For the fourth time in five games on Sunday, the Vikings will be without Dalvin Cook, the second-year running back they’d planned to feature as both a runner and receiver in their offense this season. Cook could return to a headlining role once he’s recovered from his hamstring injury, but he’s played only 18 snaps since he was injured in Week 2, and has been ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Jets a week after a rocky pregame workout forced the Vikings to scratch him.

Cook was a full participant in practice on Wednesday, before missing Thursday and Friday’s practice sessions. As the running back has struggled to get back on the field, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo has been forced to remain cautious with how much he plans for the running back in his game plan.

“I'll be honest with you, it's not easy,” he said. “{In game-planning sessions on] Tuesdays, you have to be really careful about the volume of plays that you're putting in for one person. It's not just Dalvin, it could be anybody that's in that situation. You get too caught up in the piece, well then he's up, you got to get the ball to him in practice – there's a whole laundry list of things that go in to what you just brought up. You make it work, and there's ways in your offense to get certain guys to the football that you just carry every week. You just roll with those, but at the same time I feel bad for Dalvin because he wants to be out there. But at the same time, you don't want to put any player in harm’s way.”

Without Cook last Sunday, the Vikings gave 24 carries to Latavius Murray, who punished the Cardinals’ 31st-ranked run defense for 155 yards and posted the best day by a Vikings running back since Adrian Peterson left town. Murray will get the call again on Sunday, as DeFilippo plans the running game with the veteran taking the lead.

“You adjust. We're very fortunate on this team that we have other guys that can make plays. I've been on teams before where you have one of your legit guys go down, and all of a sudden it's tough sledding,” he said. “We're fortunate that we have enough guys at other spots, at the tight end position, the running back position and at the receiver position obviously that can make plays for us.”

Here are some other Vikings notes and observations as the team prepares to face the Jets on Sunday:

2.With Danielle Hunter’s ability to chase down running backs and Anthony Barr and Trae Waynes making open-field tackles, the Vikings have proved to be a difficult opponent for teams looking to establish an outside run game. According to NFL Game Statistics and Information Systems, the Vikings have the league’s sixth-best run defense on plays run toward both the left and right ends. Their ability to make open-field tackles and force the ball back inside could be tested on Sunday, against a Jets run game that has thrived on outside runs. “They do an excellent job on bounce-out plays, making corners have to make tackles and crack replace,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “Their receivers do a good job of blocking. We've got our work cut out for us to limit their running game.”

3. The loss of Mike Hughes for the season means the Vikings will likely have more work for Holton Hill, the rookie corner who received more guaranteed money ($75,000) than any undrafted free agent in the Mike Zimmer era after he slipped out of the draft. Hill moves up the Vikings’ cornerback depth chart with Hughes out, and he could wind up as the team’s new kick returner, as well. “He will have to play more gunner. He will be playing on kickoff and kickoff return, maybe as the returner this week,” special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. “Punt returner, he is still a work in progress. I don't know how comfortable I am putting him back there as the returner yet. But he is working hard at it.”

4.Priefer said he wasn’t likely to sleep much on Saturday night because of Andre Roberts, the Jets’ dynamic return man who’s already got a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown this season. The Vikings have cleaned up the punt coverage issues that plagued them during the preseason, and haven’t allowed a punt return longer than 11 yards so far this season. “I think since the season started we've been pretty good and we want to keep that trend up,” Priefer said. “We kept the guys that were good and we didn't keep the guys that weren't so good. I think that's usually what it comes down to.”

5.The Vikings will play the Jets for just the 11th time in franchise history on Sunday. They’ll be looking for only their third win against the Jets, four years after they ended a 29-year drought against New York. The previous matchup between the teams in 2014 — which featured Teddy Bridgewater diagnosing a Jets blitz and hitting Jarius Wright for a game-winning 87-yard touchdown in overtime at TCF Bank Stadium — was the Vikings’ first win over the Jets since Oct. 12, 1975, when they intercepted Joe Namath twice and engineered a fourth-quarter comeback with a safety off a blocked punt and a Fran Tarkenton touchdown pass to Chuck Foreman as part of a 29-21 win.

6.The Vikings’ last trip to face the Jets in New York might have been even more memorable than their last home game: They lost to the Jets in a Monday night matchup on Oct. 11, 2010, in a game that was delayed by lightning and featured Brett Favre’s 500th career touchdown pass — which turned out to be the first of the only two he would throw to Randy Moss.

7.As the Vikings face Jets coach Todd Bowles — who was an assistant head coach and secondary coach for Tony Sparano in Miami from 2008-11 before becoming the interim coach when Sparano was fired — the late Vikings offensive line coach doesn’t figure to be far from the mind of either team on Sunday.

“Obviously, there's not a day that goes by that we don't think about Tony, that Tony's name [doesn’t come] up,” DeFilippo said. “There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about Tony, probably not an hour that goes by. Those guys [the offensive linemen] are a resilient group and they've done the best that they can in handling that situation and it hasn't been easy. It hasn't been easy, but those guys are doing a good job.”

8.Sunday’s game will be a two-Spielman affair: Former Lions linebacker Chris Spielman, the younger brother of Vikings GM Rick Spielman, will be in the broadcast booth doing color commentary for Fox.

9.This might only be interesting to me, but as the Vikings pointed out in their weekly press release leading up to the Jets game, every position coach except linebackers coach Adam Zimmer and co-offensive line coach Andrew Janocko is on the sideline during the game. Both Zimmer and Janocko are in the coaches’ booth, along with four other members of the coaching staff: defensive assistant Jeff Howard, assistant QB coach Drew Petzing, assistant defensive line coach Robert Rodriguez and defensive quality control coach Nick Rallis.

10.RememberKirk Cousins’ touchdown pass to Adam Thielen in Week 2 against the Packers, when Cousins fit the ball behind two Packers defenders and Thielen used his “late hands” to snag the ball at the last second without tipping off the two players that had their backs to the ball? According to NFL Next Gen Stats’ tracking data, that pass was the league’s most improbable completion of the season. The statistic is based on a model using the distance the ball traveled in the air and the amount of separation the receiver had from defenders. According to that model, Cousins had just a 12.4 percent chance of completing the pass.

Older Post

Nearly two years later, Mike Zimmer has learned to live with eye issues

Newer Post

Vikings-Jets inactives: Nose tackle Linval Joseph won't play Sunday