. Henderson, had five tackles, including one for a loss, in his first game against Seattle.

  • S Michael Boulware, signed as a free agent from Houston during the offseason, has been playing with the third team behind second-team safeties Tyrell Johnson and Eric Frampton.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't know how you guys feel about old news. It's generally not good to write the same thing twice. I'm glad that you guys won't be able to get away with old news anymore." - Vikings coach Brad Childress expressing his happiness that with Brett Favre traded to the Jets he won't have to answer any more questions about the Vikings potential interest in the quarterback.


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