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Updated: August 21st, 2010 6:44pm
Preview: Vikings vs. 49ers

Preview: Vikings vs. 49ers

by Tom Pelissero
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Who: Minnesota Vikings (1-0) vs. San Francisco 49ers (1-0).
When: 7 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Candlestick Park, San Francisco.
TV: NBC (KARE, Channel 11).
Line: 49ers by 3.
At stake: It's the second preseason game for both teams. The Vikings plan to play most available starters for about a quarter.

Injury report

Vikings: C John Sullivan (calf) and WR Percy Harvin (migraines) are out. WR Sidney Rice (hip) and CB Cedric Griffin (knee) remain on the active/physically unable to perform list.

49ers: TE Vernon Davis (knee), WR Michael Crabtree (neck), WR Kyle Williams (toe), T/G Adam Snyder (concussion), LB Ahmad Brooks (lacerated kidney) and LB Brandon Long (knee) all have missed practice time recently.

Five things to watch

Favre's mobility: Last year, QB Brett Favre debuted in the second preseason game against Kansas City and took a huge hit on his third snap. He also appeared to be on a different page than his receivers -- normal for a passer with only a few practices under his belt. If the 49ers try to set a tone like the Chiefs did, Favre can expect to see plenty of blitzes, and that'll provide an interesting test for his problematic left ankle. Any mobility issues would become evident in a hurry. No Rice and no Harvin means Favre will be working with two receivers he knows well (Bernard Berrian and Greg Lewis) and a bunch he doesn't (Logan Payne, Taye Biddle, Marko Mitchell). He's slated to play a series or two before giving way to Tarvaris Jackson.

E.J. in the middle: MLB E.J. Henderson gradually has ramped up his workload, but this will mark his first game action -- and the biggest test yet for his surgically repaired femur. Contact hasn't been an issue. Where Henderson has appeared tentative at times is in space, particularly when trying to counter quick cuts in the flat. The Vikings' preference is to play him and Chad Greenway in the nickel defense, but that only will happen if Henderson proves he can keep up in coverage against the likes of Davis. One complication of taking Henderson off the field on third downs is mechanical -- he has the radio in his helmet that's used to accept the defensive calls. The bigger issue is whether he'll have the same speed and lateral mobility, because even a half-step lost could make a huge difference.

The blind side: Who would play left tackle if something happened to Bryant McKinnie? Chris Clark was a disaster last week in St. Louis -- taking four penalties, allowing a sack and generally appearing out of sorts at left tackle. Patrick Brown has struggled in one-on-ones, though, and Clark remained with the second team this week. Drew Radovich has been steady at right tackle but hasn't played the other side. Undrafted rookie Bill Noethlich is barely on the depth chart and didn't play last week. A backup job is there for the taking, but at this stage, it's questionable whether the Vikings have anyone worth keeping or they'll be working the waiver wire on Sept. 5.

Facing the 3-4: This marks the Vikings' first look at the 3-4 defense -- a scheme they'll face in half of their regular-season games. Miami, Dallas, Green Bay, New England, Arizona, Washington and Buffalo all play a version of the 3-4, which puts a fifth man on the line of scrimmage in the base defense and can provide more flexibility with subpackages and blitz patterns. No two versions of the 3-4 are alike, but this will be valuable work nonetheless for sorting out protection adjustments with a new crop of backup halfbacks and an offensive line entering its second season together.

Down on the corner: Asher Allen and Lito Sheppard will alternate series at right cornerback, while rookie Chris Cook will replace Antoine Winfield after one series -- giving coaches ample looks at the three players vying for the starting job opposite Winfield. It's tough to say who's in the lead; Sheppard has the most experience, Allen has been the most steady and Cook has made the most plays, albeit all on the left side and mostly against second- and third- teamers. The 49ers are a run-first offense, but they have some perimeter weapons in Crabtree, WR Josh Morgan and WR Ted Ginn Jr. Whoever comes back from California with the lead stands a good chance of being the guy Sept. 9 at New Orleans.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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