Vikings right tackle Rashod Hill has a tough matchup ahead of him Sunday at Philadelphia, where Eagles sack leader Brandon Graham has disrupted offenses.
Hill will start his ninth game for the Vikings in Sunday's NFC Championship Game, with Minnesota expected to maintain the starting offensive line that puts Mike Remmers at left guard. Hill said he is wary of Graham's speed around the edge, especially after Hill admitted he gave up a handful of pressures against Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan last weekend.
"They wait until they push the pocket [up the middle]," Hill said, "and then come around and try to get sacks off the edge. Graham is a good player, been playing for a long time. I've got a pretty good game plan for him."
The 6-6 Hill is focused on staying low with the 6-2 Graham and not getting his outside hand swatted away during Graham's speed rushes. Speed has helped Graham rack up a career-high 9½ sacks. The Vikings say Hill started well in the victory against the Saints before surrendering a few pressures to Jordan in the second half.
"It's going to be a tough matchup for him," coach Mike Zimmer said. "What I'd like for him to do is play like he did at the beginning of the ballgame. I thought he played great the first 30-some plays. Then he kind of hit a little snag, had to get readjusted again. Just be consistent, continue to do it every time."
Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo (concussion), receiver Adam Thielen (lower back) and cornerback Mackensie Alexander (rib/illness) were listed questionable. The good news is Sendejo was a full participant in Friday's practice and could be medically cleared before Sunday's kickoff.
Thielen looked "questionable" in Friday's practice, Zimmer said, while dealing with a low back injury suffered against the Saints. Alexander was held out of practice Friday, with an illness added to his list of ailments.
Safety Anthony Harris and receivers Michael Floyd, Jarius Wright and Laquon Treadwell are in line for bigger roles should Sendejo or Thielen be limited or held out.
The Vikings practiced indoors all three days at Winter Park in preparation for Sunday's NFC title game at Lincoln Financial Field. The weather shouldn't be much of a factor Sunday with forecasts calling for a high of 51 degrees and low winds. However, Zimmer indicated the Vikings wanted to practice outside this week but weren't able because of their own field conditions.
"The field wasn't in good enough shape," Zimmer said.
Coaches and players have prepared for sloppy field conditions in Philadelphia after watching the Falcons and Eagles slip around last weekend. The Vikings could change to extra-studded cleats in preparation.
"We got our cleats ready for that," Hill said.
You're up, rook
Shamar Stephen (knee) has been ruled out, meaning the Vikings are down to one available backup defensive tackle in rookie Jaleel Johnson. Johnson has played 41 defensive snaps this season (4.1 percent) and said he's eager to "contribute to this win."
"It's going to require a lot of discipline," Johnson said. "It's a huge game for this team, and I'm excited to go out and really contribute to this win."
No fine for Thomas
Saints receiver Michael Thomas was not fined for the blindside hit that knocked out Sendejo last weekend, according to a league source. Officials picked up a flag that was initially thrown when Thomas collided with Sendejo.