As first-round pick Mike Hughes continues to impress the Vikings in training camp, coaches are giving him more of a chance to shine.
Hughes took first-team snaps in the Vikings nickel defense on Tuesday, reacting to Adam Thielen’s double move well enough to break up a Kirk Cousins pass intended for the receiver. After practice, coach Mike Zimmer said the first-team work was in the Vikings’ plans, to see how both Hughes and third-year corner Mackensie Alexander — who had been taking most of the Vikings’ first-team nickel snaps — react to the switch.
He went on to praise the 30th overall pick’s grasp of the defense, saying Hughes has an impressive understanding of the nickel corner position’s intricacies in the Vikings’ scheme, which requires the slot corner to coordinate coverage responsibilities with linebackers based on the direction of a receiver’s route.
“Kind of what sets him apart athletically is he’s got unbelievable break and quickness coming out of the cut,” Zimmer said. “His feet are unbelievable.”
Hughes had a solid debut on Saturday night in Denver, stopping River Cracraft for no gain on a first-quarter screen and putting himself in line for an interception of Paxton Lynch before DaeSean Hamilton broke the pass up.
“My eyes got a little big,” Hughes said. “I kind of overran the route, and he kind of got his hand on the ball. The next time I’m in that position, I’ll know what to do.”
Mobile ticket reminder
The Vikings’ first home preseason game Saturday vs. the Jaguars will also be the debut of their electronic ticketing system. They are one of six NFL teams that will exclusively accept electronic tickets in 2018, with the rest of the league expected to switch in 2019.
Jeff Anderson, Vikings VP of strategic and corporate communications, said fans should download the team’s free mobile app or store their mobile tickets on their device through their ticketing account with the team and spend some time before the game familiarizing themselves with how to access the tickets. The team started accepting mobile tickets in 2014, and Anderson said 35 percent of tickets at Vikings home games were electronic last year.
The Vikings have been using electronic-only ticketing for their first training camp at their new practice facility in Eagan. The Vikings made the switch to electronic tickets to streamline the entry experience for fans and create stronger safeguards against counterfeit tickets. Anderson said about 50 percent of the team’s game tickets are transferred or sold on the secondary market; whereas paper tickets gave the Vikings no way to know who was actually using the ticket, fans must connect their mobile tickets to an e-mail address, which allows the team to provide updates about weather changes at training camp or traffic issues on game day.
The league now offers verified tickets through NFL Ticket Exchange, StubHub and SeatGeek, so fans who purchase a ticket through a secondary market can be assured their tickets are legitimate. While Anderson said the Vikings are aware someone could try to produce counterfeit electronic tickets, he said the team hasn’t seen it happen, adding it would be much more difficult to produce counterfeit digital tickets than falsified paper tickets.
Edwards supports crackdown on helmet hits
While the Vikings were flagged for roughing the passer and unnecessary roughness in their preseason opener Saturday, they weren’t penalized under the NFL’s new attempt to reduce instances of players leading with their helmet.
Broncos safety Justin Simmons drew a 15-yard penalty for lowering his helmet to hit Vikings receiver Stacy Coley in the first quarter, but the rule otherwise didn’t play a major role in both teams’ first exhibition game. Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards said the effort to deter players from lowering their helmets is necessary.
“It’ll clean up some of the guys that do lower their helmets. But, at the end of the day, I think everybody is teaching to keep your head up,” Edwards said. “We just have to keep emphasizing it. They know that it’s going to be called so hopefully we can take out helmet hits to the head; we can take that out of it.”