preseason game 3 VIKINGS AT MALL OF AMERICA FIELD 7 p.m. Friday • TV: Ch. 11 • Radio: 100.3-FM


Don't let the record fool you. It's been a disastrous preseason in San Diego as injuries have ravaged the Chargers' offense. Running back Ryan Mathews, who was expected to become the workhorse back after Mike Tolbert left for Carolina, broke his left ankle in the preseason opener and will miss at least two regular-season games. No. 1 receiver Vincent Brown then broke his clavicle in Week 2 of the preseason and is expected to miss the first five games. Meanwhile, left tackle Jared Gaither has missed most of training camp because of back spasms. His backup and possible Week 1 starter is Mike Harris, an undrafted rookie. Ouch. Quarterback Philip Rivers has some people questioning his arm strength (again) and suggesting that he's been outplayed by -- gulp --backup Charlie Whitehurst. Defensively, the Chargers used an active offseason to bring a mix of veteran and young talent to a unit that ranked last in the league in third-down conversions a year ago. Keep an eye on rookie linebacker Melvin Ingram, the 18th overall draft pick this year. He had a sack in last week's victory over the Cowboys and should beef up the team's poor pass rush. Former Gophers defensive tackle Garrett Brown, who went undrafted in 2010 and has yet to play an NFL regular-season game, is trying to make the team despite being suspended for the first four games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.



Three starters -- cornerback Chris Cook (concussion), nose tackle Letroy Guion (knee) and of course running back Adrian Peterson (knee) -- won't play because of injuries. Another starter -- receiver Jerome Simpson -- will be limited, at best, as the Vikings prepare for his three-game suspension to start the regular season. Second-year receiver Stephen Burton stands to gain the most from Simpson's absence. It's also a key game for receiver Devin Aromashodu, whose big-play potential needs to turn into big-play production ASAP. Rookie cornerback Josh Robinson will get increased reps and might even start in place of Cook. That could pay off in a big way for Robinson because three of Rivers' four incompletions this preseason have been interceptions. The starters on both sides of the ball will play through one series of the third quarter. In what's essentially the dress rehearsal for the Sept. 9 season opener, quarterback Christian Ponder will look to continue an efficient preseason. In five series over two games, Ponder and the first-team offense haven't punted. Ponder has completed 14 of 22 passes for 216 yards, one touchdown and no turnovers.