Q&A: Vikings Edition

To get ready for the upcoming game against Minnesota, I traded questions with Nick LeRoy of MN Vikings Blog.  (You can find my answers to his questions here.)  Among other things, I made sure to ask him for his take on Darrell Bevell’s offense and Tarvaris Jackson’s tenure with the Vikings.  Enjoy!

1) Seahawks fans have heard a lot of conflicting information about Tarvaris Jackson’s tenure in Minnesota.  On one hand, we’ve heard reports that Jackson was given every opportunity to succeed with the Vikings and has only his own incompetence to blame for his failure to catch on with the team.  On the other hand, we’ve also been told that Jackson is a potentially franchise-caliber QB, he was just never given a fair shake by Brad Childress.  Which side is closer to the truth?
This is a great question and every Vikings fans probably has his or her own take on it.  I was always a T-Jack fan.  I never thought he was given a fair chance and I believe that Childress’ offense limited Jackson’s opportunity to succeed.  Jackson had several games where he looked like he was progressing very well (especially in ‘09 when he had lots of spot opportunities to ‘clean up’ games.) Unfortunately, for every great game or play he made he had 3 or 4 where he looked completely lost.  Jackson has this infamous ‘jump pass’ that he does when he panics in the pocket.  I believe you guys saw this in the first pre-season game.   Jackson’s best game came in 2008 when he threw 4 tds against the Arizona Cardinals. We haven’t seen anything close to that since that game hence the reason we started the whole ‘Favre’ era.
I believe Jackson can be an adequate QB if the offense is built around him.  I don’t consider him a ‘franchise qb’ but I would put him above starters such as Jason Campbell.  I truly believe Jackson is better suited as a top tiered backup in this league. 

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2) Given Brad Childress’ reputation as an offensive coach, how much control over the offensive game plan and playcalling was Darrell Bevell allowed as the Vikings’ OC?  And if he had more control than not, what do you feel were the strengths and weaknesses of Bevell’s offense?
This is a chicken and the egg type situation.  Childress came into Minnesota claiming he was going to implement this “kick ass west coast offense” that was lackluster at best.  A lot of Vikings fans cursed his name for how often Childress/Bevell ran the ball on 3 and 12 downs with 8 guys stacked in the box.  The one thing that was more than evident towards the end of Childress’ run is that he is very controlling (Think Randy Moss situation) and that makes me think that Bevell didn’t have as much control as we once thought.
I truly hope for all Seahawks fans’ sanity that Bevell was severely limited due to Childress.  Otherwise you guys will need to get use to the ‘run, run, short pass, punt’ offense.  It drove all of us crazy.  Of course the Vikings had the air-it-out season in ‘09 but it’s highly believed among Vikings fans that Favre took over the offense and ignored Childress altogether.  Did that mean that he listened to Bevell and they had success? Who knows.  I guess it will be telling by the type of play calling that goes on in Seattle this season. 
3) After earning playoff berths in 2008 and 2009, the Vikings slumped to a 6-10 record last season.  What happened?  Was last season a fluke?  Are the Vikings ready to be contenders again in 2011, or do they need a year or two to rebuild?
I think it’s a big misconception that the Vikings are in a ‘rebuild mode’.  While we definitely have lost a step from the ‘09 season I think last year was more of a fluke.  Favre came back right before our (at the time) star receiver selfishly decided to get last minute hip surgery.  We had offensive line issues and injuries really hurt our depth as well.  Percy Harvin always misses at least one game due to migraines.  We also dealt with ‘scandals’ such as the Favre sexting, the Metrodome roof collapsing and even the Randy Moss trade.  While it all may come off as an ‘excuse’ thats not my intentions.  Our team simply broke down and after Favre was injured T-Jack couldn’t step up which made way for our 3rd string QB Webb to finish the season for us. 
It simply wasn’t a good year.  I expect the Vikings to be competitive this season but nothing like the 09′ season. 
4) Every year, some undrafted and/or overlooked players come up big in the preseason and earn roster spots.  Who are some guys we should keep an eye on in Sunday’s matchup?
Erin Henderson was an undrafted free agent 4 years ago out of Maryland. His brother (E.J. Henderson) is the starting MLB on this team as well.  Erin was a great pick up and has been a quality depth and special teams guy for many years.  With the departure of Ben Leber we finally get to see him get a real shot at starting.  Both Henderson’s have fantastic tackling skills and are very aggressive.  I think having them play side by side will only bring the most out of each one of them.  Look out for Erin Henderson, nobody will miss Ben Leber after a few games.
CB Brandon Burton is another name that excites Vikings fans this season.  He has made some solid plays in this year’s training camp and his measurements at 6’0 and 185 pounds gives you something to smile about.  The NFC North has some big play receivers and Burton could be a sleeper at the nickel or dime position this year.  
5)  Of all the Vikings’ free agency signings, who do you expect to have the biggest positive impact this year?  Conversely, which departures (aside from Sidney Rice) have hurt the team the most?
Whether you like the guy or not, McNabb has to be the ‘best’ signing.  With Ponder not having any time to acclimate to the pro game we have no other option but to got with a veteran.  Unfortunately, I take this as a clear sign that the Vikings organization doesn’t have a lot of confidense in second year QB Joe Webb.  McNabb offers the best chance of winning now and the opportunity to mentor our QB of the future Christian Ponder.
Sidney Rice is by far our biggest loss but I’ll refrain from getting into that. He simply is the guy who may hurt our team most.   Some Vikings fans would argue that Ray Edwards going to Atlanta would be our next biggest lost.  I don’t agree.  I think he succeeded due to the system he played in.  When you have Jared Allen, Pat Williams, and Kevin Williams on the same line you don’t waste your time doubling a player like Edwards.  This gave Edwards an opportunity to do well.  I think Brian Robison and Everson Griffen will give us the exact same level of productivity as a extremely cheaper option.

Thanks again to Nick for his time and answers — it’s all great stuff.  After last week’s performance, I think we’re all dying to see how Jackson does against his former team.  I mean, if he can’t step up for that, when will he?