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Considering the Vikings' passing-game limitations

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Posted Sept. 23, 2011 @ 1:53 p.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

There are two schools of thought with the Vikings' offense right now.

One voice says that the team suggested this week that the Vikings have really held back with QB Donovan McNabb and not let him open the offense up.

Another voice says that McNabb no longer has the physical capabilities to be effective like he was in his Philadelphia heyday.

A closer look reveals that both elements might hold truths.

In Week One, the team took minimal shots downfield. Things opened up a bit in Week Two, but it was more in the form of rollouts. McNabb was effective on those plays, far more so than he was sitting in the pocket, where his completion percentage sat around 50 percent. But the downfield passing attack was almost nonexistent in that game, too. The longest reception of the season has been a 42-yarder by reserve RB Toby Gerhart.

Of course, there also might be a perfectly good reason why offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is not opening things up more. It's that he might not think McNabb and the rest of the offense is capable of a more diverse passing attack. What the Week Two tape showed was that McNabb looked skittish in the pocket; protection problems almost certainly have played a role in this.

But what can't be excused is McNabb's accuracy. It's an element of his game that was questioned in Philadelphia and Washington and it absolutely again is a problem. McNabb simply doesn't put great touch or accuracy on his passes, and with a fairly pedestrian group of receivers — especially with Percy Harvin's role reduced through two games — there is no one to bail out those off-target throws.

Things almost certainly have to change, if for no other reason than the Vikings have to know if opening things up can work at any point this season. Otherwise, RB Adrian Peterson will be hit even more on every play and faces fronts solely designed to take him out of games with no respect for a deep passing game.

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