Cornerback Mike Hughes found his stride Sunday while playing a season-high 50 snaps during the Vikings’ win against the Giants. As head coach Mike Zimmer discussed coaching points for his inconsistent defensive backs, he changed his tune when asked about Hughes, who doubled his NFL career total with three pass deflections in New York.
 
“His technique was really good,” Zimmer said Monday. “He had a couple bad plays in there. The one where they caught the ball just outside the end zone, that should have been his play, and he had one other play that wasn’t very good. The rest of the time, he played very, very good.”
 
It was just Hughes’ 11th NFL game and second without the brace on his surgically repaired left knee, which he says he’s given no thought on the field. Hughes should have a role in the Vikings defense even if Mackensie Alexander returns this Sunday from elbow and groin injuries. 
 
“You just have to go out there and play the game you love — the game you’ve been playing your whole life,” Hughes said. “That’s how I approach the game. I feel like that’s working out pretty well. I feel like I’m getting back to myself, getting more comfortable and just having fun.”

Tom Baker for Star Tribune
VideoVideo (04:25): Coach Mike Zimmer is happy with the way the Vikings played against the Giants, with strong performances on offense and defense.

 
‘Kirk, Donald here’
President Donald Trump called quarterback Kirk Cousins on Sunday afternoon to congratulate him after the Vikings’ 28-10 win against the Giants in New York, a team spokesperson confirmed.
 
The brief conversation included talk of Trump’s upcoming rally Thursday in Minneapolis, but Cousins is not planning to attend.
Cousins has previously accepted an invite to golf with Trump in June 2017. 
 
Sign of things to come?
Giants tight end Evan Engram — second in the NFL in yards by a tight end — was held to a season-low 42 yards, which bodes well for the Vikings’ next challenge Sunday in Eagles tight end Zach Ertz. Ertz is quarterback Carson Wentz’s favorite target, leading Philadelphia in catches (29), targets (45) and receiving yards (312) through five games.
  
“We were aware of where [Engram] was and how he was going to play,” Zimmer said. “The guys did a nice job of understanding the coverage of what we had to do with him. We knocked a couple balls out of his hands, which was big.”
 
Aiming high
The Vikings defense ranks second in yards per play (4.5), fourth in yards per game (292.4) and fourth in points per game allowed (14.6) through Sunday’s games. Linebacker Anthony Barr put an exclamation point on the 28-10 win in New York with a safety on Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, which Barr called “a bonus” to the defense’s already lofty expectations.
 
“It was important to get the ball back,” Barr said. “Anytime they’re backed up like that, our goal is no first downs. At the very least, make them punt backed up. Obviously, a safety is a bonus, so we’ll take it.” 
 
Shrinking class
The Washington Redskins fired head coach Jay Gruden on Monday, two and a half weeks before the Redskins travel to Minnesota to play the Vikings. Zimmer has spoken fondly of his time with Gruden, which spanned three seasons as Bengals coordinators before both were hired as head coaches in 2014. Zimmer is now one of two NFL head coaches, including Houston’s Bill O’Brien, left from that hiring cycle.
 
“Jay’s a good man and a good football coach,” Zimmer said. “I never like seeing anybody get fired. I’m sure he’ll land on his feet. It’s part of the business, unfortunately.”