Jackson showing incremental development

Tarvaris Jackson didn't get much of a chance to show it in 2009, but some of his key numbers show he is making steady improvement each year. Will that be enough to warrant another chance at the starting job down the road?

The arrival of Brett Favre to the Vikings was believed to be the missing piece in the puzzle that would get the Vikings back to the Super Bowl after a 34-year absence. While coaches, fans and teammates were excited about the prospects, some Vikings were not at all amused.

Those guys were Tarvaris Jackson, Sage Rosenfels and John David Booty. For Booty, Favre's arrival started with him giving up his number to the Hall of Famer. Next came his spot on the roster. Rosenfels, who was acquired via trade early in the offseason, was pushed to the No. 3 QB and was never active for a game. Jackson was the No. 2 quarterback who, after believing the starting job would again be his, was left on the outside looking in.

Jackson's career has been more disappointing than promising, as he has seen his chances to be "the man" short-circuited more than once. In his second season, Jackson started 12 games and posted a record of 8-4. His problem was staying healthy. He missed four starts during the year as the result of three separate injuries. He never really got timing and rapport with his receivers and, despite success in the win-loss column, he didn't emerge as hoped.

After losing the first two games of the 2008 season, Jackson was pulled for Gus Frerotte, an aging veteran brought in as little more than insurance in the event Jackson struggled. He wasn't the first. In his rookie season, Brad Johnson was there. In 2007, both Kelly Holcomb and Brooks Bollinger started games. But, when Frerotte was given the job, and immediately named as the starter for the rest of the 2008 season, it appeared as Jackson's career was hanging in the balance. But, when Frerotte broke down as the season progressed, Jackson had the game of his life at Arizona late in the season and, despite not playing well in the playoff loss to the Eagles that season, he was told the starting job was his for the taking – until Favre showed up at Winter Park. Jackson got put on the back burner. Although he didn't start a game for the first season in his four-year career, Jackson showed poise in mop-up duty and the numbers may be bearing out the confidence the Vikings coaching staff put in him.

The numbers don't lie. In each of Jackson's four seasons, his passer rating has climbed each year – from 62.5 to 70.8 to 95.4 to 113.4. In his first two seasons, he threw just 11 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Over the last two years, he has 10 TD passes and just two interceptions. With the reigns put on him early, Jackson often seemed afraid of making the bad pass that would kill the team. Too often, he made that type of play early. As a result, he would typically follow up a bad game by being extremely conservative.

The number that coaches will point to in the QB stat sheet is yards per pass attempt. In that category as well, Jackson has seen his numbers spike significantly in each of his four seasons. As a rookie, he averaged just 5.9 yards per pass attempt. That number climbed to 6.5 in 2007, 7.1 in 2008 and 9.6 last year.

While Jackson isn't being viewed as the starting quarterback for the Vikings in 2010, don't be surprised if, once Favre does decide to hang it up, T-Jack gets the job back in 2011. If nothing else, it would appear that his improvement will warrant that opportunity.

SATURDAY NOTES

  • Chris Johnson threw some gasoline on the fire in the ongoing debate as to who is the best running back in the NFL. In an interview with The Sporting News, Johnson made his thoughts clear, saying, "You've still got people debating – is it Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson? No way possible there should be a debate about who's the best running back in the NFL." Johnson became just the sixth running back in NFL history to run for 2,000 yards in a season when he ran for 2,006 yards last season, including 100 yards or more in each of his final 11 games.

  • Vikings coach Brad Childress is on a USO tour in Afghanistan and got a surprise of his own when he was greeting soldiers. Among those who were on hand was his son Andrew, who isn't deployed in Afghanistan, but was flown in to surprise his father.

  • Brett Favre's secretive workout schedule took a different turn Friday, when ESPN reported that he has worked out several times with new Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell. Campbell was the starter for the Redskins prior to Washington trading for Donovan McNabb. As a result, he was traded to Oakland, and the Raiders released first overall pick JaMarcus Russell.


    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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