The Vikings find themselves in a familiar position – coming off an ugly loss and facing questions at quarterback. Last year those questions swirled mainly around Brad Johnson, an allegedly dependable game-manager who developed a sudden propensity to throw it to the other team. The “savior” in that case was Tarvaris Jackson, a rookie most agreed was nowhere near being ready. How fast can things turn in the NFL? It’s been less than a year, and already the savior finds himself under fire.
Ineffectiveness hastened Brad Johnson’s exit from the Vikings’ line-up, and Jackson’s entrance into it. Now Jackson finds himself being shuffled out ahead of schedule – this time due to injury; leaving the Vikings in the same predicament they faced last year, having to replace a starting QB mid-season. The difference is that, this year, they have a potentially viable veteran option to turn to.
That option is Kelly Holcomb, who was acquired late in preseason to compete with the largely ineffective Brooks Bollinger for the role of number 2 QB. Holcomb brings a track-record, at least relative to Bollinger – 21 games started to Bollinger’s 9; 5401 career passing yards to Bollinger’s 1790; 37 career TDs to Bollinger’s 7. Holcomb has also put up some impressive individual games: In the 2003 playoffs he tallied 429 yards against the Steelers, a postseason record. And in the 2004 regular season he posted the following stats against Cincinnati: 30/39, 413 yards, 5 TDs. Arm troubles ended what looked like a potentially good career as a starter in Cleveland. Since then Holcomb has bounced around – Buffalo to Philly to the Vikes. He belongs in the journeyman category, but he’s a journeyman who’s had moments of glory in the NFL – which is more than we can say for either Brooks Bollinger or Tarvaris Jackson.
Brad Childress has not yet officially announced Holcomb as the starter for Sunday’s game against KC, but most believe it’s a foregone conclusion. Without question, Holcomb brings more to the table at this point than either of our other QBs – but is it enough more to overcome the team’s glaring deficiencies at WR, its inconsistent pass-blocking and spotty play-calling?
Five more questions that need answering:
1. Can Chester Taylor hold up his end of the running back platoon?
Chester says he’ll play tomorrow, though his injured hip is not fully healed. The team needs Chester to be good for at least 15 carries a game to take the pressure off AD. I love what this combo could give us as the season wears on – two good, fresh backs to go up against tiring defenses.
2. Can the pass defense…um…defend the pass?
Jon Kitna may have God on his side, but even so, he’s not as good as the Vikings made him appear at times last week. Sadly, this has been the tendency for our defense in recent years – to make mediocre-to-fair QBs look like Tom Brady. Thankfully, the Vikings face a Chiefs squad whose WR corps looks nearly as lame as ours.
3. Speaking of the wide receivers – would it be possible for one of them to actually lead the team in receiving this week?
AD has been our leading receiver by yardage the first two games. And that was mostly thanks to a couple long ones he broke. Our leading receiver among receivers, Bobby Wade, has 62 yards – good for 85th in the league.
4. Who will call plays?
Brad Childress gave up play-calling to Darrell Bevell – for exactly three halves. At half-time last week Childress took over “some” play-calling duties – and the offense frankly didn’t get any better. So what’s the plan this week? Maybe they should just let Kelly Holcomb draw plays in the dirt like it was a flag football game. I’m guessing he wouldn’t forget he had a tight end at least.
5. Will the blitz work?
Leslie Frazier‘s aggressive blitz scheme rattled Joey Harrington in week 1 – but that was Joey Harrington. It was less-effective against the combo of Jon Kitna and J.T. O’Sullivan last week. This week, the Vikes face a good O-line and a QB who is not Joey Harrington. And the kind of running back in Larry Johnson who, if he gets rolling, can deter you from selling out.
Prediction: This is the home-opener for the Chiefs – if they don’t win this game, they are looking at a dismal season. That sense of urgency, plus the usual home-field advantage, will vault the Chiefs over the Vikings 21-17.
Player of the Game: Napoleon Harris. He wants to stick it to us.