When the Minnesota Vikings enter Seattle’s Qwest Field for Saturday’s preseason tilt with the defending NFC West champion Seahawks, they’ll recognize a few familiar faces on the opposing sidelines.
Seattle’s offensive retooling for this 2011 season involved the addition of three people who were all with the Vikings organization a year ago. The process began with the hiring of ex-Minnesota coordinator Darrell Bevell to hold down the same post back in January, then continued when the Seahawks signed former Brett Favre backup Tarvaris Jackson to a two-year contract to replace Matt Hasselbeck as the team’s starting quarterback at the dawn of the free-agent period.
In need of a No. 1 target for their new triggerman, the Seahawks then went out and landed one of the top available receivers on the market, inking 2009 Pro Bowl selection Sidney Rice to a five-year, $43 million pact just prior to training camp. The talented 24-year-old had spent his first four NFL seasons with the Vikings.
Rice’s first meeting with his old team will also be his first time in uniform with his new one, as the offseason pickup sat out Seattle’s preseason opener at San Diego with a minor shoulder injury.
Jackson’s Seahawks debut did take place in last week’s 24-17 victory over the Chargers, though it wasn’t exactly a notable one for the athletic signal- caller. Under constant pressure during a brief first-quarter stint, he completed 3-of-5 passes for just 13 yards and was sacked twice while operating a pair of scoreless drives.
Second-stringer Charlie Whitehurst went 14-of-20 for 115 yards in relief of Jackson, while undrafted rookie Josh Portis threw a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to help the Seahawks rally from an early 10-0 deficit.
Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said he plans to have his starters play the entire first half of Saturday’s matchup, and Jackson will also have Mike Williams on hand this time around after the big-bodied receiver missed the opener due to a sprained toe.
Left tackle Russell Okung won’t be available to protect Jackson’s blind side, however, after the 2010 first-round pick suffered a sprained ankle in the first quarter of the San Diego game.
Minnesota’s initial outing of 2011 marked the official introduction for two new quarterbacks who are at opposite points of their careers. The Vikings traded for 12-year veteran Donovan McNabb to take over for the retired Favre in late July, while also adding an intended long-term answer with the selection of Florida State’s Christian Ponder with the 12th overall choice of April’s draft.
Neither had an immediate impact, as the Vikings failed to score a touchdown in a 14-3 loss to Hasselbeck’s Tennessee Titans last Saturday.
McNabb directed the first two Minnesota possessions and threw for 40 yards on 6-of-11 passing. Ponder did not enter until late in the third quarter and hit on 8-of-13 attempts for 84 yards while being sacked three times.
Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said earlier in the week that McNabb would play the majority of the first half against the Seahawks, though he’ll be doing so without two of the offense’s weapons. Playmaking wide receiver Percy Harvin will be held out because of sore ribs, while tight end Visanthe Shiancoe will miss a second straight game due to a hamstring injury.
Minnesota’s defense will get one key player back in the fold, however, with Frazier acknowledging that cornerback Cedric Griffin is set to take the field this week for the first time since tearing his ACL last October.
The Vikings came through with a 24-13 home win over the Seahawks during the 2010 preseason and also handed Seattle a 35-9 loss at the Metrodome in the 2009 regular season. The Seahawks do hold a slim 7-6 edge in the all-time preseason series, however.