The Vikings begin reporting to the first training camp July 24 at the TCO Performance Center in Eagan. The first full-team practice is July 28. Check here for new details on tickets, parking and times.
Before then, the Star Tribune will take a look at each position group. Tuesday: Defensive backs
On the 90-man roster: 11 cornerbacks and 5 safeties
Locks: S Harrison Smith, S Andrew Sendejo, CB Xavier Rhodes, CB Trae Waynes, CB Mackensie Alexander and CB Mike Hughes
Good bets: CB Terence Newman, S Anthony Harris, S Jayron Kearse
On the bubble: CB Marcus Sherels, CB Horace Richardson, CB Holton Hill
Practice squad candidates: CB Jack Tocho, CB Craig James, S Tray Matthews, CB Trevon Mathis
(+) Drafted cornerback Mike Hughes with the 30th-overall pick. … Re-signed corner/safety Terence Newman to a one-year, veteran minimum deal. … Signed three UDFAs in cornerback Holton Hill, safety Tray Matthews and cornerback Trevon Mathis.
(-) Cornerback Tramaine Brock signed a one-year deal with the Broncos. … Safety Antone Exum Jr. joined the 49ers on a one-year deal.
Perhaps no Vikings cupboard is better stocked than the secondary, featuring five top picks (four 1st rounders, one second) from the last seven drafts. That means the development of rookie Mike Hughes can go on Mike Zimmer’s schedule with Mackensie Alexander and Trae Waynes expected to take more steps forward in 2018. Hughes’ arrival could be a signal for either Waynes or Alexander as both their contracts expire following the 2019 season. For now, the Vikings are more than equipped to continue their reign as one of the league’s best pass defenses. Every member is back from last year’s group that allowed an NFL-low 13 touchdown passes during the regular season. The cornerstone pieces — Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith (2017 first-team All-Pros) — are both signed through 2021.
How will the secondary bounce back from the NFC Championship loss? Nick Foles was near perfect as the Eagles shattered the Vikings with three touchdown passes (vs. a defense that, again, allowed 13 all season) on 26 of 33 passing for 352 yards. Foles showed the following week in a record-breaking shootout with the Patriots that the Eagles offense was no fluke. In a battle for the NFC, Rhodes, Smith and company will have to face the Eagles again at least once in a return to Philadelphia during Week 5. Zimmer called the loss the “perfect storm,” noting an uneven week of practice following the emotional roller coaster that was the ‘Minneapolis Miracle,’ which was preceded by blowing a 17-0 lead to the Saints.
“I’ve watched it a couple times,” Zimmer said a month after the loss. “Honestly they made a couple good plays. We didn’t make plays. I gave them a lot of credit. I’m talking to [OC John] DeFilippo about some of the things they were trying to do to attack us and we are going to sit down and go through the tape and explain everything that they were trying to do. And then, you know, I probably misinterpreted the win against the Saints.”
What you should know
Terence Newman took some top reps at safety during spring practices while Andrew Sendejo nursed an undisclosed injury. The Vikings added just one undrafted safety to the mix this offseason, so perhaps Newman could become a factor should either Smith or Sendejo be held out of a game. Sendejo missed three games (one due to suspension) last season. Newman, who turns 40 on Sept. 4, is the NFL’s oldest defender and said this will be his last season.
“I am getting to a point you have to figure out something else that you want to do,” Newman said. “Once you get to my age. I think this will be my last year. No matter what happens, this will be it for me.”
111.7 — That’s the combined passer rating of both Drew Brees and Nick Foles in the Vikings’ two playoff games. Compare that to other teams’ postseasons and its by far the biggest drop off (+38.7 rating) from regular season to playoff passer rating allowed. The Vikings allowed an average passer rating of 73.0 during the regular season. Was it an anomaly or the sign of a ceiling?
Backup cornerback — How many corners will the Vikings keep? The answer was six last season. Now they’ve added two intriguing corners between Hughes, a lock, and undrafted free agent Holton Hill, the Texas product who was given $75,000 guaranteed — the fourth most among all UDFAs this year and the most given to an undrafted player by the Vikings under Zimmer. Then there is returner extraordinaire Marcus Sherels and another promising prospect in Horace Richardson. The loaded position group will be one to watch this summer as they vie for room on a crowded roster.