Minnesota Vikings 2012: 7 Players to Watch Against the San Diego Chargers

Sam LanctotCorrespondent IAugust 23, 2012

Minnesota Vikings 2012: 7 Players to Watch Against the San Diego Chargers

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    Adrian Peterson has been shut down for the preseason, so we won't see him in action until it counts.

    Those interested in watching the preseason games can have hope though, as there are still plenty of players that are worth seeing. And with the first series of cuts coming up after this game, guys will be fighting for their place on the roster even harder.

    Now I would have put Toby Gerhart on this list, as he has been exciting to watch and intriguing to consider his role, but Leslie Frazier has announced that Gehart's snaps will be limited for the rest of the preseason.

    So he's out. But here are seven other players who will be worth paying attention to. This is based on what they have done so far and what they need to do against the Chargers. So without further ado, here we go. 

Audie Cole

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    This list would lose all integrity if Cole wasn't on here. Back to back pick-sixes is just about as impressive as a rookie can be.

    Now I don't think he will have that big of an impact as a rookie, but his performance was encouraging. He no longer is fighting for a roster spot, and instead is fighting for playing time. 

    I would love to see Cole get some time against the Chargers first team offense to see just how capable he can be. It's one thing to pick off Brad Smith, it would be quite another to do it to Philip Rivers

    He plays with so much energy, and seeing those flowing locks flying in the wind bring thoughts of Clay Mathews to the minds of many Vikings' fans. Now those two are completely different players, and Cole will not be as good as Mathews was as a rookie, but it is fun to compare.

    So far he has shown he is a solid tackler, effective blitzer and capable of being a big playmaker, everything that a team could want in a linebacker. I'm excited to see what else this kid can show.

Joe Webb

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    If last week showed us anything, it was proof yet again that Webb is a tremendous athlete. He just is not that impressive as a quarterback. 

    Webb had runs of 41 and 23 yards, but he completed less than half of his passes. Again. A lot of his incompletions were missing open receivers, and that just can't keep happening. 

    Webb has the potential to be a great change of pace quarterback, but it seems as if he has regressed from last year. He completed 54 percent of his passes a year ago, and helped lead a few memorable touchdown drives. I just don't see him showing that right now. 

    Now some of his incompletions so far this preseason have been on deeper throws, but it is worth noting that those throws were un-catchable. Devin Aromashodu was the intended receiver on the two closest ones, and on both of the throws there was no chance he could come down in bounds. 

    It is worth mentioning that he is playing behind the second string offensive line, which is not very capable. But that shows to me that when the pressure is there he tends to panic. His throws have looked erratic. If he can find his passing game again, he could be arguably the best backup in the NFL

Chris Carr

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    When the Vikings brought in two veterans at corner, I thought Carr would be the one who would stand out, eventually becoming the teams third corner. I thought Zack Bowman was going to only play special teams, and that was only if he made the team. 

    After the first two games, it appears I had it backwards. Bowman has shined in his time on the field, whether he's playing special teams or defense, while Carr has faded.

    He has struggled in coverage, allowing catches both in front and behind him. He has missed tackles, both by taking bad angles and just not bringing the ball carrier down. He hasn't stepped up against the run effectively. He just seems lost.

    The Chargers game may be his last hope to earn significant playing time. Chris Cook will sit out with concussion like symptoms, so Carr might be starting. But with both Bowman and rookie Josh Robinson looking good, Carr needs to show up now or he will lose his spot as the team's third corner. 

Mistral Raymond

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    Talk about the tale of two safeties.

    Against San Francisco, almost nothing went right for Raymond. However, last week he was everywhere. If it hadn't been for Cole's final three minutes, he would have been player of the game. 

    He made plays against the run, stepping up and laying hits on the running backs, a couple of times even in the back field. He jumped some passes and broke up completions, almost coming away with an interception. He looked like he did in college, and that would be great news for the Vikings.

    The real question is whether or not it was a fluke. Raymond has to prove he can consistently be the player he showed he is capable of being.

    Now after last week, he would have to collapse to lose the starting spot, but he can't just be mediocre during the season. He has far more potential than that, and the team will need him to play to that potential if they have any hope at all in 2012. 

Jarius Wright

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    Wright was drafted to add some depth to a weak receiving group from a year ago. In college he was a big playmaker that was electrifying in the open field. 

    So far in the pros, Wright has had the ball in his hands twice. Both were on kick returns, and one of those was a fair catch. 

    Obviously as a 4th round pick he wasn't a guy expected to make an immediate splash, and I know he was drafted as a project player, but I still want to see him do something. Otherwise he could be buried very deep on the depth chart in his rookie year.

    With other receivers starting to show up last week, Wright has to step his game up. I don't think he will be cut, as the team is high on his potential, but if he is on the roster he can't just be a wasted spot.

    Week three tends to be when the starters play the longest. With Christian Ponder looking great and spreading the ball around so far this preseason, this could be his best chance. 

Manny Arceneaux

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    Arceneaux flashed the talent last week that caused the Vikings to sign him from the CFL two years ago. I personally was huge on the signing, but after spending almost all of last season on the practice squad, I didn't know what to think of him anymore. 

    He demonstrated some big play potential with his 48 yard catch, but it was his blocking downfield that impressed me most. It's that kind of play that will win you a roster spot. With the logjam the team has at receiver behind Percy Harvin and Jerome Simpson, this showing could have been his saving grace.

    Now you can't keep a player just because of one catch, so I would like to see him show up again this week. If he can do that, he will effectively be guaranteed to get past the first series of cuts. And if he can keep blocking, he could easily have a spot come the regular season.

    His biggest competition might be Aromashodu, as he is doing everything he can to demonstrate he is worthy of a spot as well. If I had to make the decision right now, I would go with Aromashodu, but Arceneaux is closing that gap quickly. 

Stephen Burton

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    He flashed his skills again this week, but had a costly drive ending fumble. 

    That kind of inconsistency is what could keep him from being Simpson's replacement the first three weeks. However, he continues to show drastic improvement from a year ago.

    He has a unique combination of size and agility, as he can make moves in the open field. Combined with his 6'1'', 221 pound frame, he could have gobs of potential.

    I think he has done enough already to warrant a roster spot this season, but with so many other receivers, nothing is certain. So Burton should be on the field a lot this game, and needs to take advantage. Getting open more consistently would be a big boost of confidence for fans.

    Right now, Jenkins might be the number two receiver at the start of the season, but if Burton can keep flashing his talent, the team would be hard pressed to not give him a shot.