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Vikings' Stefon Diggs could be the difference maker vs. Giants [X-factor]

Every week following theAccess Vikings Gameday Preview podcast, we'll delve deeper into who Andrew Krammer pegged as the potential difference maker for the upcoming game.

Cole Beasley, Willie Snead, Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas, Jamison Crowder, Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson.

A Giants secondary, having allowed seven receivers to surpass 50 yards in three games, limps into Monday night against the Vikings with four defensive backs unable to practice Thursday in CB Eli Apple, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, S Nat Berhe and S Darian Thompson. They were even forced to use receivers as scout-team safeties in practice.

So the best chance for a sputtering Vikings offense to get going just might be Stefon Diggs, the team’s leading receiver who has accounted for 38 percent of the yardage through three weeks.

The slippery and sudden receiver hit a speed bump in Carolina as the Vikings’ passing attack reverted to a quicker approach. Sam Bradford did not attempt a pass 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage against a stingy defense. Diggs, who has been included in a lot of underneath routes, might have more room inside U.S. Bank Stadium.

On paper, the Giants defense looks little like the group that took a 49-17 thumping by the Vikings on Dec. 27. But they’ve yet to fully put it together after a free agency premium was paid for defensive end Olivier Vernon with additional invested via the signing of CB Janoris Jenkins, the first-round selection of Apple and third-round pick of Thompson.

The results have largely been without bite. Opponents have thrown at the Giants at one of the league’s highest clips (41.7 times per game, fifth) in the early going, yet they’re one of just two defenses without an interception. The big blue pass rush is tied for 23rd with four sacks.

They have been able to limit Ezekiel Elliott, Mark Ingram and Matt Jones as the Giants allow just 3.2 yards per carry so far.

“This is a tough team to run the ball against,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “They haven’t given up a lot of yards running, but we’re going to have to be hard-headed and stick with it.”

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner won’t let that priority fall by the wayside, though the undefeated Vikings have yet to take the lead first in a game.Signs point to their best chance being through the air.

Entering his second season, Diggs added about 10 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot frame. Returning a healthy Charles Johnson and drafting Laquon Treadwell at split end allowed the Vikings to move Diggs around the formation and find better matchups, including against the Packers when he pickedup gains of 25, 44 and 46 yards from both the slot and outside roles.

His separating trait fromdefensive backs and receivers alike continues to be agile feet and dedication to precise footwork.

“He has great feet,” receivers coach George Stewart said. “That's one thing he has worked on. He has always worked on his foot quickness. He does a lot of drill work.”

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Diggs’ acceleration, 4.4 speed and sticky hands make him a threat down the fieldand underneath, whether via quick slant on a 46-yard catch and run or deep on this 25-yard touchdown over Damarious Randall in Week 2.

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Alex Boone not practicing for the Vikings on Thursday

Alex Boone has an additional day this week, though he was unable to practice Thursday in preparation for Monday night’s game against the New York Giants.

Boone, the Vikings’ first-year left guard, suffered a hip injury in Carolina on Sunday that limited him to just 19 snaps before needing to leave. He underwent an MRI after the game and was seen with the team during Thursday’s warm-ups before walking toward the locker room at the start of practice.

Head coach Mike Zimmer has only said he thinks Boone could be ready for Monday night’s game, though would need to see him practice before making a proper evaluation. That will have to wait until at least Friday, if he’s able to return.

In the meantime, Jeremiah Sirles continued to fill in for Boone by working alongside left tackle T.J. Clemmings at the start of practice.

The offensive line already lost left tackle Matt Kalil for the season due to a torn labrum in his right hip that required surgery.

Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who underwent a knee scope last week, tight end David Morgan (knee) and fullback Zach Line also were not participating at the start of Thursday’s practice.

Chances look good for the potential return of tight end MyCole Pruitt, who returned to practice last week and was practicing again Thursday. He has been held out since suffering a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee during the Aug. 28 preseason game against San Diego.

Linebacker Anthony Barr (wrist), running back Jerick McKinnon (toe), cornerback Xavier Rhodes (knee) and Pruitt (knee) were listed as full participants on Thursday.

For the Giants:CB Eli Apple (hamstring), T Marshall Newhouse (calf), CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (groin), S Darian Thompson (foot), DT Robert Thomas (illness) and S Nat Berhe (concussion) did not practice. RB Rashad Jennings (thumb) was limited. DE Olivier Vernon (wrist) was a full participant.

7:30 PM, 10/3 (ESPN)
NY Giants 2-1
Minnesota 3-0

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