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Vikings @ Bills Preview: Three Things To Watch In Preseason Game #2

Photo – Aj Mansour (KFAN)

By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
@AjKFAN

Minneapolis, MN – With training camp in the rear view mirror, Leslie Frazier and the Minnesota Vikings are out in Buffalo, NY preparing for tonight’s game against Kevin Kolb and the Buffalo Bills. While Coach Frazier and the rest of his staff will be observing the game behind the veil of a trained eye, here are three things that you can key in on tonight from the comfort of your own home.

(1) The battle at cornerback is a legit right now…
With three-years under his belt, right-side cornerback Chris Cook is the only Vikings cornerback who has position unofficially locked up. While some would argue that Cook himself has not earned that starting spot, others will be paying attention to rookie CB Xavier Rhodes and second-year player Josh Robinson who are battling it out for the final starting position.

Rhodes, the 25th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, will see his first game action Friday night after missing the team’s first preseason game with a hamstring injury. That injury sidelined Rhodes for three days of Training Camp as well as that first game and likely has put the young rookie a little behind schedule. Josh Robinson will get the start tonight opposite of Cook but he hasn’t blown anybody away at camp either. Ultimately, I would predict that this starting job ends up in the hands of the bigger, more physical Rhodes, but that assumption is being made off of seeing zero on the field snaps against someone not wearing purple.

Look closely at Rhodes and Robinson during the first half of Friday’s game. Will they be able to contest passes coming there way? Can they snatch away a pass and walk away from the evening with an interception? Can they wrap up well and tackle in the open field? A lot is left to be proven by these two youngsters. Unfortunately for Minnesota, they are filling in at one of the most important positions on the field.

(2) Desmond Bishop, the “will he” / “won’t he” dilemma continues…
There is one thing that we do know for tonight’s game in Buffalo. Desmond Bishop will play. What that means, only Coach Frazier and his staff know at the present time. From that point on it’s all questions.

Will Desmond prove that he has a solid grasp of the Vikings playbook? Will he prove that he has fully recovered from a gruesome injury that sidelined him for the entirety of the 2012 season? Will he be able to bounce back from the sore groin that kept him out of practice earlier this month? Will Desmond prove sufficient on the outside of the vikings 4-3 set after playing inside in Green Bay’s 3-4 for many years? Will Bishop rise up and be able to compete with Marvin Mitchell for the starting Will-LB position? How about against Erin Henderson at the MLB spot?

The questions are plentiful with Bishop and tonight, hopefully, we’ll start to get some answers. Bishop will likely play with the second-team defense on the far side of Audie Cole (MLB) and Larry Dean (OLB) to start the evening but could potentially rotate in with some different personnel groups just to mix it up. Once upon a time, Bishop was a dominant force for the Green Bay Packers and the Vikings are hoping that they will be able to salvage at least a small piece of that which once was.

(3) Can Ponder continue his forward momentum…
I mentioned it coming out of camp this past Wednesday, but when Training Camp was winding down, the offense was winning. Much of that comes on the shoulders of third year quarterback Christian Ponder.

While Ponder remains largely unproven in this league, he is notched in as the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings in 2013. Ponder showed signs of progression down the stretch last season leading the Vikings to four must-win victories before bowing out at the hands of an elbow injury in Green Bay.

Camp was a roller coaster for Ponder who saw his fair share of both good, and bad days under center. After playing just two snaps in the team’s first preseason game, tonight will be Ponder’s first true test of the 2013 season as Coach Frazier plans to play him through the entirety of the first quarter and potentially some into the second. If things go according to plan tonight for the Vikings, look for Ponder to settle in to a groove with his wide receivers early. Ponder and Jennings started to click the final days in camp and his roommate in Buffalo Kyle Rudolph is ready to burst onto the scene this season after 9 touchdown receptions in 2012.

Ponder needs to display a sense of comfort out on the field tonight and prove like he’s able to run this football team. If Ponder gets two-to-three series tonight, the first team offense should walk away seven or eight first downs and Ponder should finish with around 100 yards on ten or so passes, hopefully completing seven of them.

Coverage for tonight’s game starts at 4pm with Justin Gaard and the Pre game Show, then continues with kickoff at 6pm. Listen live on 100.3FM or 1130AM in the Twin Cities.

Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Vikings updates and breaking Vikings news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjKFAN

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