A snapshot look at the Vikings as they prepare for Sunday's game in Charlotte against the Carolina Panthers:
Players in the spotlight
Michael Jenkins (top) and Devin Aromashodu. Yep, the Vikings receiving corps is in disarray right now. Bernard Berrian's departure coupled with the ongoing struggles Percy Harvin is having with sore ribs might leave Jenkins and Aromashodu as the Vikings' top targets Sunday. Jenkins delivered in a big way Sunday against Green Bay with a 72-yard reception on the game's opening play and a 24-yard touchdown grab in the fourth quarter. Jenkins' 111 receiving yards were a career best. It also will be interesting to learn Wednesday what coach Leslie Frazier expects out of rookie Stephen Burton, promoted from the practice squad Tuesday to fill the roster opening created by Berrian's exit. Burton was elevated ahead of fellow rookie Emmanuel Arceneaux, a former standout in the Canadian Football League.
Most pressing question
Where are the biggest injury worries this week? If Anthony Herrera's knee injury is season-ending, Brandon Fusco will get the call at right guard. Fusco was drafted in the sixth round last April out of Slippery Rock and saw significant action after halftime Sunday when Herrera went down. The initial feedback from coaches has been positive.
"They seemed pretty proud of me," Fusco said. "I did a great job I thought. Held my own and did my job."
Defensively, cornerback Antoine Winfield has missed the past three games because of a neck injury and might be wise in weighing a risk-reward scenario of how quickly to dive back into action for a team going nowhere. Without both Winfield and Chris Cook, whose off-the-field saga grew far more troubling Tuesday with a felony domestic assault charge brought against him, the secondary lacks any semblance of quality depth.
Keep and eye on ...
Quarterback Christian Ponder sure seemed calm and confident in his first start. That came at home. Now, we'll see how he reacts to making his first road start. The Vikings coaching staff insists it hasn't had to abbreviate the playbook for Ponder, a point they delivered by allowing the rookie to throw long on his first pass versus the Packers. "This decision wasn't made to start grooming him for 2012," Frazier said after the game. "It was to win against Green Bay. So let's not pull back and say, 'Let's baby feed him until he gets better around Week 11 or 12.' You could see from that first offensive play that Bill [Musgrave] and the offensive staff listened. We kept our playbook open."
Scouting the Panthers
Never before has a 2-5 team carried such overwhelming optimism. But that's what rookie quarterback Cam Newton has provided, quickly becoming the mayor of Charlotte as he emerges as a potential NFL star. Newton has passed for 2,103 yards and eight touchdowns while rushing for 266 yards and seven scores. Plus, he's playing with a swagger rarely seen in a rookie quarterback. Just ask Jimmy Clausen. Still, the Panthers are three games behind New Orleans in the NFC South for reasons, the biggest being a porous defense. With linebackers Jon Beason (torn Achilles' tendon) and Thomas Davis (torn ACL) both out for the season, the Panthers have had little success stopping the run. They rank 29th in the NFL, allowing 133.4 rushing yards per game.
True or false
The Vikings are getting acceptable production from their starting defensive tackles? False.
Remi Ayodele was signed to a lucrative three-year deal in July. Through seven games, he has one tackle. Beside him, Kevin Williams is struggling through a down year of his own, made even worse late in the fourth quarter Sunday when his inability to stay in his gaps enabled the Packers to gain 55 rushing yards on the game's final possession. Said Frazier: "We had some people get a little bit overanxious, got out of their gap and [the Packers] ended up creasing some runs that they had tried earlier in the game and had no success with. We didn't handle that moment very well."