Why Tarvaris Jackson's Week 2 Preseason Performance Doesn't Matter

Fans like to clamor for the backup whenever the starter is playing bad football, whatever backup is available. The most bizarre example of this was when 49ers fans started to chant "we want (David) Carr". Really guys?

But it's no surprise Seahawks fans are already starting to poke and prod at a quarterback controversy. The gamethread saw a few calls for Charlie Whitehurst starting week 3 of the preseason. That's not going to happen. I've still got a T-Jax writeup to do based on scouting, but to sum up some thoughts: we're kind of in a lose-lose situation. The front office picked up Tarvaris due to system familiarity, a move that makes sense due to the shortened off-season, and had to anoint him the starter. A lot of psychological motivational thinking has been thrown on that decision, but at the end it's a necessary football decision forced by the lockout.

I think Charlie's shot at the job is legitimate, and I don't think Charlie and Tarvaris are very far apart talent-wise, and they both have some similarity in tools (arm strength and mobility Charlie is more accurate, Tarvaris more powerful and athletic) and weaknesses (pre- and post-snap reading, pocket presence (primarily Tarvaris)). That said, I think Charlie's shot starts in or around week 3 or 4 of the regular season. In a perfect, non-lockout world the preseason would be a tiebreaker for these two, but the lockout busted that.

Games like these don't change it. As discussed last week (and every preseason), teams don't really gameplan or scout for preseason games. Or rather, teams do this to different extents. We don't seem to do this at all, while teams like the Vikings (or, for example, the Patriots or Ravens) take it more seriously to practice game time situations. There are pros and cons to not scheming; it allows you to focus on other things while cobbling the team together in short order, and you won't tip your hand for the regular season. But it skews talent analysis, especially for us amateur commentators.

Two things to keep in mind about Tarvaris' performance (beyond the obvious "the O-line looked terrible") is that he was playing three-step drops and similar plant-and-throw looks a lot, which spells disaster behind our young O-line, where instead we should see some usage of mobility with a lot of bootlegs. This same problem of being asked to plant-and-throw behind a terrible O-line existed (late) in Tarvaris' Vikings career. I just put the responsibility for that on Chilly, and I hope that's true, Bevell isn't exactly inspiring anyone yet. The second thing to remember, which is more about the O-line, is that we really did not scheme at all, and had free rushers coming in left and right throughout the game.

Some quick notes on Tarvaris' first two drives:

1-10: Shotgun, four wide (Williams, Rice, Tate and Miller). James Carpenter fails to stop Brian Robison. Tarvaris guns it to Tate, who alligator arms the play.

2-10: Play-action, clean pocket, quick pass to Zach Miller for 11.

1-10: Marshawn Lynch runs into the pile for 1.

2-14 (penalty Zach Miller): This one's kind of weird. The entire line pulls to the right. Marshawn (single tailback) runs to block right. Jackson does a three-step drop and looks right. Jared Allen says "thank you" and comes in from the offensive left unblocked. Jackson sheds the sack and scrambles to throw it out, which is impressive, but this play was dead from the snap. Whose fault is that? Kinda hard to say. With the entire line pulling right you'd think Tarvaris would bootleg right, but even then no one picking up Allen is probably a blown assignment. Whose? Who knows.

3-14: Kevin Williams is the 3-tech, Letroy Guion (I think) the 1. They both hit the line, then Williams swims inside while Guion shuffles out. Gallery spends the entire play looking for someone to block and, well, being useless. Unger picks up Williams fairly well when he's moving inside, but John Moffitt completely loses Guion, and the pressure forces Tarvaris to dump it off for 3.

2nd drive

1-10: Seahawks line up with two tight ends on the line, Zach Miller on the left and Anthony McCoy on the right. The Vikes are threatening with 6 guys on the line. Jared Allen (lined up across Miller) drops back leaving Miller kinda just standing there, while McCoy releases into his route, which allows his guy (Chad Greenway) to come in free. Additionally, Tyler Polumbus is losing to Fred Evans, which looks kind of bizarre on replay as both Gallery and McCoy are free to help him double-team the guy but neither is doing anything. Jackson escape and scrambles for four.

2-6: Anthony McCoy motions to Carpenter's outside shoulder. He's lined up opposite Jasper Brinkley and lets Brinley run into the backfield untouched. Instead, he chips in on Carpenter's guy (Robiskie) and then releases into a drag rout. This seems to be by design as it leaves him wide open (Robiskie vaguely trailing him) to give an outlet at the LoS and run for 8.

1-10: Run. Zach Miller does a nice job on Vikes DE Brian Robison, while Moffitt and Unger double-team Kevin Williams. The fullback (Michael Robinson) picks up one free tackler in Jasper Brinkley, leaving Carpenter free to pick up the last tackler, E.J. Henderson. He arrives too late, and EJ storms inside to tackle Lynch for -2 while Marshawn is trying to make a cut.

2-12: Play-action. Jackson has plenty of time, the pocket is as clean as you're going to get. Carpenter looks like he's losing Robison for a moment but handily moves him away from the pocket. Jackson still panics, moving to his right and dumping off to Robinson for 3. Wasted play.

3-14 (penalty Mike Williams): Vikings show blitz before the penalty, and they show blitz after, with E.J. Henderson tip-toeing near the line. He and Greenway are on Kevin Williams' shoulders. Greenway  doesn't blitz, instead guarding a dump-off pass. Henderson does, and it was pretty obvious someone would, yet Moffitt and Unger happily double-team Kevin Williams, leaving absolutely no one to block Henderson. Probably expecting a quick dump-off, Gallery shoves off his assignment (Chris Ballard) toward Polumbus, who is already blocking (and doing well) against Jared Allen. An incomplete dumpoff to the right is the result, which is kind of painful because Zach Miller was immediately wide open to the left.

So...

Tarvaris has a ways to go to impress me. I've watched quite a bit of Vikings tape and I'm just not seeing a starting QB. In these preseason games, I'm seeing flashes of that same Tarvaris Jackson. No pocket presence leading to feeling pressure that isn't there or scrambling too quick. Little pre- or post-snap reading ability means he doesn't notice wide-open players gifted by blitz situations. If anything he looked better this week than last, but he's not going to prove himself in these situations.

It's a wash, not just because our Oline looks bad (it does), but because we keep showing little interest in the Vikings sending in extra men. There's a lot of blown assignments here (a ton of confusion, get used to it from our young offensive line, especially with Gallery looking as lost in pass protection as he did), but throughout the game there were a lot of plays where there just wasn't anyone assigned to pick up the blitz. Then add that Tarvaris did a lot of plant-and-throw dropbacks even though that made less and less sense as the game progressed (and certainly makes no sense when your line is pulling right), and you got the mess we ended up with.

I don't really expect them to suddenly tip their hand in week 3, but this type of play is useless for talent evaluation and player confidence. Unless they show a bit more gameplanning and in-game re-activity, these games will remain useless, at least for us, to determine Tarvaris' abilities. And yes, that also means Tarvaris isn't losing his job in games where the entire offense looks uncoordinated and unprepared. The same is true for Whitehurst's push for the job. It's legit but fans need to realize he's not just running with the 2nd team, he's running a vanilla offense with them, not the complete offense he or Tarvaris will have to run in the regular season. I believe he'll push for the job eventually, but not before the regular season kicks off.

To quote the AP writeupAsked if he'd at all consider reopening the quarterback competition Carroll said, "I'm not in that mindset at all."


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