Preview: Vikings vs. Seahawks
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Who: Minnesota Vikings (1-1) vs. Seattle Seahawks (1-1).
When: 7 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
TV: KARE, Channel 11.
Line: Vikings by 5.
At stake: It's the third preseason game for both teams and the last in which the Vikings plan to play many starters. The first string is expected to play a series into the second half.
Vikings: WR Percy Harvin (migraines) and DT Jimmy Kennedy (unknown) probably won't play. LBs Kenny Onatolu (personal) and Jasper Brinkley (unknown) didn't practice on Thursday. LB J Leman (turf toe) and CB DeAndre Wright (leg) didn't play last week at San Francisco but practiced all week. C John Sullivan (calf strain) returned this week and should start. RE Jared Allen (unknown)returned Thursday after a one-day absence and should start. CB Cedric Griffin (knee reconstruction) and WR Sidney Rice (hip surgery) are on the active/physically unable to perform list.
Seahawks: Rookie LT Russell Okung (high ankle sprain), LG Ben Hamilton (knee) and LB David Hawthorne (hip) are out. Two veteran backups, OT Ray Willis (knee surgery) and OG Chester Pitts (microfracture knee surgery), also are out. LB Lofa Tatupu (hamstring), TE Cameron Morrah (flu) and DT Brandon Mebane (calf) are expected to play.
Five things to watch
Who's wide?: Despite the loss of Rice for at least eight weeks and Harvin's tenuous status, newly signed WR Javon Walker is far from a lock for the roster. His workout last week was only OK, and the Vikings took a shot with a one-year deal largely because there were no other experienced options on the street. Walker, 31, has one more week to shake off the rust that's been obvious in practice and get his legs under him. Unless and until he flashes something in the preseason, Walker is maybe a 50-50 shot to make the team, with Harvin, Bernard Berrian, Greg Camarillo and Greg Lewis all clearly ahead on the depth chart and Logan Payne in the mix, too. Working the waiver wire next weekend to fill the No. 5 slot also is a possibility if the in-house options don't inspire.
Bring on the rush: The 49ers ripped up the Vikings' starting defense on a 12-play, 70-yard touchdown drive to set the tone in Sunday's 15-10 decision at Candlestick Park. Afterward, coach Brad Childress was critical of the lack of pressure applied by the starting line for the second straight game -- but that should change on Saturday. The Seahawks are missing both left-side starters on the offensive line as well as their second-string left tackle. That leaves Mansfield Wrotto and Mike Gibson -- combined NFL starts: one -- protecting QB Matt Hasselbeck's blindside against Allen and company. The Seahawks have made plenty of changes under the new regime of coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, but it's worth remembering they're the team that recorded a franchise-worst 4 rushing yards against the Vikings last year, too.
More Favre: The receiver shortage is well-documented, but this should be the closest the offense has been to full strength -- and the last game action it'll have before the Sept. 9 opener at New Orleans. QB Brett Favre is expected to play at least a half, Sullivan should make his preseason debut and RB Adrian Peterson likely will get 10 to 15 touches. The Vikings have scored five preseason touchdowns, but all have been led by third-string QBs Sage Rosenfels and Joe Webb. This is a relatively crucial opportunity for Favre to establish some sort of rhythm with his unfamiliar receivers and help the No. 1 offense -- no matter how short-handed -- to build the positive momentum it has lacked.
Cook's chance: Another week, another look at a possible right cornerback. This time, it's top draft pick Chris Cook, who moved from left corner with the backups to right corner with the starters in practice this week. Cook's been more productive than Lito Sheppard and Asher Allen since the start of training camp, and his length is ideal for press coverage. However, there still are concerns about how Cook's youth will show up once the lights go on and opponents start game planning to attack him. Matching up with veteran Seattle WRs T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Deion Branch will provide the best test yet of Cook's readiness.
Henderson's stamina: MLB E.J. Henderson has passed every test he's faced so far in his return from a gruesome broken leg. The final hurdle is taking on the volume of snaps he needs to play base and subpackage defense for a full game. The Vikings will monitor Henderson's performance closely throughout his roughly two quarters of action against Seattle. If his play stays steady -- and if he feels OK when the Vikings resume practice on Monday -- there's no reason to bet against Henderson completing his amazing recovery by lining up as a full-time player for the opener.