Crunch time for middle linebackers: While coach Mike Zimmer said he has an idea of what he wants to do with the Vikings' starting middle linebacker spot, he still wants to see more before making a decision between Jasper Brinkley and Audie Cole -- so much so that the Vikings might stay in their base defense more often on Thursday night so they can see the middle linebackers on the field. Brinkley and Cole rotated series last week against Kansas City, and will probably do the same on Thursday. But if they're on the field in passing situations, the Vikings will get a more complete picture of where each one stands, rather than shifting to their nickel package as readily as they might in the regular season.
Robinson gets another shot: Cornerback Josh Robinson has gone through a tough training camp and preseason, in large part because of a nagging hamstring injury, but after the Vikings cut Derek Cox in their initial set of moves this week, it seemed less likely the team would give up on Robinson in his third season. The cornerback is likely to play Thursday, and Zimmer -- who exasperatedly referred to Robinson as "that other guy" when discussing players who were still sitting out because of injuries last week -- sounded more positive about Robinson on Tuesday, saying he was in the right position on a 42-yard pass interference penalty last Saturday against the Chiefs, adding, "I'm confident and hopeful he will continue to progress to where we need him to be." With Marcus Sherels having logged much of the playing time as the third cornerback lately, Robinson will have to make the most of his time on the field Thursday to push his name back up the list of the Vikings' top corners.
Ponder to play, Bridgewater to start? The Vikings will give quarterback Christian Ponder some playing time on Thursday night after sitting him out of their last two exhibition games. While Ponder has rarely seemed more insignificant in Minnesota, he'll get his chance to show whether he's made some progress in the Vikings' offense. Zimmer praised the quarterback on Tuesday, saying he made several "really nice throws" in practice. If Ponder can do that during a game, it'd help raise his stock for the Vikings or (more likely) another team down the road. Rookie Teddy Bridgewater has a "good chance" to start the game, Zimmer said, and if that happens, it will be interesting to see how Bridgewater does in that setting. The fourth preseason game isn't exactly a reliable indicator of performance, but starting Bridgewater would provide the best chance for the rookie to play with (and against) a smattering of first-team players.