John David Booty (Brian Bahr/Getty)
It wasn’t the overall performance that John David Booty was looking for, but after throwing an interception on his first pass he seemed to settle into the game. Still, head coach Brad Childress called the performance “erratic.” Plus, find out how Tarvaris Jackson’s preseason stacked up in team annals, how the search for returners is going, and how two Vikings did in their first preseason action.
Rookie quarterback John David Booty helped account for the only two touchdowns of Thursday night’s 16-10 Vikings loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Booty’s first pass was intercepted in Minnesota territory, setting up the Cowboys’ only touchdown two plays later and giving them a 10-0 lead. But, one drive later, Booty rebounded and found a rhythm that helped lead his team on its only touchdown drive.
After starting the game by completing 1 of 3 attempts with an interception over his first two drives, Booty’s third drive was a charm. He connected with Martin Nance for 18 yards to start it and later with Maurice Hicks for 19 yards to advance into the red zone. A pass to Garrett Mills turned into a 12-yard gain that set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Hicks.
Booty looked relatively decent on his final three drives of the game, but a couple of missed opportunities and a couple of dropped passes kept another drive from becoming anything too significant.
By the time Booty’s first half was done, he had completed 8 of 15 passes for 93 yards in a performance that head coach Brad Childress called “erratic” in a halftime interview with sideline reporter Ann Carroll.
While Booty is in a battle for the third quarterback spot with Brooks Bollinger, the veteran didn’t fare any better. Bollinger played the entire second half, leading the team to a field goal on his opening drive but picking up only two more first downs over his final five drives. Bollinger finished 6 of 18 for 62 yards and was sacked twice.
BACK TO THE STARTER
So long as his knee is ready to go, Tarvaris Jackson will be the starter for the regular-season opener at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field.
After numerous questions about the effectiveness of Jackson heading into training camp, he appears to at least have answered a few of those. According to Viking Update stats guru Scott Grams, Jackson’s completion percentage of 68.2 set a team preseason record, besting a three-way tie between Steve Dils (1980), Norm Snead (1971) and Fran Tarkenton (1976), who each had a 66.7 completion percentage in their referenced preseasons.
Jackson’s passer rating of 127.1 ranks fourth in preseason history, behind Randall Cunningham’s 145.6 (1998), Daunte Culpepper’s 134.5 (2004) and Norm Snead’s 127.3 (1971).
Special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro said he hadn’t found out enough about his punt returners during the first three preseason games. What he might have discovered in the preseason finale is that Jaymar Johnson is a viable option on punt returns but might not be decisive or aggressive enough on kick returns.
Johnson had 21 yards on three punt returns and Charles Gordon’s only return produced no yards. Aundrae Allison also made a mistake by fielding a punt inside the 5-yard line and then stepping out of bounds at the 3.
The Vikings appear to have plenty of options on punt returns – Maurice Hicks, Bobby Wade and even Bernard Berrian are other possibilities – but they didn’t find a clear-cut favorite from Thursday night’s performances.
On kickoff returns, Johnson averaged 22 yards on three returns, but fellow rookie receiver Darius Reynaud made one last play for the 53-man roster with a 34-yard return in which he hit the hole with authority and weaved his way through traffic as long as he could.
MILLS AND ROBISON BACK
Two ends were just getting started on Thursday. After missing the first three preseason games with different injuries, tight end Garrett Mills and defensive end Brian Robison both made their 2008 debuts at Texas Stadium.
Robison started the game at right end, where he would normally back up Jared Allen, and was credited with three tackles, one for a loss and two quarterback hurries.
Mills caught a key third-down pass at the start of the second quarter that set up the Vikings’ only touchdown of the game, but Mills appeared to be hobbled in the third quarter. He has been battling an ankle injury for most of training camp and the preseason.
PRESSURE UP FRONT
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said earlier this week that he has seen improvement from the defensive line increasing their pass rush without the assistance of blitzing.
“The importance of us being able to rush with four and not having to bring five and six as often as we did a year ago, which in turn should make our pass defense that much better and give us more opportunities to get what we like to do,” Frazier said.
On Thursday, the Vikings sacked Richard Bartel three times. Two of them came from defensive linemen, Otis Grigsby and Letroy Guion, and the other came from linebacker David Herron.
With quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers wearing a neck brace following back surgery this summer, the Vikings moved him up to the coaches box and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell down on the field for the preseason.
“To be able to make adjustments down there on the field, to be able to make adjustments at half, that’s one of the things I thought we did the best was that we did make an adjustment when we came out at half,” Bevell said earlier this week.
“… I think the communication has been good. I really have to commend our offensive staff. We do a great job of communicating together.”
It remains to be seen if that positioning of the coaches stays the same into the regular season.
After months of speculation, Bryant McKinnie’s status with the NFL might finally receive some clarification on Friday. Adam Schefter of NFL Network reported that a “flurry of announcements” is expected Friday regarding potential suspensions in the NFL. McKinnie could be suspended up to four games for violating the league’s player conduct policy.
Punter Chris Kluwe was one of the best at pinning opponents inside the 20-yard line last year, and he continued that craft Thursday night with two beauties that bounced near the goal line and back up before being downed. He finished the game with three punts inside the 20-yard line. Kluwe also ended the preseason with a 46.4-yard punting average, fifth in team preseason history, according to Grams, and a personal best.
Conditions at kickoff had the temperature at a steamy 95 degrees.