Terence Newman has seen it all, but he still came away from his 16th NFL training camp impressed with the play of one of his teammates. Asked this week about playing slot corner, Newman dropped a name Vikings fans should hope to hear a lot in 2018.
“If you watch Mackensie the whole camp, he’s been playing amazing,” Newman said. “He’s just turned a whole other level. He’s consistently out there battling receivers and always in great coverage. It’s just fun to watch.”
Third-year cornerback Mackensie Alexander has yet to start a regular-season game, but he enters Saturday’s exhibition against the Jaguars receiving starter treatment. He’s been the Vikings’ starting slot corner through camp and the preseason opener in Denver after playing a part-time role as a coverage specialist primarily on third downs last season.
“I’ve been more specific and more detail-oriented in what I’m asked to do,” Alexander said. “Just playing at a high level right now, having some success in camp.”
Alexander, 24, has said he has been humbled since entering the league a brash second-round pick. He said he has embraced the role of slot cornerback after initially bucking Vikings coaches who told him to play the part-time role.
Coach Mike Zimmer further tested Alexander’s emotions this week by giving some of his first-team reps to rookie Mike Hughes. Alexander responded by undercutting receiver Kendall Wright to intercept backup quarterback Trevor Siemian.
“I’m going out there, trying to make some plays and be consistent,” Alexander said. “There’s a lot I feel I still have to work on to continue to get better. It’s going to be a fun year for me.”
No Ramsey, less fun
A little was taken out of the Vikings and Jaguars joint practices since outspoken cornerback Jalen Ramsey was suspended by Jacksonville for threatening reporters after his teammates fought in practice. Fellow Florida State product Xavier Rhodes wanted the opportunity to jaw with Ramsey, but he will have to save it for the possible Super Bowl matchup, Rhodes said.
“Honestly, I was hoping he would come,” Rhodes said. “I wanted to see how that was going to be. I know that I was going to talk trash to him. It would have been fun, but maybe another time. Probably in the offseason when I see him — or in the playoffs, whenever.”
‘I’d rather take the shot’
Receiver Stefon Diggs said the NFL’s new “use of helmet” rule will favor him regarding penalties, since he doesn’t do much tackling. However, when it comes to injuries, Diggs said he would rather defenders go for his helmet than his legs.
“I’d rather someone hit me on top actually,” Diggs said. “As a receiver, you want your legs, so as far as you put them in an awkward position where they are going to have to chop guys down, I’d rather have someone hit me up top. I’d rather take the shot.”
Conklin still standing
Rookie tight end Tyler Conklin spent his first Vikings training camp flashing sticky hands and long hair out of the back of his helmet. Now with tight end Blake Bell nursing an injury, and fellow reserve Josiah Price done for the season because of a knee injury, Conklin is expected to play a lot Saturday against the Jaguars behind Kyle Rudolph and David Morgan.
“There’s a little more on the line now for your livelihood and your career,” Conklin said. “But it’s just football, it’s been a lot of fun.”