At the end of last season, the Vikings cornerback position, considered to be a pillar of strength on the roster, was stretched thin as injuries kept piling up to key players. Rookie Mike Hughes suffered a torn ACL in week six, and starters Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes suffered injuries at various points as well. Had it not been for the play of Mackensie Alexander and Holton Hill at the end of the season, the CB spot would have been flat out bad. It was thought that in the off-season everyone would get healthy, and this position group would once again be one of the deepest and most talented in the NFL.
But as the off-season fades in the rear view mirror, there are some troubling developments. Hughes began training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, and head coach Mike Zimmer told reporters today that Hughes not only tore his ACL last year, but suffered a ‘multiple ligament’ injury. The good news is that he’s ahead of schedule, but the bad news is we still don’t know when he’ll be back, and a multiple ligament injury could mean rehab well into the regular season.
Hill, an undrafted free agent last year, was playing as well as anyone in the secondary when the season ended, and it was thought he would fill the void left by Hughes’ injury and rehab. But a four game suspension turned into an eight game suspension, and Hill even making the roster is now up in the air.
That makes depth incredibly thin literally one practice into camp, and the Vikings don’t have a proven option for a guy to play CB in their dime package right now.
To remedy this, the Vikings have been working out free agent corners. They kicked the tires on Orlando Scandrick and Dexter McDonald a couple days ago, and today they’re going to bring in Morris Claiborne for a tryout. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the Vikings sign more than one free agent to address their depth concerns, and if they both perform well I can easily see a scenario where Hill is released.
Of course, that could be modified to one or zero signings if Hughes comes back relatively quickly and is ready be the season opener. But with the news of his injury being worse than originally reported, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him remain on the PUP when the season opens.
Assuming Hughes is on the PUP when the season starts, and everyone else stays healthy, I think the CB depth will go as follows:
CB1: Xavier Rhodes
CB2: Trae Waynes
CB3: Mackensie Alexander
CB4: Free agent signee
CB5: Free agent or Kris Boyd (or another rookie currently on the depth chart) or Jayron Kearse when the Vikings go ‘big nickel’.
Which is not to be confused with a buffalo nickel. Which is not to be confused with a plug nickel, which is a slang term, as in ‘not worth a plug nickel’.
An example of this would be: ‘Mike Hughes’ chances of being ready for the season opener aren’t worth a plug nickel, because Vikings.’
Now, we’re not jumping back to the days of Wasswa Serwanga and converted WR Robert Tate as CB1 and 2, but it’s still disconcerting seeing a strong position group kind of waylaid so early in camp.