It’s very hot and sticky here in St. Louis, but fortunatly for all involved, tonight’s game will be played inside the climate-controlled Edward Jones Dome, as the Vikings take on the Rams at 7 p.m. CST on KARE 11 back in the Twin Cities. Here are some things to keep an eye on as tonight’s game unfolds…
- I think it’s safe to say it’s no better than 50-50 that QB Brett Favre returns to the Vikings this season. Should he not, things will be in the hands of QB Tarvaris Jackson, who has shown improvement during training camp and should be better than he was at the end of the 2008 season. How much better? We’ll start to get a sense of that tonight, though he’ll probably only play a series or two. Still though, he’s going to need to show that he has indeed evolved if this team’s going to be taken as a serious Super Bowl contender should No. 4 elect not to return.
- Given he had a leg injury during the middle part of training camp, RB Adrian Peterson may not see much, if any, action tonight. Either way, the guys behind him will see lots of action, and there’s much to look forward to when it comes to the backup running back battle. Albert Young is entering his second season and seems to have a leg up on rookie Toby Gerhart at this point. Expect both of those guys to get many carries tonight, especially if Peterson is inactive. And don’t forget about wideout turned running back Darius Reynaud, who is also coming off an injury in camp. Should he play, he could be used in many ‘unique’ ways as a possible fill-in for WR Percy Harvin, who will miss the game as he’s not with the team right now. Harvin generally played in the slot last season but of course was used in some more exotic packages. Given his migraine issues, the Vikings need to have somebody ready to fill his shoes in the offensive gameplan, and it seems like Reynaud may be that guy.
- With both Harvin and Sidney Rice out of action at wide receiver, look for many of the young guys to get plenty of playing time. Two to really keep an eye on that could be battling for one of the last roster spots are Jaymar Johnson and Logan Payne. Both have impressed at times during training camp, and given the injury situations with Harvin and Rice, the Vikings may keep more wideouts than they orginally planned coming into camp, so Johnson and/or Payne could be the beneficiary there.
- The Vikings five starters on the offensive line seem set, but they’ll be some healthy competition for the backup spots. With veteran Artis Hicks having moved on to Washington in the offseason, the Vikings are a little more thin at o-line than they were a season ago, so it will be key to build up some depth for the inevitable injures that will occur throughout the season.
- On the defensive side of the ball, one guy to keep an eye on is DT Letroy Guion. Coaches have been raving about him during camp, and he’ll likely see big minutes tonight, as it’s tough to image Kevin and Pat Williams playing more than a series tonight. Guion came into the league as a very young player, but now entering his third season, he seems to be taking a step in the right direction, so we’ll see if that translated into game action.
- It’s still unclear if LB E.J. Henderson will play at all tonight after coming off that gruesome leg injury late last season. Either way, he won’t play much, but second year player Jasper Brinkley, who filled it admirably last season and has also drawn rave reviewed during camp. He should see plenty of run all preseason long and will hopefully keep growing as a player.
- A couple of young guys should see extensive time at the cornerback spot. AA and CC — second year player Asher Allen and rookied Chris Cook — have both played well during camp. Antoine Winfield is coming off a foot injury and it doesn’t look like Cedric Griffin will be ready to start the season (torn ACL vs. Saints last January), so it will be key for Allen and Cook to be ready to go from game one.
- Finally, Jamarca Sanford started to take snaps away from starter Tyrell Johnson late last season at strong safety. Those two have continued to split duties during training camp, and it seems as though there’s an open competition for that job. Though it’s doubtful that either guy will play too much in this first preseason game, it’s arguably the only starting spot on either side of the ball that could be up in the air, so it’s worth watching all preseason long.
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