Dragon ship sets forth once again
bound for who knows where
Well fans, we are about to embark on another football season, with the same sense of adventure and high hopes that must have animated our Vikings forebears as they set out from the fjords, swords newly sharpened, the sails of the dragon ship filling with a stiff, fresh breeze. And, as usual, with no more sure sense of a final destination or outcome.
Has the most reliable source of disappointment last year been addressed, which would be the offense? Maybe. Adrian Peterson has already shown flashes of brilliance. If he and Chester Taylor stay healthy, they should provide the solid running game that is the cornerstone of a good offense. However, just as happened last year, the opposition is likely to load up eight, even nine guys in the box to stop the run. Can Tarvaris Jackson and the gaggle of unproven and mostly inexperienced wideouts extract a heftier price for that defensive scheme than the Vikes pathetically undergunned passing attack ever did last year? The preseason has provided no evidence that it will be the case.
At least it appears that Jackson has grasped some of the fundamentals - getting rid of the football quickly, throwing it away rather than up for grabs, and not trying to be the hero every play as Daunte Culpepper was wont to do. (By the way, I notice that Culpepper has experienced something of a resurrection out in Oakland, which could fuel a controversy back here should things not go so well for Jackson, Bollinger, and the new guy, Kelly Holcomb. Watch and listen.)
If Tarvaris can learn to hit his receivers in stride, rather than waiting for them to stop and turn around to provide stationary targets, this offense could score some points and hold the ball. That's not all on him, though; the coaches who install the offense and those running the patterns are equally responsible. Last year you could predict which receiver would run down the field five yards when he needed ten, time after time. That wasn't Brad Johnson's fault. The Purple needs a more dynamic passing offense as well as much less obvious play-calling. That is being addressed by Darrell Bevell's taking over the latter responsibility, hopefully to good effect.
The defense, with the return of Erasmus James and Chad Greenway, should be better, but so much depends on a beefed- up pass rush. There has been no sure sign of one so far, although perhaps a few hopeful glimmers. If opponents can once again simply abandon the running game in favor of spreading the field and passing the Purple silly, we will once again lead the league against the rush, while losing enough games to earn another top ten draft pick. That will be painful to watch, except for the resulting departure of Brad Childress and much of his entourage. I would rather, next winter, be forced to apologize and admit that I underestimated him.
That could easily happen, if he can coax a solid, but unspectacular, performance from Jackson, and by some alchemy, transform the lead in the pants of his defensive lineman into some less gross substance, and a golden future for him and the Purple.