Minnesota Vikings: Player Watch 30 Nov 11

RB Toby Gerhart makes every bit of the same effort that Adrian Peterson does. But behind the team’s below-average offensive line, Gerhart has a much harder time breaking free from defenders. He has power, but can’t create as many opportunities on his own because he — and just about every other person in the world — lacks the combination of elusiveness and power that Peterson possesses.

LS Cullen Loeffler’s streak of 123 consecutive games will come to an end Sunday because of a fractured sacrum, which is a lower-back bone located at the base of the spine. Loeffler had performed every one of the team’s special teams snaps since making the team in 2004. But that ended when he was injured while being blocked covering the team’s third punt of Sunday’s game. The injury takes two to six weeks to recover from, so the Vikings could end up placing Loeffler on injured reserve.FS Husain Abdullah (concussion) will be evaluated this week after missing the past two games because of a concussion.

It’s possible the team will shut him down for the season and take a long look at Mistral Raymond, a rookie sixth-round draft pick. First of all, it’s a concussion. Secondly, it was Abdullah’s second in four weeks when he suffered it three weeks ago. And finally, the safety position is so weak on this team, the Vikings need an extended look at Raymond to help them decide how to move forward.

S Tyrell Johnson has a serious hamstring injury and probably won’t play again this season. This would most likely end his disappointing stint with the Vikings after four seasons. The team wanted the former second-round pick to become its starting strong safety, but he couldn’t beat out Jamarca Sanford, a former seventh-rounder. Then two games into starting at free safety for the injured Abdullah, Johnson went down with an injury.

DE Jared Allen will not handle long-snapping duties this week. Not unless the new long-snapper the team signs gets hurt, too. The Vikings are trying out long-snappers and expect to sign one in time for Wednesday’s practice. Allen, a long-snapper at Idaho State, had no problem while snapping four times on punts and twice on PATs on Sunday. But, obviously, the Vikings don’t want their $75 million pass rusher running down the field covering punts.

RB Adrian Peterson will want to try and play this week. He has a high left ankle sprain, but it was revealed to be the least serious Grade 1 sprain. Peterson already has sat out one game and could be ready to go on Sunday againstDenver. But the Vikings are 2-9 and will wrestle with whether or not to risk Peterson’s health anytime soon.

WR Percy Harvin had one of the best games of his outstanding young career last week. He had eight catches for 95 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown on fourth-and-13. He carried the ball five times for 11 yards and might have scored on third-and-goal from the 2-yard line had the Vikings had the wherewithal to challenge the play late in the game. And Ponder also took his only kickoff return of the game 104 yards to the Atlanta 3.

QB Christian Ponder is 1-4 as a starter. If he loses Sunday, he’ll match veteran QB Donovan McNabb’s record as a starter this season. But there’s a sense that Ponder has a bright future. For starters, he has a scrappy resolve that enables him to move on from what’s already happened in a game. Sunday, he shook off a first half in which the Vikings’ offense didn’t cross midfield until the closing seconds. In the third quarter, he directed one of the best drives of the year, a 14-play, 80-yard drive in which Ponder converted 3 of 3 third-down situations.

TE Kyle Rudolph missed his first NFL game because of injury (quadriceps). The Vikings would like to get him back ASAP. He and QB Christian Ponder have a bright future together if the team maintains a TE-friendly offense.

WR Michael Jenkins had two catches for 25 yards in a fittingly quiet return to the city that used a No. 1 draft pick on him. The veteran will never live up to being a former first-rounder, but the Vikings will have to decide whether he’s worth keeping as they overhaul their receiving corps. With Harvin as the only receiver guaranteed a spot next season, there might be so many holes that Jenkins has to return as a No. 3-type receiver. Jenkins hurt his knee on Sunday and might miss some time down the stretch.