View the best photos from Vikings team photographers of defensive backs during the 2019 season.
EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings returned veteran cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes on the outside and nickel cornerback Mackensie Alexander, but injuries and inconsistencies hit the group in 2019.
Rhodes returned for his eighth pro season and started 15 regular-season games (he did not play in the season finale when most starters were rested).
After a strong Week 1 in which he helped ground Julio Jones and the Falcons, there were frustrations on the way to finishing with a career-low eight pass breakups and going without an interception for the first time since his rookie campaign.
Waynes started 14 games in the fifth and final year of his rookie contract. He produced a couple of splash plays, especially against the Chargers when he recovered a fumble for the first time in his career and forced another.
Alexander opened the fourth and final year of his rookie deal by impressing in the slot during training camp. An injury in Week 1, however, forced him to miss three of Minnesota's next four games.
The timing of Alexander's first injury of 2019 unfortunately overlapped with the final couple of weeks that Mike Hughes was sidelined while recovering from a torn ACL that ended his rookie season. That left undrafted rookie Nate Meadors to step into the slot in Week 2 at Green Bay. Meadors spent most of 2019 on the practice squad.
Alexander and Hughes suffered season-ending injuries after playing in Week 17, which prompted the Vikings to slide safety Andrew Sendejo into the slot.
Holton Hill's second pro season was stunted by a pair of consecutive four-game suspensions that prevented him from immediately picking up from a promising rookie season.
His former Texas teammate Kris Boyd, who was selected in the seventh round, primarily contributed on special teams but also logged some quality reps as a replacement.
65.6 — The Vikings allowed opponents to complete 65.6 percent of their passes in 2019, which was the worst of any team that made the playoffs and sixth from the bottom of the NFL. It was up 7.2 percentage points from Minnesota's dominant 2017 season and also is the third-highest allowed rate by any Vikings team in 59 seasons. It's worth noting that other positions also affect an opponent's completion percentage, but cornerbacks can have a big say in breakups or interceptions.
In Week 15 at the Los Angeles Chargers, Hughes recorded his first interception since his pro debut in Week 1 of the 2018 regular-season. He ran the ball to the Vikings sideline and handed it to assistant athletic trainer/physical therapist David Jantzi in gratitude for the role that Jantzi played in helping Hughes come back from his ACL injury.
View the top photos of Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes from the 2019 season.
63 total tackles (team stats) with 4 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble and 8 passes defensed
58 total tackles (team stats) with 4 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 interception and 8 passes defensed
43 total tackles (team stats) with 1 tackle for loss, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception and 11 passes defensed
38 total tackles (team stats) with 1 tackle for loss, 0.5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 1 interception and 6 passes defensed
12 total tackles (team stats) and 1 pass defensed
12 total tackles (team stats) with 2 tackles for loss and a pass defensed
2 total tackles (team stats)
1. Hughes' interception, the fumble recovered by Waynes and the fumble he forced were three of the seven turnovers forced by the Vikings, giving Purple-clad fans that dominated the stands in Southern California plenty to celebrate.
2. Vikings cornerbacks combined to record five of the team's 11 passes defensed against the New York Giants. The 11 denials accounted for 11.3 percent of the team's total 97 in 2019. Minnesota put the brakes on rookie QB Daniel Jones by limiting him to 21-of-38 passing for 182 yards and a passer rating of 65.9.
1. Marvin Jones, Jr., caught four touchdown passes and helped Matthew Stafford total 364 yards through the air and a passer rating of 111.7 against the Vikings in Week 7. Minnesota, however, was able to prevail thanks to a season-best 42 points.
2. Courtland Sutton caught five passes for 113 yards, including a 48-yarder, and completed a 38-yard pass to Tim Patrick against Minnesota in Week 11. The Vikings fell behind the Broncos but were able to make adjustments and enable the offense to stage a dramatic comeback.
"Just waiting that long without playing football was killing me. I just had to stay patient, trust the process, and just do everything the trainers and my coaches wanted me to do, and I think everything worked out."
– Hughes after Minnesota's Week 3 win over the Raiders, his first game action since October 2018
"It's [been] a hard season. [Media members] ask me, 'Hey, Xavier, how do you think you played today?' You all know. It's just me, being the guy that I am and working each and every day on my craft and not getting the results I want, of course you're going to be down on yourself. You can ask any player that puts so much work and time into their craft, and that's how they're going to feel. I tell my guys each and every day — I'm never going to give up, and I'm always a fighter."
– Rhodes between Minnesota's loss at Seattle and home win against Detroit