Minnesota Vikings: A.J. Jefferson

Vikings: Five out, Jennings probable

November, 1, 2013
11/01/13
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- None of the five players who missed most of the Vikings' practice time this week -- cornerback Chris Cook, safety Jamarca Sanford, tight end Rhett Ellison, running back Matt Asiata and defensive tackle Fred Evans -- will suit up for the Vikings on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. All five are out for the game, but wide receiver Greg Jennings, who missed some time early this week with a knee injury, is probable.

Jennings
Of the five players who will miss the game, the absences of Cook (who has a strained hip muscle) and Sanford (who is out with a groin injury) probably hurt the most. The Vikings have just one member of their starting secondary -- cornerback Josh Robinson -- healthy for Sunday's game against one of the league's best passing attacks, and they will either use A.J. Jefferson, Marcus Sherels or Xavier Rhodes at right cornerback opposite Robinson. Shaun Prater, who signed with the team this month, will also be active, Frazier said.

The Vikings might try to survive with three safeties, with Mistral Raymond and Andrew Sendejo starting and Robert Blanton backing them up, Frazier said, but they could activate Brandan Bishop from the practice squad, as well.

Cook's absence has to be particularly frustrating for the Vikings; the fourth-year corner has never played more than 10 games in a season, and will miss his second game in five weeks on Sunday. In a contract year, Cook has struggled to answer what might be the biggest question about him: his durability.

He did some running with trainer Eric Sugarman on Friday and said he's close to being able to play, but with a short week coming up, the Vikings will have to see if they can get him healthy for Thursday's game against the Washington Redskins.

"Sixteen (games) went to 15 and now I guess it has to go to 14. I can only control what I can control," Cook said. "As a football player, we try to take care of our bodies as best we can. Football is a fast game and a very violent game. Injuries happen, so you have to roll with the punches sometimes."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Cornerback Chris Cook and safety Jamarca Sanford both missed practice for the Vikings again on Thursday with a strained hip muscle and groin, respectively, and time is running out to get either player ready for Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Cook
Sanford
Coach Leslie Frazier said both players could play on Sunday if they were able to do enough in practice on Friday to prove they'd be ready to go in Dallas, but he still wasn't sure if he could expect much from the two starters.

"If they were cleared tomorrow, definitely (they could play)," Frazier said. "But if Chris and Jamarca couldn't go, it really thins us out. It's a little scary when you start getting into your depth this early in the season."

The Vikings might have to make a roster move to add depth to their secondary, particularly if Sanford is unable to play, Frazier said. They have just three safeties on their roster other than Sanford -- Andrew Sendejo, Mistral Raymond and Robert Blanton -- with Harrison Smith already on injured reserve because of turf toe. The Vikings could pull safety Brandan Bishop or cornerback Robert Steeples up from their practice squad.

If Cook is unable to play, Frazier said, Xavier Rhodes, Marcus Sherels or A.J. Jefferson would start at his right cornerback spot. Josh Robinson would remain at left cornerback.

In other Vikings injury news:
  • Wide receiver Greg Jennings (knee) returned to practice as a limited participant, and Frazier said Jennings should be fine to play on Sunday. He initially hurt himself during an off-day workout on Tuesday, Frazier said, but didn't need a MRI on his knee.
  • Running back Matt Asiata (shoulder) did not participate, and the timetable for his return is unclear after his father was killed in a bus accident in Utah earlier this week. "We'll just give him the time he needs," Frazier said. "That far exceeds what we're doing here."
  • Tight end Rhett Ellison (ankle) was again out of practice, and could miss his second straight game after getting injured against the New York Giants.
  • Defensive tackle Fred Evans (knee) and offensive tackle Phil Loadholt (illness) were limited participants.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- For most of the season, the majority of the Minnesota Vikings' injuries have been on the defense. But three days after he was nearly shut out against his former team, wide receiver Greg Jennings was unable to get back on the practice field because of a knee injury.

Jennings
Jennings, who caught just one pass for 9 yards in a 44-31 loss to Green Bay on Sunday, was on the practice field without a helmet in the portion of Wednesday's practice open to the media. He was one of six players who did not participate for the Vikings, joining running back Matt Asiata (shoulder), cornerback Chris Cook (hip), safety Jamarca Sanford (groin), tight end Rhett Ellison (ankle) and defensive tackle Fred Evans (knee).

