The Vikings got back to work Wednesday, following a six-point performance against the Bears, without one of their top two receivers.
Stefon Diggs was a nonparticipant in practice Wednesday, sitting out for what the team said were “non-injury reasons.” The Vikings provided no further explanation for Diggs missing practice, and it remains to be seen whether the receiver’s absence was a sign of dissatisfaction with the team.
Diggs has not talked to reporters in more than two weeks, and slipped out of the locker room after the Vikings’ 16-6 loss on Sunday.
He ended the day with seven catches for 108 yards — most of them coming in the fourth quarter — but appeared upset on the sidelines at various points during Sunday’s game, and walked by reporters in full pads and uniform in the locker room Sunday.
He has 13 catches for 209 yards in four games this season, a year after surpassing both the 100-catch mark and the 1,000-yard barrier for the first time in his career.
While Diggs was gone and safety Anthony Harris sat out because of a quadriceps injury, guard Josh Kline was a limited participant in practice, on his way back from the concussion he sustained against the Raiders in Week 3.
O’Neill stands out
While the Vikings’ offensive line has struggled in pass protection this season, the team has reason to be impressed with the progress of second-year right tackle Brian O’Neill.
Among tackles who have played at least 100 snaps in 2019, O’Neill is tied for the seventh-fewest pressures allowed in the league (with five), according to Pro Football Focus.
He was flagged for holding as Kirk Cousins escaped the pocket Sunday, but he hasn’t given up a sack this season and has only allowed one hit on Cousins.
“[It’s impressive] just the way he grew up so fast,” running back Dalvin Cook said. “He got thrown in there last year, and he grew up fast. It just tells you the type of mentality that he’s got. He’s a kid at heart, but when he steps on the field, he’s a man. You see that in his play. He’s continuing to grow.”
Hill back in the building
Cornerback Holton Hill, who was given a pair of four-game suspensions for violating both the league’s performance-enhancing drugs and substance abuse policies, is able to be in TCO Performance Center now that the first of the two suspensions is complete.
Hill still cannot play or practice until after the Vikings’ game against the Redskins on Oct. 24, but he’s allowed to take part in team meetings and be around teammates while he serves his suspension for his substance abuse violation.
The NFL prohibits players from being in team facilities while they are serving PED-related suspensions, but not substance abuse penalties.
The league levied Hill’s PED suspension first, so he served it during the first four weeks of the season.
Cook preaches patience
The premise on which the Vikings built their offense for the 2019 season was the idea their reliance on the running game would open up space for their passing game, particularly in play action, as defenses were forced to devote more players to stopping a consistent ground game.
Though much of the fallout from Sunday’s 16-6 loss to the Bears has centered on the opportunities for downfield throws that Cousins missed, the result through four games hasn’t yielded much balance.
The Vikings have the NFL’s 31st-ranked passing game, despite boasting the league’s third-best running attack. But while the Vikings’ passing game hasn’t capitalized on Cook’s early success, the league’s No. 2 rusher doesn’t see reason for panic.
“It’s Week 5,” he said. “There’s still a lot we’ve got to get better at. We’re still trying to find little things that can help us get an edge and help us get better. We’re still working, man. There’s a lot of stuff ahead of us, a lot of ball ahead of us. There’s a lot of wins ahead of us, and we’re going to go back to work and go find those wins.”