New additions: Kris Boyd (R)
Key losses: None
The Minnesota Vikings are another NFC North team whose cornerback group is comprised mainly of talented young players, interspersed with some savvy veterans. Like the Packers, the Vikings will be looking for their second year corners to make big strides in 2019, which includes staying healthy.
Heading into his seventh year, Xavier Rhodes is coming off arguably his weakest season as a pro, and head coach Mike Zimmer didn’t mince words when publicly criticizing his high-priced leader’s struggles. Rhodes has the highest base salary among Vikings defensive players in 2019, and another rocky season from him could be a major problem for the rest of the defense.
With Rhodes faltering, the Vikings’ young corners were put to the test, with mixed results. Rookie first-rounder Mike Hughes got off to an excellent start in 2018, returning an interception for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers in his first career game. His first season was cut short in just his sixth game due to a knee injury. Hughes should have no problem being ready for Week 1, and is likely to start opposite Rhodes.
Talented second year corner Holton Hill had a very promising rookie season, appearing in all 16 contests and starting three. Hill however, has been unable to shake the disciplinary issues that troubled him in college, and he will serve a four-game suspension to start the season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. It’s a tough blow as the Vikings will face some heavy-hitting wideouts in the season’s first four weeks, including Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons, Davante Adams of the Packers and Antonio Brown of the Oakland Raiders.
Playing mainly from the slot, Mackensie Alexander had a solid season for Minnesota, particularly as a spot blitzer. Alexander registered four sacks, a high number for a defensive back, in addition to holding his own in coverage. He could be in for a bigger role in 2019, particularly if Rhodes’ struggles resurface.
Trae Waynes has been respectable in his four seasons with the Vikings. After having his fifth-year option picked up, Waynes will be looking for a big season in order to cash in as a free agent in 2020. The former Spartan could help his case by generating some more turnovers; he has just six interceptions in his four seasons. The Vikings as a team picked off just six passes in 2018, 15 less than the division-leading Chicago Bears.
The Vikings’ cornerback unit has the potential to be the best in the division, but it will need a bounce back season from Rhodes, a strong return to health from Hughes and more across the board contributions from Alexander. Should that all fall into place, the Vikings could easily challenge for the division crown.