We'll learn more throughout the week about how severe Jennings' injury is, but the injuries to Cook and Sanford could be an even bigger problem for the Vikings on Sunday. The team is already without safety Harrison Smith, and missing both players would leave the Vikings with four healthy corners (Josh Robinson, Marcus Sherels. A.J. Jefferson and Xavier Rhodes) and three healthy safeties (Andrew Sendejo, Robert Blanton, Mistral Raymond).

For the league's 29th-ranked pass defense, facing the eighth-best pass offense in the league, that sounds like a recipe for disaster.

"With defensive backs when you have muscle issues it’s always a concern because we need them," coach Leslie Frazier said. "I’m hoping they’ll get through this, but muscles in defensive backs or receivers it’s always a concern."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson did not practice on Wednesday because of a lingering right hamstring injury, but based on how the Vikings proceeded with Peterson last week and what he said about the injury after Monday's loss to the New York Giants, there's little reason to think Peterson won't play on Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers.

The Vikings held Peterson out of one practice last week and limited him twice before the Giants game, and while Peterson said after Monday's game he could feel his hamstring, it wasn't a huge detriment to his game. He'll likely get a light workload all week in practice, but the injury doesn't seem like one that would cause him to miss time.

In other Vikings injury news:
  • Safety Harrison Smith, who is on injured reserve with turf toe, still hopes he can avoid surgery and return this season. He told reporters today he consulted with several doctors, including his father Steven, who is a plastic surgeon. "I look completely different," he deadpanned. "This is a whole new face."
  • Quarterback Josh Freeman (concussion) did not practice, and coach Leslie Frazier said earlier Wednesday that Christian Ponder "more than likely" will start on Sunday.
  • Running back Matt Asiata (shoulder) and tight end Rhett Ellison (ankle) were both held out of practice. Wide receiver Rodney Smith (hip), who didn't play on Monday against the Giants, also didn't practice.
  • Defensive back A.J. Jefferson (ankle) and left tackle Matt Kalil (low back) were limited; Jefferson missed Monday's game, while Kalil played through his injury.
  • Kicker Blair Walsh (left hamstring) was again limited. Walsh was short on a 53-yard field goal on Monday, the first time in his career he'd missed from longer than 50 yards, and ceded kickoff duties to Jeff Locke.
  • Lastly, linebacker Chad Greenway was limited with a wrist injury.
SOMEWHERE OVER MICHIGAN -- Hello from the air on the way to the New York area, where the Minnesota Vikings will make their only appearance of the season on "Monday Night Football" tomorrow night. I've been kicking around the Vikings' injury situation this morning, and wanted to discuss it a little bit here after doing some research on it.

Many of you know the Vikings had remarkably good fortune with injuries in 2012. Yes, they lost Percy Harvin after nine games, but they managed to get through the season without any other major season-ending injuries and generally got players back on the field after week-to-week ailments. What you might not realize is just how fortunate the Vikings were with injuries last season. In fact, according to Football Outsiders' Adjusted Games Lost statistic -- which takes into account the importance of players lost to injury and how many players were playing hurt after being listed as probable, questionable or doubtful on the injury report -- the Vikings were the second-healthiest team in the league last season.

They lost just 30.9 adjusted games, according to Football Outsiders, trailing only San Francisco's AGL of 16.2. That probably played a significant role in the Vikings' ability to go 10-6 and reach the playoffs; eight of the 12 postseason teams from last year had AGLs in the league's top half, and only Washington (29th), Indianapolis (30th) and Green Bay (32nd) were in the bottom four of the league. What's more, the Vikings were relatively healthy in 2011, as well, with a 48.8 AGL that ranked 10th in the league.

(Perhaps not surprisingly, the Vikings' 55.4 AGL in 2010 was 20th in the league, joining with a number of other factors to contribute to the team's famously bizarre 6-10 season. But generally, the Vikings have been among the league's healthier teams in the last few years; their average AGL from 2008-10 was 10th-best in the NFL.)

