We're only three days away from the kickoff of the 2012 Vikings season! And since we open with a slightly unfamiliar opponent in the Jacksonville Jaguars, we figured that today would be a perfect time to reintroduce our Five Good Questions segment. For those that are unfamiliar with this series, we ask five (or so) questions from the writers of the SB Nation blog of the upcoming opponent. This week it's Big Cat Country, home for all your Jacksonville Jaguars news.
Alfie Crow of BCC was kind enough to answer our questions this week. Let's get right to it:
Daily Norseman: Are you ready for the Backup Running Back Bowl?! The word on Maurice Jones-Drew's playing time is that he'll be used as a "third down back" after recently ending his long contract holdout and Rashad Jennings will get the start. Are the Jaguars really going to limit MJD's playing time on Sunday, or is this just lip service by Mike Mularkey? How do you see touches being split between the two backs? If Jennings does get the lion's share of the carries, will he have a similar effectiveness as Jones-Drew or will there be a noticeable drop-off?
Big Cat Country: Maurice Jones-Drew's playing time will be limited, but by how much is the big question. Rashad Jennings is still going to be the starter for the game, but I would still imagine Jones-Drew gets around 15 total touches, at least. Jennings production should be close to Jones-Drew's, he's a big powerful back with some quickness and has shown in the past an ability to break some big plays and be an effective runner. He also does a nice job catching the football out of the backfield, but there will be a little bit of a drop off between the two, but not by much.
DN: Speaking of Mike Mularkey, this will be his first game at the helm for Jacksonville. Was it time for the Jaguars to part ways with Jack Del Rio or were some fans disappointed with the change? What's one major scheme change that you'd like Mularkey to make in 2012?
BCC: It was well past the time for the Jaguars to make a change at the head coaching position and if not for the lockout prior to the 2011 season, the Jaguars would have made a coaching change back then. Del Rio's act grew tired in Jacksonville and with the players, but the team was handcuffed with the contract extension given to Del Rio after the 2007 playoffs. The biggest scheme change under Mularkey is going to be a focus on the passing attack. Mularkey has already changed things on offense and has Blaine Gabbert looking like a functional passer, which should in turn help the running game.
DN: Are you ready for the Relocation Bowl?! Both the Vikings and Jaguars were very prominent this offseason when it came to teams that might relocate to Los Angeles. The Vikings are staying put thanks to a new stadium deal. Meanwhile, the Jaguars appear to be heading east instead of west, playing a handful of "home" games in London in the coming years. Do you feel like the games across the pond will hurt the competitive advantage of Jacksonville going forward, or do you feel like it's a necessary evil to keep the team in Florida?
BCC: The Jaguars are in absolutely no danger of moving to Los Angeles and quite frankly never have been, all of the talk about it was just talk by national media who didn't take the time to actually research the situation. The team is locked into a lease until after the 2027 season and in order to break the lease would have to prove three consecutive years of lost revenue, and as we all know the NFL isn't fond of opening their books. As in the case of the Vikings, teams do not relocate in the modern NFL unless there is a stadium issue and EverBank field will be a suitable home for the Jaguars for at least the next decade, if not more. I view the London game as nothing more than gaining exposure for the team and a chance to expand the city of Jacksonville with international business. New owner Shad Khan is an aggressive, forward thinking business man and sees the London series as a chance to expand the brand.
DN: Justin Blackmon hasn't had the best start to his NFL career off the field, but the rookie wide receiver still has all sorts of promise on it. How has Blackmon looked this preseason? Do you think that he'll have much of an impact right away or is there still a learning curve for him to conquer?
BCC: Justin Blackmon has been more impressive in the preseason so far than most expected. In just roughly four quarters of play in the preseason he racked up 10 receptions for 136 yards and a touchdown. He's already grown into a target Blaine Gabbert looks to and should have an instant impact in the passing game. There is still a bit of a learning curve in the route tree, but Mike Mularkey has been using Blackmon in the area his skillset fits him best early on, which is on a lot of the underneath stuff where he can pick up yards after the catch.
DN: Give us one player on offense and defense that Vikings fans might not know much about but you feel could have a big impact on the game.
BCC: Defensively, Vikings fans might not know about linebacker Daryl Smith. Smith has missed much of the preseason with a groin injury, but is slated to return to the field on Sunday. He's a linebacker that's good at everything and always seems to be in on plays. He's solid in pass coverage, disciplined in his run fits, and is an excellent pass rush when called to blitz. On offense, it's probably going to be running back Rashad Jennings, who missed the entire 2011 season with a knee injury. He looks to get plenty of work in the game and has been impressive thus far in the preseason.
A huge thanks to Alfie Crow for taking the time to answer our questions. Some really good stuff in there, especially about London and the (non-)possibility of relocation. Be sure to head to Big Cat Country for the Jacksonville side of things leading up to the game.