The purple and gold

Published 9:17 am Friday, August 8, 2008

Former Atlanta Falcons head coach Jerry Glanville once famously chastised a referee by telling him the NFL stood for “Not For Long when you make those kinds of calls.”

Glanville was right about the immediacy of the NFL. Teams often have a narrow window of time to make a push for the postseason and a possible Super Bowl run.

The Vikings are one of those teams with a small window of time to make a title run and with that owner Zygi Wilf made a splash in the offseason by addressing the team’s biggest needs — a wide receiver and a pass-rushing defensive end.

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Wilf has continued to show he wants to develop a title contender while he has a majority of the parts in place.

“It’s awesome, you see an owner and a management group that are really supportive and wanting to win,” Jared Allen said Wednesday. “You couldn’t ask to be in a better spot mentally and physically as an athlete. Hopefully it will bring great things.”

Wilf is banking on Allen, and his 15.5 sacks of a year ago, to be able to provide the pass rush the team needs to lessen the strain of the secondary, which ranked dead last in passing yards allowed. With a front four of Allen, Pat Williams, Kevin Williams and Ray Edwards Minnesota expects to pressure the quarterback more while continuing to have the best rush defense in the league.

“We still want to be the best run defense in the National Football League, and we feel like with Jared, with Ray, with Kevin, with Ellis Wyms, with some of the other guys we’ve added, we’ll be able to generate more pressure on the quarterback,” said defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier on July 26. “So we still want to be No. 1 in the league against the rush.”

While the defense remains concerned about the passing game, so does the offense.

Starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson had difficulty throwing the ball at times last season and some of that had to do with the lack of quality receivers. The Vikings addressed that issue with the signing of Bernard Berrian.

“He’s been making plays up and down the field each and every day,” Jackson said on July 29. “He’s been running by guys, and that is going to help our running game out with him stretching the field and if we are able to connect like we have been doing in practice more consistently in games, it’s going to help our guys out. Our offensive line would love to see seven guys in the box instead of eight, so that will help a lot.”

The reality of the situation facing Minnesota is that some of its parts are aging, such as the secondary and offensive line. That is precisely why Wilf went out and got the talent the team needed in order to win now.

The owner has done as much as he can do to turn an 8-8 team sitting on the outside of the playoffs looking into a team poised to make a run at a title. The rest falls on the shoulders of the players, particularly Jackson.

The offense is complicated, but this is his third year, second as a starter, he should have a firm handle on the offense. This year he needs to show the team he is capable of running the offense. Head coach Brad Childress is known for developing Donovan McNabb, and now is the time to see if his work with Jackson will pay dividends.

“He has made a lot of improvements since the day he got here and even some of the things we asked him to improve on from the offseason until now, he has done that whether it was stepping up in the pocket with two hands, keeping his shoulders perpendicular to the line of scrimmage or keeping his eyes down the field,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said July 30. “He is going to have to make the routine plays routinely. You will see him out there make some great plays, some big plays and then he may miss a couple in a row. We just need to continue to get the consistency from him.”