Preview: Vikings will sit regulars as battles for roster continue
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Who: Houston Texans (2-1) at Minnesota Vikings (1-2).
When: 6 p.m. Thursday.
Where: Reliant Stadium.
TV: KARE (Ch. 11).
Line: Texans by 3½.
Coaches: Vikings -- Leslie Frazier (2nd season, 6-16). Texans - Gary Kubiak (7th season, 47-49).
Series: The Vikings are 2-0 in preseason against the Texans and 2-0 in regular-season play.
Last regular-season meeting: Adrian Peterson rushed for 139 yards on 25 carries with a touchdown, and Gus Frerotte completed 11 of 18 passes for 182 yards with three touchdowns and an interception as the Vikings edged the Texans 28-21 on Nov. 2, 2008, at the Metrodome. Current Vikings backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels took over for injured Houston starter Matt Schaub in the game, completing 21 of 29 passes for 224 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
At stake: While the majority of the Vikings' starters won't play in this game, the battle for spots will be on for several players who are hoping to make the final roster. The final cuts to the 53-man roster must be made by 8 p.m. Central on Friday.
Vikings: TE John Carlson (knee), DT Letroy Guion (knee), S Mistral Raymond (back spasms), S Andrew Sendejo (ankle), CB Josh Robinson (concussion) and CB Marcus Sherels (ankle) are out. CB Chris Carr (back spasms) and FB Ryan D'Imperio (shoulder) are questionable.
Texans: WR Andre Johnson (groin), NT Shaun Cody (back) and DL J.J. Watt (elbow) are out.
Three things to watch
Ordinary Joe? Christian Ponder won't play in this game, giving Joe Webb an opportunity to get the start. Webb is at his best when he can get into a rhythm, but he also needs to prove he can execute the offense as coordinator Bill Musgrave wants it. Though that doesn't mean Webb can't freelance, he needs to take the next step as a quarterback if he's going to earn the confidence of the coaching staff. So far this preseason, Webb has completed only 17 of 34 passes for 152 yards and has a 62.4 passer rating. Sage Rosenfels, who is expected to be the Vikings' third-string quarterback this season and also a mentor of sorts to Ponder, will play after Webb. But much of the playing time will go to McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who might have the best arm of any quarterback on this roster. It seems like a long shot that Bethel-Thompson will make the 53-man roster, but he's going to get every opportunity to impress in this one.
Golden opportunity: The Vikings' punt return job seems to be wide open, and with Robinson and Sherels sidelined for this game, WR Jarius Wright and CB Reggie Jones are going to both get plenty of looks on returns. Wright, a fourth-round pick out of Arkansas in April, is expected to make the roster based on his draft position. Jones, though, is another story. He spent the final eight games of last season on the Vikings' practice squad after being let go by the Washington Redskins. If Jones can impress on punt returns, that might give him an opportunity to stick. He certainly wouldn't have been likely to get this kind of look if Robinson and Sherels were healthy. Mike Priefer, the Vikings' special teams coordinator, did say this week that he likes Sherels in the return role.
Last chance: WRs Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins are among the veterans expected to sit this one out for the Vikings. That will provide Devin Aromashodu, Stephen Burton, Emmanuel Arceneaux and Wright an opportunity to show what they can do. Wright's roster spot appears to be safe, but with vertical threat Jerome Simpson suspended for the first three games of the season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, there is a great opportunity here for Aromashodu, Burton and Arceneaux. The problem is that so far no one has been able to prove they deserve to be the guy who picks up the slack while Simpson is out. No receiver on this roster has more than three catches through the first three preseason games. It's not a given anyone will emerge in this game, but there is a chance a job will be lost as general manager Rick Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier get a final look at what they have.