EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings are well versed in handling injury situations in the defensive backfield and tried to improve the depth coming into this season. After losing cornerback Chris Cook to a broken arm last week, the depth will be tested.
Rookie Josh Robinson has spent much of his time as the team’s third corner and A.J. Jefferson, acquired before the season from the Arizona Cardinals, has been a key special teams’ player and the fourth corner. Coach Leslie Frazier wouldn’t commit to which player would assume the starting role for Cook, who was placed on the injured reserve list with the designation to return.
“(Cook) was playing good football for us,” Frazier said. “But in this business, we all know injuries occur and I think our depth is better than it has been in years past. I think we’ll be better (able) to hold up than we have in the past. (It) just gives other guys opportunities to step up and play more.”
Frazier said the team, which has dealt with injuries in the secondary the past several years, likely will look at signing another cornerback before Sunday’s game at Seattle too. The Vikings likely will get back safety Mistral Raymond for Sunday. Raymond has missed the past five games with an ankle injury suffered in Week 3 against San Francisco.
Cook has had surgery to repair his broken arm, and Frazier said he’s expected to miss six to eight weeks and could return later this season.
Robinson is likely to get the first crack at Cook’s starting position, but Frazier and Jefferson made it sound as if the former Cardinals corner, who has more of Cook’s body type (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) could possibly see more time in Cook’s former role.
“I think they’re going to try and rotate guys a little bit, see what the best options they have,” Jefferson said. “We’ll see how it goes during the week.”
Jefferson said he likes to play a physical game, similar to Cook (6-foot-2, 212 pounds), and can succeed playing the same way as Cook in recent weeks; playing closer to the line and jamming bigger receivers.
“Me and Chris, we emulate each other,” Jefferson said. “So, I’m more of a physical guy. I want to be at the line anyway. I’m bigger than a lot of other corners that are here, so I’d much rather get my hands on them. That’s why I figured they had me as his backup, because I’m kind of similar to him.”
Jefferson, who played a season-high 21 defensive snaps in last week’s game, said playing at the line was one of his main responsibilities in Arizona. Playing in the Vikings’ Cover-2 system has been a transition for Jefferson, who was used to man-coverage schemes with the Cardinals. It’s taken him time to adjust, but he feels comfortable with his role now in Minnesota.
“He’s done a good job for us,” Frazier said. “We’ve been pleased with A.J.’s performance on special teams as well as what he’s done in the snaps he’s gotten on defense.”
Robinson (5-foot-10, 199 pounds) has done well with his increased snaps as he gets more comfortable in his rookie season. He’s played at least 50 snaps in three of the last five games as the nickel cornerback.
Raymond, the second-year safety who began the season as a starter, likely won’t return to his starting spot right way. Jamarca Sanford has played well in Raymond’s place and is fifth on the team with 37 tackles, despite playing behind Raymond until he was hurt in the first quarter in Week 3.
Frazier said Raymond would be eased back in and he’s still waiting to see how Raymond responds to a full week of practice, physically and mentally.
“Yeah, he’s missed a bunch of time, so we have to see him go through some things with his teammates before we put him out there,” Frazier said. “We need to see how he responds to some of the things that we’re doing. We’ve got a few changes in what we’re doing from earlier in the season when he was starting. But he shouldn’t have a problem in picking up some of those little nuances. But we also have to see how he does physically as well, how he plants, how he cuts and how he responds a day after one of those practices.”
Raymond said he no longer has any soreness in the ankle and is ready to return to full participation. He said he’s not thinking about his starting spot.
“That’s absolutely not on my mind right now,” Raymond said. “I’m, like I said, getting back in the groove of things, getting the conditioning and getting back to practice. Like I said, I’m available, but how much they want to use me, to what extent, what role they’re going to have me in, that’s totally up to the coaching staff.”
Carlson, Jenkins missing from Monday’s practice: Due to playing on Thursday night last week, Minnesota had an extra day of full practice on Monday in advance of Sunday’s game at Seattle. Players were given the weekend off and had practice back at the facility on Monday.
Tight end John Carlson watched practice from the sideline and Frazier said he has still not passed his concussion tests. Receiver Michael Jenkins was the only other player missing Monday, while away from the team tending to a personal matter.
Frazier isn’t sure when Carlson will be able to return.
“John hasn’t been cleared yet,” Frazier said. “Hopefully we’ll hear some good news when we come back for Wednesday’s practice, but we’ll wait and see.”
Jenkins is expected back for Wednesday’s practice. The rest of the week follows the Vikings’ usual weekly schedule.
Holmes back, Owusu gone, for now: Minnesota signed offensive lineman Tyler Holmes to the practice squad on Monday and he participated in Monday’s practice. To make room for Holmes, the team waived defensive end Ernest Owusu.
It’s the fifth time this season, once each of the past five weeks, Minnesota has swapped the two players on the practice squad.