Vikings' New Guys Start Soon

Bernard Berrian (Andy King/AP)

With all the talk surrounding the offseason additions to the Minnesota Vikings roster, the national football audience will finally get a chance to see the pieces come together on Monday night. The talent is there, but questions remain.

Expectations will give way to reality Monday night as the Vikings open the season against the Packers at Lambeau Field.

Much has been made of Minnesota's many offseason additions, including the acquisition of Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen and wide receiver Bernard Berrian, but what remains to be seen is if what looked so good on paper can produce on the field.

One of the central themes to the Vikings' success, of course, will be the performance of second-year starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.

The Vikings coaching staff raved about Jackson's development during the offseason and he looked very good in the preseason, completing 15 of 22 passes for 200 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in four-plus series. But Jackson suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee during the Vikings' second preseason game and has not played since. Jackson has said he definitely will be ready to play against the Packers but it remains to be seen if the knee will impact his performance.

One thing going in Jackson's favor is the spotlight definitely will not be on him. The nationally televised Monday night game will mark Aaron Rodgers' first regular-season start as the Packers quarterback in place of the now-traded Brett Favre.

This should enable Jackson to fly well below the radar at Lambeau Field. Jackson, coming off a season in which he threw 12 interceptions and nine touchdowns, should have Berrian as a passing option.

Berrian missed the final three preseason games because of a toe injury but barring a setback will be ready to go. Jackson and Berrian spent time during the offseason working together but ended up playing only three preseason series together because of their injuries.

The addition of Berrian is expected to loosen up defenses and enable running back Adrian Peterson to have more room to operate. Whether the Packers immediately respect that or wait to see if Jackson and Berrian truly can stretch the field remains to be seen.

It also will be interesting to see if Jackson tries to find Berrian early to establish the pass. That is something the Vikings struggled to do on a consistent basis last season when they finished 28th in the NFL in passing offense.

One of the intriguing subplots in this game is the fact that veteran Artis Hicks is expected to start only his fourth career game at left tackle. Bryant McKinnie, who has started 89 consecutive games at that spot for the Vikings over the last six seasons, has been suspended for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.

This could make life interesting on Jackson with Hicks protecting the quarterback's blind side. The Vikings have confidence in Hicks in part because they feel he is far more suited to play on the left side then he was on the right. The Vikings used Hicks as their starting right guard in 2006 but he lost the job early last season to Anthony Herrera.

SERIES HISTORY: 95th meeting. Packers lead series, 48-45-1, and are 4-0 against the Vikings since Brad Childress took over as Minnesota's head coach in 2006. The Vikings had won three in a row against the Packers, including an NFC wild-card game in 2004, before Mike Tice was fired as their coach following the 2005 season.

NOTES

  • The Vikings will be making their first trip to Lambeau Field since a 34-0 loss last Nov. 11. Minnesota's record dropped to 3-6 with the defeat and it also lost star running back Adrian Peterson for the next three games after he suffered a partial tear of the lateral collateral ligament. The Vikings followed that setback with a five-game winning streak that got them back into playoff contention.

  • The Vikings have three ex-Packers on their roster, including kicker Ryan Longwell, safety Darren Sharper and wide receiver Robert Ferguson. Shaper spent his first eight seasons with the Packers and is entering his fourth year with Minnesota. He will be a free agent after the season.

  • WR Bernard Berrian missed the last three games of the preseason because of an injured right toe but is expected to play Monday and isn't on the injury report.

  • WR Robert Ferguson is listed on the injury report because of an ankle injury suffered in the third preseason game against Pittsburgh. His status for Monday is not clear.

  • CB Charles Gordon will not only play in the nickel defense but also could find himself returning punts. Gordon is one of the players the Vikings have been considering for this role and had one return opportunity (no yards) in the exhibition finale at Dallas.

  • RB Maurice Hicks is expected to open the season as the Vikings kick returner (health permitting). Hicks handled this job with San Francisco last season and averaged 23.8 yards on 63 returns. Hicks did not practice Tuesday because of a foot injury.

  • QB Tarvaris Jackson missed the last three preseason games because of a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee but has said he will play Monday.

  • S Tyrell Johnson will start in place of injured veteran Madieu Williams, who is expected to miss at least the first three games because of a neck injury. Johnson, a second-round pick in April out of Arkansas State, started the first three preseason games. He sat out the final game because coach Brad Childress rested his starters.

  • This is the second time in the past three years the Vikings have opened the season on Monday night. In 2006, the Vikings defeated Washington 19-16 at FedEx Field in Brad Childress' first game as coach.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 27-19-1 - The Vikings' record in regular-season openers. The tie came in 1966, when the Vikings and San Francisco finished deadlocked at 20-20.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think that's a policy that the league sets forth, and we honor the league's intentions. Obviously, it's the way I believe in doing business here. The accountability factor is huge. The commissioner makes no bones about that." – Vikings coach Brad Childress on the four-game suspension the NFL gave to offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie for violating its personal conduct policy.

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