Tarvaris Jackson proves a different quarterback, showing his ability to scramble and take a hit.
The first series of his first home start and new Seahawks starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson already was running for his life.
Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen sprinted, unblocked, from Jackson’s blindside and was about to flatten him, when the Hawks quarterback sixth-sensed the pressure, avoided the almost-certain sack and threw the ball away.
Escapablity. It is the most important asset for a Hawks quarterback this season.
For most of the first half Saturday night the Vikings’ defensive linemen came after Jackson as if they had some grudge against their former teammate. (For the record, they don’t.) They hit him almost every time he dropped to throw.
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Jackson stayed cool.
He scrambled for 4 yards on the first play of the second possession and then, with Vikings linebacker Jasper Brinkley practically inside his face mask, Jackson hung in the pocket and completed a 9-yard pass to Anthony McCoy.
Tarvaris Jackson is not Matt Hasselbeck and this season, with this young offensive line, that could be a good thing for the Seahawks.
He’s a different kind of quarterback for a different kind of offense. He’s the most mobile starting quarterback this city has seen since Jim Zorn. And he can take a hit.
The Minnesota tag team of E.J. Henderson and Brian Robison buried Jackson on one third-down incompletion. And Everson Griffen flatted him on another.
Against a fast and aggressive defense, Jackson improvised and scrambled. He avoided sacks and made plays in the face of extreme pressure.
On the Seahawks’ only sustained drive of the half, a 71-yard exercise in perseverance, Jackson looked poised and comfortable.
He was smacked by Vikings defensive end Adrian Awasom just as after he delivered a screen pass to Marshawn Lynch. On a third-and-seven, he ran out of trouble and gained 8 yards.
And, on a third-and-five, he threw a ball to the double-covered Williams, who was able to out-jump the defenders and haul in the 17-yard pass at the 2-yard line. Jackson put the pass in a place where only Williams could catch it.
That was the highlight of Jackson’s night.
Four uninspired running plays failed to punch the ball into the end zone from the 2 and the Hawks, who trailed 13-0 at the half, squandered their only early scoring opportunity.
Jackson finished his half 11 for 21 for 75 yards. He ran twice for 12 yards. He threw five times to former Vikings teammate Sidney Rice and completed two for 11 yards.
His quarterback rating of 40.8 is a bit skewed because of the interception he threw to Marcus Sherels. The 64-yard pick-six wasn’t Jackson’s fault. The high pass glanced off Golden Tate’s hands to Sherels, who sailed into the end zone.
Considering the ferocity of the Vikings’ pass rush, the fact that Jackson was ambulatory at the end of the half is a positive. The fact that a quarterback as mobile as he is still got pounded is seriously disconcerting.
In the second half, as backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst was leading the Hawks on a 16-play, 89-yard scoring drive against Vikings reserves that swallowed 8 minutes, 40 seconds, the crowd started chanting, “Charlie, Charlie.”
But the job belongs to Jackson. The Hawks need Jackson’s athleticism. They need a quarterback with wheels.
This abbreviated, post-lockout training camp is putting extra pressure on the Seahawks’ young, rebuilt line. For this offensive line, all of August has had the urgency of a hurry-up offense, and the absence of left tackle Russell Okung (left ankle) Saturday made the game even more dangerous for Jackson.
I cringe thinking what the night might have looked like with Hasselbeck.
This game proved that, for Hasselbeck’s long-term health, leaving the Hawks was the right decision for everyone concerned. Protecting the quarterback is going to be a serious challenge for this inexperienced line, especially in the deadly first five weeks of the season.
Jackson probably is the position’s placeholder until the Hawks find their quarterback of the future. But for this season, his ability to sense and escape trouble might be the best answer for a team that, despite last season’s NFC West championship, remains a reconstruction project.