Backups QBs not always a defensive blessing

Matt Hasselbeck

Is facing the backup quarterback a good thing? With the Vikings going against Matt Hasselbeck this Sunday, it might not be.

The Vikings look to improve to 4-1 this Sunday when they face the Tennessee Titans, and they will do so against veteran QB Matt Hasselbeck. On Wednesday, the Titans made it official that starter Jake Locker was going to be shelved with a left shoulder injury, giving Hasselbeck back the starting job he had all of last year.

From the Vikings perspective, that may not be such a good thing. In the four games that Locker started, the Titans struggled badly on both sides of the ball. When Tennessee loses, it loses big. Their three losses have come by scores of 34-13, 38-10 and 38-14. Even in their lone win, they needed a punt return and kickoff return for touchdowns to beat Detroit. How many teams can say that? Oh, wait.

The problems have come early and will likely be Priority One for Hasselbeck to avoid. The Titans have been outscored 41-13 in the first quarter. On average, they trail 10-3 after one quarter and find themselves in a bind. To complicate matters, that scenario repeats itself in the second half, which can lay blame on the doorstep of the coaching staff.

Halftime is typically where good coaches shine. They make adjustments as to what worked and what didn't in the first half and make accordant changes. The Titans have been outscored 35-14 in the third quarter, which typically turns one of their halftime deficits into second-half desperation.

When asked if the Vikings approach would be different with Hasselbeck at quarterback as opposed to Locker, defensive tackle Letroy Guion said a veteran quarterback is a double-edged sword.

"We don't change up too much of what we do when it comes to quarterbacks," Guion said. "But the one thing about a guy like Hasselbeck is that he gets the ball out so fast you don't have a lot of time to get to him. Younger guys read their progressions like they're taught. That takes time and gives us time to get to him. Hasselbeck has been around long enough that, whether he's got his play or not, he's getting rid of the ball quick. It's tougher to get to guys like that because there isn't much they haven't seen and they get the ball out in a hurry."

In most situations, seeing the backup quarterback starting against you would be a good thing. In this instance? Not so much.


  • Jared Allen and Michael Jenkins sat out practice Wednesday – Allen with a groin injury and Jenkins with a rib ailment. Both are expected to be available Sunday.

  • Christian Ponder was listed with a knee injury, but, like Allen and Jenkins, his limited participation in practice is viewed as giving the starter a reduced role until the final game plan is put in and needs practice reps to replicate.

  • Aside from Locker being ruled out for Sunday, wide receiver Kenny Britt (ankle), defensive end Scott Solomon (hamstring) and LB Patrick Bailey (hand) missed practice.

  • Later this month, one of the documentaries being featured at Flyway Film Festival in Lake Pepin, Wisc., will be Last Day at Lambeau, which chronicles the bitter divorce between Brett Favre and Packer Nation. Just when you thought that wound was scabbed over, it gets ripped off to show exposed nerves once again. Whether the small indie film gets a lot of play in the DVD/Blu-ray world or not, you can bet sales in 'Sconnie will be huge and, like reality itself, Minnesotans will watch bootleg copies.

    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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