Friday, August 24, 2012

Vikings vs. Chargers: Five Aspects to Watch

Can safety Mistral Raymond
display the same success he
showed last week vs. the Bills?
Today on Vikings Corner we will analyze five aspects to look for during tonight's preseason game vs. the San Diego Chargers.
The Vikings looked shaky in the first preseason contest, but bounced back nicely last Friday vs. the Bills. Can the Vikings display the same consistency they showed on last Friday night?

Tonight we will see the most extended look at the 1st team offense and defense until the regular season opener vs. Jacksonville. I will be watching to see if the offense can continue to move the ball as well as they did vs. the Bills. The key will be whether or not the Vikings reveal many formations they will use this season. They most likely won't and we most likely won't get an accurate assest of the group until the first regular season game.

Christian Ponder will need to utilize all his targets, as he will be without his biggest threat Jerome Simpson, for the first three games of the regular season. We will need to see if another vertical threat emerges such as Devin Aromashodu or Stephen Burton. Both have shown flashes, but haven't reached the pinnacle of full success.

It will be amusing to see if Mistral Raymond plays at the high level he displayed vs. the Bills. He was deflecting passes and was very instrumental in run support, which are key for the backside of the defense. When Raymond was combined with rookie safety Harrison Smith, it was a major upgrade to our secondary. Raymond and Smith compliment each other well, with Smith bringing physicality combated with Raymond's ability in coverage. Mistral seems more comfortable with Smith alongside him than he ever was when he was paired with Jamarca Sanford. I hope this trend continues and Raymond brings a bright spot to the Vikings secondary.

It will be interesting to watch rookie Josh Robinson when he hits the field with the second team. I love to see his athletic ability and the speed he brings to the secondary. In last week's game he lost a step on a "go" route, but had the speed to catch up and make a deflection. I want to see how he has progressed by being more involved in practices this week. We have to remember the limited amount of practices Robinson participated in before playing in the game last week. Robinson won't start in the place of Chris Cook (concussion), but will make his way into the game, sooner rather than later.

Who will emerge on punt and kick returns in the preseason? We have seen Marcus Sherels, Jarius Wright, Bryan Walters and Josh Robinson used on punt returns, but have mainly witnessed Marcus Sherels or Stephen Burton on kickoffs. With the rumblings coming out of practice, I don't see how Marcus Sherels isn't the main return specialist on punts and kickoffs. He has experience and is reliable in special team situations. With experience, Josh Robinson may be a candidate to return punts later in the season. His 4.3 speed and athleticism fit the skill set for an excellent punt returner. Robinson missed so much of training camp with a hamstring injury, that he needs more time to get adapted to the NFL.

Overall, it will be exciting to see an extended look at the Vikings 1st team offense and defense. This will be the last true test in a game before the 1st regular season game vs. Jacksonville. In addition, it will be the last time for many players to show they deserve a spot on the roster, as the team is cut from 90 to 75 on Monday at 3 p.m.

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