The Vikings secondary barely resembles the group it started the season with after a rash of injuries has forced the team to fish for free agents to field a cornerbacks group this Sunday.
First-round rookie Jeff Gladney and Kris Boyd, who has started in two games in his two-year career, appear to be the only cornerbacks who have played in an NFL game under Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. The rest of the group will have to juggle recalling plays and handling their on-field assignments as the greenest group of cornerbacks the franchise has rostered in over a decade.
A development on Saturday night became a harbinger of struggles that may be on the horizon for the group as Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who had been on the COVID-19 reserve list all week, was removed from the list, per the Detroit Free Press.
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Matthew Stafford ‘On Track’ to Play on Sunday
Stafford was reactivated to the 53-man roster on Saturday as it appears the Lions will have their franchise quarterback against the Vikings. Stafford must test negative before the game on Sunday to play but has been quarantined for five days after he was in “high-risk” contact with someone who had coronavirus.
Backup quarterback Chase Daniel told the Detroit Free Press that Stafford is “the heart and soul of this team, so as the Lions go, so does Matthew Stafford. For him not to be here, it’s difficult on him, knowing him and the competitor he is. But there’s no doubt in my mind if he were to play, he doesn’t need practice. … If anyone can do it, it’s Matthew.”
The Lions’ No. 1 wide receiver Kenny Golladay was ruled out of Sunday’s game which should come as a relief to the inexperienced core at cornerback. Marvin Jones will be the top target in the Lions passing game.
Jones had four touchdowns in last year’s first meeting between the Lions and Vikings but was held to just three catches for 38 yards in their rematch.
The Vikings cornerbacks group has yet to be at full strength since the first week of the season as injuries have lingered this season for several players.
Third-year cornerback Mike Hughes remains on injured reserve with a neck injury and was joined by second-year Mark Fields II, who was placed on the list this week after suffering a punctured lung injury against the Packers. Additionally, rookie Cameron Dantzler is out with a concussion and third-year cornerback Holton Hill will miss his fourth straight game with a foot injury.
The Vikings have added former Lions and Cardinals cornerback Chris Jones, Raiders cornerback Dylan Mabin and re-signed Marcus Sayles, who was on the practice squad last season but was cut during training camp.
Fifth-round rookie Harrison Hand is questionable with a hamstring injury after the Temple prospect has played in two games this season in suit of his injured teammates.
The Vikings inexperienced cornerbacks group likely prepared for Stafford but will now be ants under a magnifying glass as Stafford looks to light up the passing game in a crucial NFC North matchup.
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Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.