EAGAN, Minn. — Minnesota’s preseason opener at Denver last week offered Vikings rookies a chance for their first NFL in-game experience.
It also gave the coaching staff the opportunity to assess performances live and on film.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards on Tuesday was asked about Vikings first-round selection Mike Hughes and said the 30th overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft passed his first test.
“Mike did a lot of good things,” Edwards said. “The attention to detail that he displayed schematically with what we’re asking him to do, for a rookie, was impressive for the first outing. We just look for him to keep continuing to compete every day and keep working on the fundamentals and techniques that we’re asking him to do. Just look for him to be consistent as we keep working down the road.”
Edwards added that Hughes impressed when lining up to defend the slot and as a cornerback on the outside.
“For everything that we’re asking him to do, to play inside and outside, he’s been as good as any that we’ve had in here with the attention to detail with what we’re asking out of him as far as an inside nickel and outside corner,” Edwards said. “He really has excelled. You could see it carry over from practice right to the game, it wasn’t big for him at all.”
Hughes was solid in pass coverage and strong when tasked with supporting against the run. He showed aggressive pursuit from the backside to stymie a run play by the Broncos.
Here are three other topics Edwards discussed:
1. Marcus the multitasker
The Vikings secondary is loaded with first-round picks but also has been supplemented for years by Marcus Sherels, who went undrafted but is preparing for his eighth NFL season. In addition to being the top punt return specialist in franchise history, the Minnesota native quietly has turned in quality reps throughout camp.
“Marcus has done a tremendous job for us. He’s worn a lot of hats for us defensively since we’ve been here,” Edwards said. “You talk about his punt return ability, but he plays the nickel for us, we have no problem sticking him in there to play nickel, and he plays outside. So, Marcus is an asset to us defensively. Also, as far as going into the game, having him on the roster, the capabilities if something happens or package-wise if we want to use his skill set, we know that he’s right there. It’s been a blessing to have him.”
2. Adjusting to new rules
One of the biggest rule changes this offseason addressed the lowering of the helmet to initiate contact. No Vikings defender was flagged for a foul under the new rule. Edwards said Vikings coaches have been stressing the importance of players keeping their heads up for several seasons.
“I think our guys, going in we have emphasized it, we’ve always kind of emphasized looking at your target and keeping your head up,” Edwards said. “So, we didn’t really have a lot of problems with it. I know [the Broncos] had two penalties called, one of them was that. We just keep emphasizing the fundamentals. The point of emphasis is that for the preseason and going into the season and rightly so. So, we’re just going to keep preaching it, we’re going to keep working on it, keep coaching it. Hopefully, we don’t have any problems with guys ducking their heads.
3. Joint practices on the way
The Vikings will have an opportunity to practice against the Jaguars on Wednesday and Thursday before Minnesota hosts Jacksonville at noon (CT) Saturday.
Edwards said he is looking forward to seeing what the Vikings can accomplish by working against another team that came within one win of making it to Super Bowl LII.
“I think it’ll be good work against a good football team that had a lot of success last year,” Edwards said. “For our guys to come out here and we’ve been working against our offense since we started, I think it’ll be a good change of pace.
“We’re excited about it. For us, it’s still an evaluation to get out here and work the techniques and the fundamentals between each group,” he added. “Just tie it all together that way. Rather than going against our offense, which we’ve kind of been going against all offseason and here at training camp, it’s kind of a break from that and working on something new schematically.”