Friday, June 20, 2008

the heat of the proverbial seat

… is under the tight-end corps this year, not quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.  For a guy who's won 8 of his first 14 starts while throwing to the likes of Robert Ferguson, Troy Williamson, Bobby Wade and Visanthe Shaincoe, he's done pretty well for himself.  Granted, Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor, and an opportunistic defense certainly had a lot to do with those wins—but those things will only get better.  The erstwhile Tarvaris Jackson himself will get better in his sophomore year at the helm, which is the year that generally shows the largest off-season growth spurt.

But, the improvement of the three tight-ends—Kleinsasser, Shaincoe, and Mills—will be the linchpin of the offense in 2008.  

Kleinsasser has been around for a decade, and though lauded as one of the best blocking tight-ends in the league, caught only four passes for 43 yards and one touchdown in 2007.  I'm not sure what the problem is at right-tackle: the sum of Ryan Cook and Jim Kleinsasser is a full stack of pancake blocks.  Everybody's favourite NoDak is in a contract year, and so will pummel many a linebacker in 2008.  He won't, however, be Jackson's go-to.

The man who carries a great football name, if nothing else, Visanthe Shaincoe—he of $18.2 million over five years—caught a whopping 27 passes for 323 yards, a score (and three dropped ones) last year.  These oh-so-impressive stats also made him the fourth-leading receiver for the 2007 iteration of the Minnesota Vikings.  Apparently, though, he's been the star of mini-camp so far.  If this man can contribute, say, 50 catches for 700 yards and 8 TD's as an every-down player, then he'll live up to his contract.  The Brad Childress offense will reside in the upper echelons of the NFL.  Also, the cows will come home.

For somebody who has played in only one for-real game since graduating from the University of Tulsa in 2006, Garrett Mills sure has generated a lot of buzz.  No wonder, either: he put up some huge numbers at said University, where he dominated Conference USA as a member of the Golden Hurricane.  Though he has yet to prove that he can produce similar numbers in the NFL, there's hope.  Here's the rub—he's listed at 6'1", 235 lbs., the size of a small fullback.  So, how could Childress expect him to contribute as an in-line blocker?  He probably doesn't; I'm not sure what coach would.  Coach Steve Kragthorpe—of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane—didn't.  He moved Mills, his best weapon, all over the field: in-line, in the slot, as an H-back, fullback and even tailback.  And so, Garrett "General" Mills picked up a lot of rushing yards in college.  If Chilly can figure out how to fully utilize that sort of versatility, the offense will improve.  And yes, the cows will come home, too.

We, the Purple faithful (who else would read this, anyway?) believe in the power of the Purple Jesus.  We all know that Adrian Peterson will scare the poop out of Minnesota's opponents next year.  The President, Chester Taylor, will too.  And so, the story goes, Tarvaris Jackson, Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice will rip to shreds many a single coverage.  We hope.  If, however, someone emerges from this long summer at Winter Park who can—from the tight-end position—both pancake block and elude that safety in the box, the Purple should be playing in January.  And, dare I agree with Dr. Z… February, too.

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