Vikings rookie cornerback Mike Hughes suffered a knee injury in Sunday’s 27-17 victory over Arizona, and the team fears he suffered a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament.
An NFL source confirmed the preliminary diagnosis. Head coach Mike Zimmer said Hughes, who was on crutches in the locker room, will have an MRI Monday.
Hughes, the Vikings’ first-round pick out of Central Florida, went down in the fourth quarter, twisting his left knee as he engaged with Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald Jr. on a route.
The promising rookie had already started two of his first six NFL games, including the 23-21 win in Philadelphia where he filled in for injured Trae Waynes. He also had earned prominent roles on special teams, which had to be dialed back because of his increasing snaps on defense.
“I just told him any goal he wants to accomplish is still in front of him,” safety George Iloka said. “I haven’t seen too many rookies with the skill level that he’s had, and I’ve played with a lot of DBs — a lot of first-round DBs, as well.”
Last year’s top pick, running back Dalvin Cook, lost most of his rookie season because of a torn ACL.
Blitz, then blitz again
The hits came from all angles on Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen, who was sacked four times as Zimmer called blitz after blitz to fluster the rookie passer. Defensive end Stephen Weatherly wasn’t credited with any of the six hits, but he said the entire defense benefited from keeping feet on the gas against Rosen.
Defensive end Danielle Hunter’s two sacks Sunday tie him with Texans star J.J. Watt for the NFL lead with seven in six games. Harrison Smith and Mackensie Alexander each added a sack.
“It just re-energizes us and gets us excited for the next down,” Weatherly said. “Three-and-outs were key. Those fourth-down stops were the same as turnovers. It just felt good to click as a defense.”
Pass protection uneven
Rookie tackle Brian O’Neill made his first NFL start, and the Vikings’ pass protection had more of the same woes.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins was hit seven times, including four sacks, with every hit coming from a Cardinals defensive lineman.
The Vikings’ issues primarily came at left tackle, where Rashod Hill shifted to start in place of Riley Reiff, who has a foot injury. Cardinals’ All-Pro end Chandler Jones beat Hill for the strip-sack on Cousins that led to the 36-yard return for a touchdown.
“We want to keep No. 8 a little bit cleaner back there,” O’Neill said.
Barr a standout
Linebacker Anthony Barr stood out, starting with a blitzing pass deflection to stall a drive in the first quarter. Barr finished with three tackles, one for a loss, the deflection and a forced fumble when he tackled Cardinals running back David Johnson at the start of the next first-quarter series. It was Barr’s first forced fumble since 2016.
“Honestly, I wasn’t trying to strip the ball,” Barr said. “I just poked it out, and it happened. Good things happen next to the ball, and I’ll try to keep doing that.”