I don’t know about you, but I am ready for some football.
Unfortunately, for real football, I will have to wait a few more weeks. In the meantime, I will attempt to content myself with fake football, also known as preseason.
Actually, this year more than in previous years, the Vikings’ preseason features some legitimate intrigue. Most of it surrounds the quarterback position, which for the time-being will be held down by Tarvaris Jackson, Sage Rosenfels and Joe Webb – with Brett Favre still off in Mississippi deciding whether his ankle is good to go.
Despite that big retirement scare a couple weeks ago, most still believe Favre will be under center when the regular season begins September 9th. That leaves T-Jack, Sage and Webb battling it out for the #2 slot.
Well, T-Jack and Sage, anyway. If training camp made one thing clear, it’s that Webb is nowhere near being ready to play QB in the NFL. So, it’s all about the veterans.
T-Jack will get the start in tonight’s preseason opener vs. the Rams. I have no idea how Brad Childress intends splitting the reps, but I have to believe both Jackson and Rosenfels will get significant time, with Webb only seeing the field in mop-up duty, if at all.
Given Chilly’s devotion to Jackson, I have to believe he is, by default, way out in front in any competition with Rosenfels. Basically, Jackson would have to either get hurt or stink up the joint in epic fashion to lose any ground. Meanwhile, all Sage can do is put in his time, and then go home and wait, like all of us, for Favre to give the word.
Many believe that, if Favre’s word is “yes,” Rosenfels will be on the next plane out of town. I however am not convinced of this.
The fact is that Favre is aging, and no one knows for sure how many hits his body can take. And with the ankle issue, Favre seems even more fragile than last year. This being the case, I see no reason for the Vikings not to keep the same arrangement as last season: T-Jack as the back-up, and Rosenfels as the #3 QB every week.
Yes, they’re paying Rosenfels more money than any clipboard-holder is worth, but that money is really more about peace of mind than anything. Just ask yourself the question: what if Favre gets hurt, and behind T-Jack you have only Joe Webb? I don’t believe the Vikings are actually crazy enough to put themselves in such a precarious position. So, I think they will keep Sage no matter what happens. This may not sit well with Sage, but who cares? He’s getting his money.
Beyond the quarterbacks, the guys I’m most interested in seeing are all the rookies, and the older guys who made a splash in camp.
The most intriguing rookie to me is Chris Cook, who dominated much of the training camp talk with his daily interceptions and big plays. We all know that Cook has great physical tools, and it will be fascinating to finally see him out there showing what he can do.
The other corner who got the big press run in Mankato was Asher Allen, who actually zoomed past veteran Lito Sheppard into the #1 right corner spot. Allen showed flashes of playmaking ability last season, and it will be interesting to see how much he has truly improved.
I also want to get a look at Antoine Winfield, whose foot is said to be 100% healthy after that mess last season.
Then there’s the never-ending merry-go-round at safety. Jamarca Sanford and Tyrell Johnson split first team reps almost 50/50 in camp opposite Madieu Williams, which leads one to believe that, at least for now, that one safety position is wide open. Husain Abdullah also got talked up a lot by Brad Childress and could end up being in the mix before it’s over.
And then of course there is Toby Gerhart. We’ve already chronicled the abuse Mr. Gerhart suffered in camp at the hands of his defensive teammates. Now, at last, Toby gets a chance to be knocked on his butt by players from another team. I don’t have any doubt about his toughness; what I wonder is where he actually fits in this offense. We may get a sense tonight of how the Vikings want to use him – or, we may not. For now, he’s the #3 running back behind Adrian Peterson and Albert Young.
Another rookie I’m really curious to see is Everson Griffen. When the Vikings drafted him, the talk was all about his great physical tools and how Ray Edwards better watch out. Unfortunately, as camp played out, it became obvious that Griffen was nowhere near ready to challenge Edwards, or Brian Robison or even Jayme Mitchell, for a place in the defensive line rotation. It will be interesting to see if Griffen makes any kind of positive impression tonight, or remains an afterthought.
On the offensive side of the ball, I will mostly be watching the line, and how some of the younger guys like Jon Cooper and Chris DeGeare play. The Vikings lost a lot of their veteran depth when Artis Hicks left, and so far, the front office has been in no hurry to replace him with more veteran depth. That leaves it up to the young guys. At least one of them needs to step up and show something, otherwise, every time one of the starters gets dinged, we will all be reaching for the Pepto. And that’s not a fun way to go through the season. Especially when your quarterback is old and trying to run around on a gimpy ankle.
That’s a quick run-down of the players I’m most curious to see on the field. Obviously, it will also be fun to see AD and Jared Allen and Kevin Williams and the boys back out there too, for the limited time they will actually be on the field. Even though it’s only preseason, it’s still football.
It’s always nice to have a little appetizer before the big meal comes, and tonight, we get our first real taste after the long fast. Let’s just hope nothing happens to make us regurgitate.