Every Friday morning, we’ll answer Twitter and email questions submitted for these mailbags and our twice-a-week Access Vikings podcasts. Check out or latest podcast previewing Sunday’s game against the Raiders.
Q: Should we trade Xavier Rhodes and a first-round pick for Jalen Ramsey? — @VikesAndSports
AK: The Vikings are one of six NFL teams to reportedly make “substantive inquiries” for Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, according to ESPN. Ramsey, the 2017 All-Pro pick, demanded a trade after a sideline argument with coach Doug Marrone last weekend.
It makes sense, because Ramsey is the type of hyper-talented corner the Vikings covet. He’s a freakishly athletic press cover corner who would fit right into Mike Zimmer’s system. Also consider: just five cornerbacks are under contract for 2020 (three with experience in Xavier Rhodes, Holton Hill and Mike Hughes). The Vikings have not made long-term commitments to Trae Waynes or Mackensie Alexander, who become free agents in March.
The upside: Ramsey only turns 25 next month. He’s already a two-time Pro Bowler in three NFL seasons, and his 45 pass deflections are the fourth most by any NFL defender since he was drafted. He would immediately usurp Rhodes as the Vikings’ No. 1 corner, and that’s saying something given Rhodes’ talent.
The downside: The Jaguars don’t have to do anything, even if they’re apparently willing to try to accommodate him. If he’s moved, Ramsey could cost a lot — both in terms of draft capital (remember DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, with only potential to his name, was just traded from Miami to Pittsburgh for a 2020 first-round pick) as well as Ramsey’s eventual new contract that may reset a market topped at $15 million per season. He’s under contract through 2020. Also: the Vikings’ current salary cap situation, however malleable it may be, is pretty tight.
Q: Zimmer is known for discipline, why are we seeing so many penalties? — @Jaq_Be_Nimble
AK: After two games, the Vikings are the fifth-most penalized team in total flags (19) and second-most penalized in yardage (200). That’s very uncharacteristic, as you mentioned, of Mike Zimmer-led teams, which in Minnesota haven’t ranked worse than 14th in fewest penalties. The simplest explanation is youth. The Vikings brought 12 rookies onto the initial 53-man roster, and two of them — cornerback Kris Boyd (three penalties) and center Garrett Bradbury (two penalties) — lead the team in flags. When you’ve got a roster full of high-priced veterans, young players need to grow up quickly and you’re seeing that now.
Q: Any evidence Mike Hughes plays this week? And timetable for Mackensie Alexander? — @1Sween
AK: Don’t be shocked to see Mike Hughes return to action Sunday against the Raiders in what could be a limited role right away. Zimmer referenced possibly having “packages” for Hughes upon his return, meaning he’s not expected to play start to finish nearly 11 months after he last played in a game. Hughes has fully practiced for three straight outings (Sept. 13, 18 and 19) and, if he does again on Friday, could be primed for a return. Whenever Hughes plays, he’s said it’ll be with the brace on his surgically-repaired left knee.
Alexander remains sidelined since dislocating his elbow Sept. 8 against the Falcons. He has yet to practice, so that will be the first step toward his eventual return.
Q: Raiders have allowed at least 250+ passing yards in each of the last two games, is this the game we see a breakout from Cousins and Co.? — @Trimp3
AK: The Raiders have defended (or tried to) 75 throws in two games this season; only 18 have been play-action passes, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s going to be the intriguing matchup on Sunday, because the Vikings need Kirk Cousins to better execute play-action throws than how he fared in Green Bay. The Packers sold out to take away play-action throws to Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, which helped open running lanes for Dalvin Cook. If the Raiders take the same approach, look for the Vikings to lean on Cook even more.
But I don’t see the Raiders taking the same approach. There are two problems with projecting that: (1) Oakland’s roster is not as talented defensively and (2) Oakland’s defense doesn’t practice every day against a play-action heavy offense, like Green Bay does under Matt LaFleur.
My prognostication: The Raiders will overcompensate to stop Cook, making Cousins’ job much easier. At least on this Sunday, at U.S. Bank Stadium, Cousins will make plays to win (if the defense doesn’t already).