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Vikings might be shorthanded at cornerback against Patriots

December 1, 2018

Two of the Vikings’ three primary cornerbacks are listed questionable to play Sunday in New England, leaving the secondary possibly shorthanded against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes said he took part in “a couple plays” during Friday’s practice, for which he was officially listed as a limited participant. Rhodes, the All-Pro, injured his hamstring at the end of the Vikings’ 24-17 win against the Packers last weekend. He underwent an MRI on Monday and did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. He’s listed questionable.

“It didn’t feel nice. I heard some stuff in my hamstring I didn’t like,” Rhodes said. “I was out there a couple plays [Friday]. I ain’t want to overdo it. Enough to give me some confidence about Sunday.”

Cornerback Mackensie Alexander also popped up on the injury report this week with a knee ailment. Alexander is listed questionable, but was a full participant in Friday’s practice.

If Rhodes is unable to play, rookie Holton Hill would get his second NFL start. Hill’s first start came against Saints quarterback Drew Brees, and his next could be against another future Hall of Famer in Brady.

“You have to take everything into consideration,” Hill said about facing Brady. “It’s about making the best out of every opportunity.”

Diggs expected to play

Receiver Stefon Diggs is listed questionable due to a knee injury, but the Vikings expect him to play against the Patriots, a source told the Star Tribune on Friday afternoon. Diggs was held out of Wednesday and Thursday practices, but returned Friday as a limited participant.

Diggs’ presence is huge for the Vikings offense. His 79 catches this season trail just four NFL receivers, including his teammate Adam Thielen (93 catches). During Diggs’ last absence, Thielen had his worst outing of the season with four catches for 22 yards and a touchdown in the Week 9 win against the Lions.

‘The main focus’

With a high of 55 degrees and rain possible on Sunday afternoon in Foxborough, it’d be a good time for the Vikings’ sputtering run game to awaken. Only four offenses run the ball less than the Vikings’ 21.8 attempts per game but running back Dalvin Cook said that’s the offense’s focus heading into New England.

Cook, who had 76 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown last week, could play a big role should the Patriots key in on receivers Thielen and Diggs.

“That’s going to be the main focus,” Cook said. “We got to run the football and make them play us honest.”

Morgan, Beebe out

Tight end David Morgan will miss his third straight game Sunday due to a sprained knee suffered Nov. 4 against the Lions. Morgan was again unable to practice all week. The Vikings will also be without receiver Chad Beebe for a second straight game due to a hamstring injury. Receiver Brandon Zylstra is listed questionable to play.

Linebacker Ben Gedeon (concussion) practiced in full on Friday and is expected to return.

He said it

The Patriots over the years have been accused by opposing teams who have malfunctioning headsets at Gillette Stadium, making it difficult to communicate between coaches and on-field players. Patriots coach Bill Belichick countered that his coaching staff has problems at stadiums around the league, too. Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo downplayed any concern heading into New England.

“We have the best headset crew here in Minnesota,” DeFilippo said. “They’re on top of that. There’s no doubt. They’re on top of that no matter where we play.”

Staff writer Ben Goessling contributed to this report.

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