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Updated: August 23rd, 2012 1:36pm
Preview: Devin Aromashodu, Jamarca Sanford have much on line on Friday

Preview: Devin Aromashodu, Jamarca Sanford have much on line on Friday

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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Who: San Diego Chargers (2-0) at Minnesota Vikings (1-1).
When: 7 p.m. Friday.
Where: Mall of America Field at the Metrodome.
TV: KARE (Channel 11).
Line: Vikings by 3.
Coaches: Vikings -- Leslie Frazier (2nd season, 6-16). Chargers -- Norv Turner (6th season, 49-31).
Series: The Vikings are 10-2-1 in preseason -- including 7-0 at home -- against the Chargers and 5-6 in regular-season play.
Last meeting: Percy Harvin returned the opening kickoff of the 2011 season 103 yards for a touchdown against the Chargers on Sept. 11 in San Diego. From that point forward, little went right for the Vikings. San Diego rallied for a 24-17 victory behind three touchdowns from running back Mike Tolbert and the Vikings ended up with a 3-13 record.
At stake: Plenty. Friday's game will be the last for several players on the Vikings roster. The deadline for NFL teams to cut down from 90 to 75 players is 3 p.m. Central on Monday. The final cutdown to 53 is 8 p.m. CT on Aug. 31. Friday also will be the final chance for most starters to get extended action before the regular season opens.

Injury report

Vikings: G Bridger Buche (knee), TE John Carlson (knee), CB Chris Cook (concussion), NT Letroy Guion (knee), WR Kamar Jorden (hand) and G Geoff Schwartz (sports hernia surgery) are out. S Robert Blanton (hamstring), LB Larry Dean (shoulder sprain), LB Solomon Elimimian (hamstring) and OT DeMarcus Love (pectoral) are questionable.

Chargers: RB Ryan Mathews (collarbone) is out. NT Antonio Garay (sprained ankle) and C Nick Hardwick (concussion) are doubtful. WR Eddie Royal (groin) is questionable.

Three things to watch

A dress rehearsal: If you are going to have to pay regular-season prices for an exhibition game -- and that is the case -- this is the one to pay to see. The Vikings' starters will get their most extensive action of the preseason, likely playing a series into the third quarter. QB Christian Ponder and many other first-teamers will see very limited action, if any, in the exhibition finale a week from Thursday in Houston. For the first time in the preseason, the Vikings have put together a game plan to face an opponent and will work to execute it as if they are playing in a regular-season game. The Chargers will approach the Vikings the same way, so the first half of this one actually could provide somewhat of a window into any potential progress the Vikings have made during the offseason and into training camp.

Who replaces Simpson?: WR Jerome Simpson is expected to provide the Vikings with a vertical threat when he returns from a three-game suspension to open the regular season. That ban was handed down by the NFL as punishment for Simpson violating the league's substance abuse policy. The Vikings are expected to explore their options for the opening three weeks in this game, with the likes of Devin Aromashodu, Michael Jenkins and Emmanuel Arceneaux getting an opportunity to prove they can fill the role that Simpson will inherit upon his return. Aromashodu has been targeted nine times with passes in the preseason and has yet to catch a ball. He had a drop in Friday's victory over Buffalo. Failure to produce in this game could cost him a roster spot.

Final chance for Sanford?:
The expectation is that first-round pick Harrison Smith and 2011 sixth-round selection Mistral Raymond will be the opening-day safeties for the Vikings on Sept. 9. However, Jamarca Sanford, who started 15 games last season and got the start in the preseason opener, apparently might get the chance to start alongside Smith against the Chargers. Sanford isn't afraid to hit and is a very competent special teams player, but he has not proven he deserves to be a starting safety in the NFL. While Raymond is listed at 6-foot-1 and 202 pounds, Sanford is 5-10, 200. If Sanford has any hope of beating out Raymond for a job -- it would be extremely surprising if Smith isn't a starter in the opener -- then he is going to have to show something in this game.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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