Updated: August 16th, 2012 12:56pm
Preview: Rookie Harrison Smith gets opportunity to make an impression

Preview: Rookie Harrison Smith gets opportunity to make an impression

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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Who: Buffalo Bills (0-1) at Minnesota Vikings (0-1).
When: 7 p.m. Friday.
Where: Metrodome.
TV: KARE (Ch. 11).
Line: Vikings by 2½.
Coaches: Vikings -- Leslie Frazier (2nd season, 6-16). Bills - Chan Gailey (3rd season, 28-36).
Series: Vikings are 6-3 in preseason vs. Bills and 8-4 in regular-season play.
Last meeting: Adrian Peterson ran for 107 yards on 16 attempts, including three touchdowns, in the Vikings' 38-14 victory over the Bills on Dec. 5, 2010.
At stake: Coming off a 17-6 loss to San Francisco last Friday in their preseason opener, the Vikings are expected to use all of their healthy starters through at the least the first quarter and possibly into the second. The Vikings did not use defensive end Jared Allen, defensive tackle Kevin Williams, cornerback Antoine Winfield and wide receiver Percy Harvin against the 49ers. The Vikings will want to see progress from both their first team offense and defense.

Injury report

Vikings: TE John Carlson (knee), WR Kamar Jorden (hand), T DeMarcus Love (pectoral), RB Adrian Peterson (knee) and G Geoff Schwartz (sports hernia surgery) are out. RB Jordan Todman (ankle) is doubtful.

Bills: C Eric Wood (knee), RT Erik Pears (sports hernia) and CB Terrence McGee (knee) are out. WR David Nelson (knee) is questionable.

Three things to watch

It's a start: The Vikings' starting safety combination of Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford didn't impress in Friday's preseason opener. In fact, their performance caused flashbacks to last season's subpar performances by the safeties. That led to the question of when first-round selection Harrison Smith would replace one of them. The answer will be Friday. The Vikings took Smith with the 29th pick out of Notre Dame after making a deal with Baltimore to get back into the opening round. Smith, who will start alongside Raymond, will bring the type of mean streak to the safety position that the Vikings have lacked in recent years. The Vikings' hope is that he will play well enough in the exhibition games to warrant remaining a starter for the Sept. 9 regular-season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

About that run defense: The Vikings were one of the NFL's best teams against the run for several seasons but that ended last year when they finished 11th in the league, surrendering 107 yards per game. New defensive coordinator Alan Williams and Frazier want to see improvement but they certainly didn't against the 49ers. Granted Williams did not play in the middle of the line and nose tackle Letroy Guion went out early because of a knee injury, but the fact San Francisco was able to accumulate 260 yards on the ground because of a few missed tackles and bad angles by the Vikings had to be cause for concern. The Bills had 100 yards on the ground in their 7-6 loss to Washington in their preseason opener. If there is one specific area the Vikings want to see their defense play better on Friday this might be it.

Ponder's progress: Get used to this being a key for the preseason. The first-team offense, including Ponder, could play into the second quarter in this one and will see even more time in the third exhibition against San Diego on Aug. 24. Ponder completed four of nine passes for 80 yards against the 49ers and did not make any glaring errors. But that was only step one in the process of making sure he's the long-term solution at quarterback for this franchise. The Vikings' preseason home opener will provide one interesting sidebar to keep an eye on. Backup Joe Webb (4 of 11 for 20 yards) did not impress at San Francisco, but offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said that was in part because Webb did not receive very good protection from his line. Webb will get another look after Ponder plays on Friday and there is some concern among those in the Vikings organization about the crowd reaction at the Metrodome if Webb outperforms Ponder.

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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