Offense still needs training

The Vikings offense ended its stay in Mankato the way it began – with big questions at the quarterback position. The consensus from observers, players and coaches was that this offense still has work to do, and Wednesday's practice indicated that as well.

The Vikings wrapped up the Mankato portion of their training camp much like it started, with questions at the quarterback position in specific and offense in general.

In the two weeks since they started training camp, much has happened with the offense. Sage Rosenfels looked shaky early, Tarvaris Jackson got injured and mostly recovered, and Percy Harvin missed the first four practices without a contract and then missed the second half of the final practice with a possible shoulder injury an unknown timetable for return.

But the major question mark for a team with talent in many different areas remains at the quarterback position.

"We've got a lot of work to do. We've got to kind of find ourselves," Jackson said after the final practice in Mankato. "We know we can run the football. We've proven that. … Like coach said, when we have to throw the football, can we throw it? Not just on running downs and first downs. When we have to throw the football late in the game, can we do it? We've just got to try and get to that level and be consistent."

Their final debut in front of the training camp crowd wasn't very consistent. Jackson nearly threw two interceptions in a row. On the first one, safety Madieu Williams read what Jackson was looking at, stepped in front of a receiver and made the interception in stride. On the next one, he threw a pass that went through the arms of CB Antoine Winfield.

"We've still got a long way to go. We've come a long way, but we've still got a lot more work to do," Jackson said.

Rosenfels said he is feeling more comfortable with the offense after spending the bulk of the offseason learning it, but he threw an interception of his own on Wednesday when one of his passes hit the helmet of a lineman and was intercepted by linebacker Erin Henderson.

"I feel comfortable of what the coaches are trying to do and the reads that they want us to go through," Rosenfels said. "Games are always a whole different ball of wax because everything is full – full speed and reads usually quicken up faster. Your job sometimes gets a little shorter. You want to get the ball out faster. So everything happens faster in games."

Last week, head coach Brad Childress said the passing game had a long ways to go before he'd be happy with it, and that was after a practice that didn't seem to feature as many miscues as Wednesday's version. Of course, Childress has also admitted that he doesn't often "do happy."

On Wednesday, his reaction was a bit more flat-line when asked about his offense. He said some of the problems the offense has experienced could be due to his defense playing well and having a better indication of what was to come.

"I don't feel too bad about (the offense). I think you always learn some things when you play against different personnel," Childress said. "I think it's always interesting to see where they are, football-wise, when you have to block unscouted looks. Our defense, with that said, has given us about every look there is to give us in these 13, 14 days here. To watch those guys put it into play, that's what it is all about. I believe we are going to be a good offense."

Childress said he was still trying to make up his mind about which quarterback would start in Friday's preseason opener. He said ideally Jackson and Rosenfels would get the same number of snaps but he would just know when he has seen enough of each of them.

Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said it's "extremely important" for the first-team offense to get enough work with each of the potential starters.

"They're interchanging ones and twos right now, but we don't know who the hell is going to be the damn quarterback. We have to get used to everybody's technique, everybody's little ins and outs. So it's good that we work with both," he said.

Especially Rosenfels, who is new to the Vikings this year. Shiancoe, in his usually entertaining way, had this comparison when talking about getting used to Rosenfels:

"It's like having a new girlfriend. You have to learn her, you know? You have to definitely learn this guy because he's been in this league eight years so he's not going to change too much," said Shiancoe, who expects the first-team offense might have to be on the field longer to accommodate each of the top two quarterbacks in their competition.

The tight end also expects that teams will blitz the Vikings more than usual because of their uncertain quarterback situation. That's what happened at the end of last season when the New York Giants had success doing that in the regular-season finale and the Philadelphia Eagles employed that tactic to win in the wild card round of the playoffs.

"Once we stick it (to them) one time, then they'll stop blitzing us," Shiancoe said. "Luckily, we have Percy and Bernard (Berrian) and a lot of explosive players on this offense, so as long as we get this thing together we can be something.

"It's promising but it's nowhere near where it needs to be. We have work to do."


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