Jaguars fans will get a look on Sunday at the NFL's leading rusher and a player Jack Del Rio thinks is the best running back he's ever seen.
Adrian Peterson leads the Minnesota Vikings into Jacksonville Municipal Stadium for a game that is critical to the Vikings' NFC North title hopes. The 5-5 Vikings are tied with the Bears and Packers for the division lead.
The Vikings' hopes are pinned to Peterson, who leads the NFL with 1,100 yards rushing. The second-year running back would seem to have supplanted LaDainian Tomlinson as the league's feature runner.
"Time will tell over the length of his career … but from a gifted standpoint, this guy is electrifying. Every time he touches the ball he can go the distance. He's strong, he's big, he's fast. He runs violent. This guy is really a special player," Del Rio said of Peterson.
Much about the Vikings is special. They're fourth in the league in rushing and second in run-defense. Their lineup is laden with Pro-Bowlers, including defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams, who may offer an even more powerful interior force than what the Jaguars faced last week against Tennessee.
"I think they're a terrific football team," Del Rio said of the Vikings, for whom he played when Denny Green was the head coach.
Del Rio is one of four connections the Jaguars have to the Vikings. Jaguars Assistant Head Coach Mike Tice preceded Brad Childress as the Vikings' head coach, wide receiver Troy Williamson is a former top 10 pick who was traded from the Vikings to the Jaguars during the offseason, and cornerback Brian Williams spent his first four seasons in Minnesota.
So why do the Vikings have such an ordinary record? The answer would seem to lie at quarterback, where aged veteran Gus Frerotte was forced to take over the reins from Tarvaris Jackson. Frerotte has given the Vikings improved play at quarterback, but he's also thrown 11 interceptions and the Vikings' pass-offense would seem to be its greatest weakness.
Minnesota hosts Chicago in an NFC North showdown next week. The Jaguars, on the other hand, don't appear to be headed for any such late-season excitement at 4-6.
"We're going to play to win. Our focus is not on all of those what-if scenarios, it's on playing good football, winning a game. I want the guys to bring some good energy," Del Rio said.
The Jaguars are under harsh criticism from their fans for a midseason collapse that has seen the team lose three of its last four games.
"That's why they pay us the big money. We have to be level-headed when things aren't going our way. I understand the fans' frustration," quarterback David Garrard said.
Garrard is getting more than his share of the blame, following his worst performance of the season. Garrard completed just five of 14 passes for 45 yards and an interception in the second half of last Sunday's 24-14 loss to the Titans. The Jaguars led at halftime, 14-3.
"Fans are going to look at the coach and the quarterback. I have to deal with that. It's tough but I have to play my best. I can't win them by myself. All I can do is my job," Garrard said.
A lot of players will have to do their jobs for the Jaguars to have a chance of beating the Vikings.