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Mackensie Alexander’s improvement boosts Vikings pass defense

December 14, 2018

A little lost in the shuffle of the Vikings offense is how well the pass defense has rebounded from early-season issues that saw four quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Josh Allen, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz combine for nine straight touchdowns without an interception.

Only one quarterback, Tom Brady, has even eclipsed 200 passing yards in the past six games. The Vikings pass defense is currently ranked fifth and is set to host the Dolphins 27th-ranked pass offense on Sunday. Head coach Mike Zimmer pointed this week to the slot position finally settled by cornerback Mackensie Alexander, who will enter a contract season in 2019.

Hes done a lot better lately, Zimmer said. Probably the second half of the season, thats probably why weve gotten better defensively. That position has gotten much more solidified.

Alexander, the former second-round pick, saw his playing time dwindle in the first half of the season. He bottomed out at 11 snaps against the Saints but has since overtaken the role previously shared with safety Jayron Kearse and cornerback Mike Hughes, who is on injured reserve.

Hes done a good job in the running game, Zimmer said. Hes had a couple nice pressures, and hes covered pretty well. Early in the year, he was kind of like Xavier getting some penalties, but hes gotten away from that. So, I think thats helped a lot.

Remmers expects to play

Right guard Mike Remmers (low back), defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (hip) and tight end David Morgan (knee) are listed questionable to play Sunday against the Dolphins. All three were limited in practices this week. Remmers said hes still expecting to play.

Me? Remmers said Friday. Of course.

Cornerback Trae Waynes (concussion) is set to return after being sidelined last week in Seattle. He was a full participant in Thursday and Friday practices. Right tackle Brian ONeill, who injured his ankle against the Seahawks, is also expected to play Sunday after practicing throughout the week.

For a cause

On Sunday, Vikings players will be representing charitable causes of their choice on their cleats for the NFLs My Cause, My Cleats campaign. The most spoken for cause is youth development through the Boys Girls Club (Xavier Rhodes, C.J. Ham, Jaleel Johnson, Danielle Hunter and Roc Thomas) as well as Big Brothers Big Sisters (Harrison Smith and Jayron Kearse). Players are also representing the American Cancer Society (Everson Griffen, Tashawn Bower, Devante Downs and Mike Boone) and domestic violence prevention through One Love (Stephen Weatherly, Anthony Harris), among others.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins will wear cleats representing Urban Homeworks, a Minneapolis-based foundation that transforms abandoned homes. Tight end Kyle Rudolph, receiver Adam Thielen and linebacker Anthony Barr will rep their own charitable work at the Us Masonic Childrens Hospital, the Thielen Foundation and the Raise The Barr foundation, respectively.

Waiting in reserve

Kearse, the third-year safety, has played just 18 defensive snaps in the past three games after seeing an increased role this season defending the slot. But his latest playing time came at a position he hadnt played since he was at South Fort Myers High School in Florida outside cornerback. When the Vikings were without Waynes and then cornerback Xavier Rhodes briefly against the Seahawks, it was time for the safety-turned-slot defender to move again.

Its something that came together pretty quick, Kearse said. I had to get in the playbook and look over some things. I was up for it and ready for it.

Quick hits

The Dolphins listed top cornerback Xavien Howard (knee), leading the league with seven interceptions this season, as doubtful to play Sunday against the Vikings.

Receiver Chad Beebe (hamstring) has been ruled out for a fourth straight game.

Former Vikings kicker Kai Forbath landed his first job since he was released this summer, signing with the Jaguars on Friday. Jacksonville kicker Josh Lambo is dealing with a groin injury.

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