NASHVILLE - The Vikings unveiled what could be best described as a soft launch of their new offense Saturday night in their preseason opener against Tennessee.
It was far from a success.
Quarterback Donovan McNabb, making his Vikings debut, played two series in a 14-3 loss at LP Field. The Vikings' only points came from a 37-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell in the third quarter. But no one in the visitor's locker room expressed any concern -- not with three preseason games and plenty more installation to go before the Sept. 11 regular-season opener at San Diego.
"I thought their effort was good, and the execution was good up to a point," new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "We always want points. We'll have to make bigger strides next time with that first unit."
The next opportunity will come next Saturday when the Vikings play at Seattle. McNabb and the first unit are expected to play deeper into that game as they attempt to make up for time lost during the offseason when the NFL lockout prohibited Musgrave from putting in his scheme.
The Vikings had only 10 practices before playing Saturday with a limited menu available to them on offense. That's part of the reason why coach Leslie Frazier was happy to get some game tape and move on.
"Yes, for us with our offense, definitely," this is a work in progress, Frazier said. "We have to do things incrementally, and that's understandable. I think most teams in the league are doing something similar just because the way the offseason was. We are not any different in that regard."
Frazier is right if he's speaking about other teams that have switched offensive systems, but the Vikings are different from teams that had players returning to a scheme they know. McNabb wasn't obtained until after the NFL lockout and, like all of his teammates, must adjust to what Musgrave wants to do.
With that in mind, McNabb and the Vikings had to be fairly happy with how things went for him Saturday. He completed six of 11 passes for 40 yards in 15 plays before being replaced by Joe Webb. His longest completion was a 12-yarder to wide receiver Greg Camarillo, and a 40-yard bomb for Bernard Berrian in the second quarter was broken up by cornerback Jason McCourty.
"It felt good," said McNabb, who helped the Vikings convert three of five third-down situations while he was in the game. "I thought we had a great flow with the offense. Our timing and chemistry was where we needed to be. As an offensive unit, we were in and out of the huddle with enough time to make checks if we have to. And that's kind of what you want to start with in the first preseason game."
Clearly much more progress needs to be made, both on offense and defense.
The Titans scored their 14 points as a result of two second-quarter turnovers by the Vikings -- the first being a fumble by running back Lorenzo Booker that the Titans recovered on the Vikings 45-yard line, and the second being an interception by safety Jordan Babineaux on a pass over the middle that was intended for Devin Aromashodu and put the ball on the Vikings 37.
Titans quarterback Jake Locker, who replaced starter Matt Hasselbeck, connected with Yamon Figurs on a 45-yard touchdown pass right after Booker's fumble on a play on which Locker initially fumbled the snap.
That miscue caused Vikings cornerback Chris Cook to freeze for a moment and enabled Figurs to get well behind him.
Cook's mistake put the spotlight on a secondary that struggled with tackling Saturday, just as it had done last season. But in fairness, the Vikings weren't at full strength as starting corners Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin both did not play. Right end Jared Allen and defensive tackle Kevin Williams also were held out so the Vikings could get a longer look at backups.
"It was good to be back out playing football again, just encouraging to see the guys running around, and early on we had some difficulties with turnovers," Frazier said. "Our tackling wasn't up to par, and it hurt us in the first half. We picked the intensity up a little bit in the second half and played a little bit better. ... Now we have some tape, some things we can go back and look at and hopefully improve."