Aaron Gleeman

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With Taylor Away MJD Will Play

Friday, December 22, 2006


Start 1 of the Tarvaris Jackson Era was a bust—although don't say I didn't warn you —as Jackson went 10-of-20 for 50 measly yards in miserable weather at Lambeau Field Thursday night. A 50-yard passing effort in a loss to a non-playoff team is clearly not how the Vikings envisioned Jackson taking over for Brad Johnson, but the truth is that the rookie was far from disastrous (or at least as disastrous as the numbers suggest).

Minnesota's offensive line was horrible in pass protection all night, consistently getting beat by a Green Bay pass rush that typically included just four defenders. Aaron Kampman recorded three sacks and the Packers got pressure on Jackson basically whenever they wanted. To combat the pressure, the Vikings put Jackson in a lot of deep drops, but that failed to work when Jackson had trouble stepping up in the pocket.

That left Jackson standing 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage with defenders converging on him from the outside, an unused pocket to step into, and various receivers running the Vikings' usual assortment of eight-yard routes. It was a mess, part of which can be blamed on Jackson, but the combination of shaky protection and a poor game plan gave him little chance for success in an unfavorable environment to begin with.

While the blame in Minnesota apparently shifts from Brad Johnson to Brad Childress, here are some other notes from around football …

* One day after the Jaguars said he won't play in Week 16 if not at 100 percent, Fred Taylor's injured hamstring forced him to miss Thursday's practice. There's a slight chance Taylor could put in a full practice Friday and suit up against the Patriots, but it seems highly unlikely at this point. Meanwhile, Maurice Jones-Drew practiced fully Thursday and appears to be recovered from his Week 15 knee problems.

New England stops the run extremely well, but it'd be impossible not to like Drew's chances of putting together big numbers with Taylor out. MJD has 326 total yards and three touchdowns over the past two games, has found the end zone in six straight weeks, and is averaging 94 yards and 1.0 touchdowns over a 12-game stretch since barely playing for the first two weeks of the season. And that's all with Taylor starting.

* Carnell Williams missed practice Thursday and remains in a protective boot for his injured foot, with the Tampa Tribune reporting Friday that his streak of 24 straight starts "appears in jeopardy." Williams remains questionable for Week 16, but coach Jon Gruden told reporters "the longer he wears the boot, the more questionable he becomes." In other words, if Williams can't participate fully in practice Friday, expect Michael Pittman to get the call against Cleveland.

Williams has done little offensively since a big game in mid-November, but Pittman remains an intriguing RB2/Flex play if he gets a relatively full workload. In addition to the 10-15 carries he'd likely see stepping in for Williams, Pittman would retain his role as third-down back and also pick up some work in the passing game on first and second downs. He totaled 11 catches for 103 yards over the past two weeks playing behind Williams, so it wouldn't be shocking to see him with 20-plus touches against the Browns.

* NFL Network's Adam Schefter reported Thursday that Oakland plans to fire coach Art Shell following the season, with defensive coordinator Rob Ryan first in line as his replacement. The Raiders responded to Schefter's report by calling him "a false rumor monger," which is certainly amusing. Of course, the problem is that Schefter's batting average on such scoops is second-to-none and a denial was noticeably absent from the statement. Calling a reporter names without actually denying his report is an odd tactic for a team to take publicly and suggests Shell is indeed a goner.

I criticized the job Shell has done this season in this space last week, suggesting "It Worked So Well in Practice: The Art Shell Story" as a potential title for his biography. He may soon have plenty of time on his hands to work on such a book. Sadly, my duties here at RotoWorld.com and NBCSports.com preclude me from being his co-author despite what this humorous photo-shop effort sent in by David Bester of WideRight.com might have you believe.

Two-Minute Drill: Chris Taylor is reportedly expected to play over Wali Lundy, making Lundy a complete non-factor with Ron Dayne starting … Torry Holt needs 256 yards over the final two weeks to extend his streak of 1,300-yard seasons to seven … Reuben Droughns and Jerome Harrison are reportedly expected to "share" carries this week, sapping Droughns of whatever fantasy value he had … As expected, Brett Favre said nothing about his future following his final home game of the season Thursday night … Santonio Holmes is expected to start over Cedrick Wilson in Week 16 … After a solid run around midseason, Marcus Robinson is safely buried in the doghouse after being a healthy scratch in Week 15 and serving as the Vikings' fifth receiver Thursday night.

Red Zone: Thomas Jones (ribs) returned to practice Thursday, but the local media in Chicago remains convinced that Cedric Benson will play a big role in Week 16 … Jonathan Ogden's turf toe injury will be an overlooked factor as the Ravens head into the playoffs … Travis Henry (ankle) practiced "full speed" Thursday and is set to start Sunday … It looks like Warrick Dunn (calf) and Jerious Norwood (knee) will be healthy and back to splitting carries this week … After missing practice again Thursday, Darrell Jackson (toe) has virtually no chance to play in Week 16 … Michael Vick said Thursday that his injured groin remains sore, but practiced and looks likely to play … Joseph Addai (ankle) missed the team portion of practice Thursday, but apparently looked good enough in individual drills that coach Tony Dungy expects him to suit up Sunday … Joe Horn (groin) missed practice again Thursday and is highly unlikely to play this week … Carson Palmer returned to practice Thursday and said his "shoulder is fine."


Aaron Gleeman is Rotoworld's senior baseball editor and contributes to NBCSports.com's Hardball Talk blog. Also find him at AaronGleeman.com and on Twitter.
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