Minnesota Vikings 2012: 7 Players to Watch Against Buffalo

Sam Lanctot@@SamWiseThoughtsCorrespondent IAugust 17, 2012

Minnesota Vikings 2012: 7 Players to Watch Against Buffalo

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    While most people want to watch All-Day Adrian Peterson play for the first time after his injury last season, the Purple Jesus will not suit up against the Bills this week. 

    Even without seeing Peterson's first carries of the season, there are still plenty of players to pay attention to this week. The team looks to improve its run defense from last week and have a more complete showing on offense. It would be nice to see them find the end zone. 

    For more on how the team did against the 49ers, you can read my previous B/R article.

    I did not include any of the known starters who sat last week because I felt that was obvious. Those guys are always worth watching because they are so skilled. However, here are seven other players that should command your attention when the Vikings take the field.  

Jasper Brinkley

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    His average play in Week 1 against San Francisco did little to silence those who doubt his ability as a starter. Add in the fact that all of his backups played great, and his status as a starter could be in question. 

    To be fair, the entire defense was put on notice after allowing 260 yards on the ground. Part of that could be explained by starters Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, and Antoine Winfield sitting. Even without those players, that is a poor performance. 

    Tyrone McKenzie and Audie Cole specifically had great games. They played with high energy and found themselves around the ball often. Brinkley needs to bring that same energy, as he has more NFL experience than either of the other two and has flashed impressive skills in the past. 

    He should see a little more playing time this week, and he needs to show improvement against the run. If he doesn't, the calls for former starter E.J. Henderson could come soon.

Everson Griffen

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    The linebacker experiment with Everson Griffen appears to be over. With the move back to defensive end, Griffen goes back to where he has always excelled. 

    I'm most interested in seeing how defensive coordinator Alan Williams uses the combination of Griffen, D'Aundre Reed, Nick Reed, Jeff Charleston, and Ernest Owusu. Griffen's move will likely cause one less player to make the final squad. I think veteran Nick Reed may be the odd man out, but he has a few weeks left to prove me wrong. 

    Griffen should see quite a bit of playing time this week as he transitions back to his natural position. He seems a lock to win the fifth defensive lineman spot and could help improve the dismal run defense the team displayed last week. 

Mistral Raymond

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    He was listed as the starter since training camp began, but his struggles in the preseason opener leave his starting status in doubt. Add in Harrison Smith's good showing, and it becomes much more complicated. 

    It seems to be a two-man race again for who will start opposite Smith once the season begins between Raymond and Sanford, and at the moment, Sanford is winning.

    While Raymond was thrown into the fire last season, this year, he is expected to play far better. He did not look good against either the run or the pass during his time on the field.

    I have no idea what to expect with his playing time this week, as his play was so sporadic against the 49ers.

    After listening to some interviews of him, I've started to really like him and his playing style. But Raymond must bounce back if he is to remain starter. 

Harrison Smith

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    As I mentioned, Smith looked great in his preseason debut. He impressed so much that head coach Leslie Frazier said he finally feels comfortable giving him a chance to start at safety. 

    I don't think there was ever any doubt that Smith would be a starter, but I like the fact that the coaching staff wanted to make him prove it. Even with his limited time on the field in Week 1, he did just that. 

    Hopefully, he can get some increased playing time this week because he is still a rookie and needs to get through some of his rookie mistakes before they can really hurt the team. 

    Watch for him to play up and aggressive against the run. That is where he excels the most, and with the teams struggles in that area last week, Smith will be hunting. 

Josh Robinson

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    He was probably the player I was most looking forward to seeing last week, but he missed the game with a hamstring injury. There will be no letdown this week, as he appears ready to play

    I can't wait to see his electrifying speed in action. His playmaking skills could be on display in the return game, as neither Stephen Burton or Marcus Sherels did anything to impress in Week 1. 

    His play at corner is what I am more anxious to see, however. Last week's starters, Chris Carr and Chris Cook, struggled, and they are likely his biggest competitors for playing time this year. If Robinson can impress, he may get lots of early playing time, possibly earning the third corner spot on the team. 

    I expect the team to ease him back into playing form, so his playing time may be limited, but that won't make it any less exciting. 

Kerry Taylor

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    Possibly the most impressive receiver last week was Kerry Taylor. He demonstrated solid hands and route running in the first game, even hanging on to a catch after a big hit from Perrish Cox.

    The young man from Arizona State looks to continue proving he belongs in the NFL. He bounced between three teams before landing on the Vikings practice squad late last season. This year, he looks to take the next step onto the 53-man roster. 

    He is already starting to show he is plenty capable. His training camp has been really impressive, as I mentioned in an earlier B/R article, and he just added to his success after his performance last week.

    I expect his playing time to remain the same, as he will likely get another week of playing against the third and fourth-stringers. If he has a similar performance, he could see some time against starters before the preseason comes to an end.  

Stephen Burton

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    Burton jumped onto the scene early with his 52-yard catch on the second play of the game. After that, he effectively disappeared.

    He did, however, drop a pass from Christian Ponder which halted a drive. That kind of inconsistency could hurt his playing time when the regular season starts. 

    He is fighting for the starting spot opposite Percy Harvin while Jerome Simpson is suspended, and outside of Harvin and Simpson, the receiving spots are wide open. Michael Jenkins did nothing last week other than end a drive in the red zone with an easy drop. 

    With no receiver really standing out in the first game besides Taylor, Burton's chances of winning that spot probably improved. 

    He should get more playing time this week to see how he and Ponder connect. This might be his best chance to show he can transition his great practices onto the playing field. He could even win the third receiver spot.