If you believe these things are cyclical, you were probably a little nervous about how the Vikings would fare, injury-wise, in 2013. It's one of the reasons I picked them to slide back to 8-8 (a prediction that looks pretty optimistic now), and the Vikings absorbed their first two big injury blows this week when they put linebacker Desmond Bishop (torn ACL) and safety Harrison Smith (turf toe) on injured reserve, designating Smith to return if he doesn't need surgery in eight weeks. Those two injuries could be haymakers to a struggling defense, and the Vikings have weathered other injury problems on that side of the ball this season, as well, missing Kevin Williams (knee), Chris Cook (groin) and Jamarca Sanford (hamstring) for a game each and A.J. Jefferson (ankle) for two.

Things have been better so far on the offensive side of the ball, with only quarterback Christian Ponder (rib) missing a game among the Vikings' normal starters. But left tackle Matt Kalil is questionable for Monday's game with back tightness, and running back Adrian Peterson is playing through a hamstring injury. Peterson came back from a torn ACL, played with a sprained ankle, somehow stayed on the field with a sports hernia for half the season and still ran for 2,097 yards last year, so he's obviously unique when it comes to pain tolerance, but a hamstring injury can be awfully detrimental to a running back if it flares up.

We'll have a fuller picture of the Vikings' injury situation at the end of the season, of course, and they still might be among the healthier teams in the division (Bears and Packers fans would probably point out the presence of Henry Melton and Randall Cobb on injured reserve, among others). But if this week's bad injury news continues, it might mean the other shoe has dropped -- and stubbed the Vikings' toes, so to speak -- after a run of good health.

Adrian Peterson likely to play Monday

October, 19, 2013
10/19/13
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is likely to play with a hamstring injury on Monday night against the New York Giants, coach Leslie Frazier said on Saturday. Peterson missed practice on Friday, but was back at practice with the team on Saturday and will be listed as probable for the game, Frazier said.

"He practiced well today," Frazier said. "That was encouraging."

Frazier said offensive tackle Matt Kalil will be listed as questionable with back tightness. Though Kalil said he expects to play on Monday if he doesn't have any setbacks, he will need to wait and see how he feels on game day before making a final determination.

Kalil is listed as questionable on the Vikings' injury report.

"I'll see where I'm at Monday, and see if I can play. I can judge that, if it's going to hurt me or if I can play," he said. "From the way I felt yesterday and the way I felt today, if it keeps progressing, I'm pretty confident in Monday."

In other Vikings injury news:
  • Cornerback A.J. Jefferson was listed as doubtful with a sprained ankle, but Frazier said the Vikings plan to hold him out on Monday. It will be the second game he's missed in the Vikings' past three, and the decision means Jacob Lacey, who re-signed with the team this week after getting cut at the end of training camp, will likely be active.
  • Kicker Blair Walsh (left hamstring) and cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle) returned to full participation on Saturday. Both are probable for Monday.
  • Wide receiver Rodney Smith, who was elevated from the practice squad to the active roster this week, will likely miss Monday's game, Frazier said. Officially, Smith is questionable with a hip injury, but Frazier said Smith was likely to be among the Vikings' inactives anyway.
  • Defensive end Jared Allen was limited for a second straight day with an ankle injury, but is probable for Monday.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Adrian Peterson missed practice for the Minnesota Vikings on Friday because of a hamstring issue that also limited the running back on Thursday, but coach Leslie Frazier said there is no major concern about Peterson missing the Vikings' Monday night game against the New York Giants.

Peterson
Peterson
"His hamstring was a little tight, so we held him out of practice," Frazier said. "We expect Adrian to practice tomorrow."

The Vikings also kept cornerback A.J. Jefferson (sprained ankle) and offensive tackle Matt Kalil (back tightness) out of practice, but Frazier said both players are likely to practice on Saturday, as well. Of those three players, Jefferson seems most likely to possibly miss Monday's game against the Giants; he did not practice on Thursday, and was out of the Vikings' Sept. 29 game with the Pittsburgh Steelers because of the injury.

Frazier also said the Vikings are waiting to see if safety Harrison Smith's turf toe will require surgery, and based on what the coach said, the only chance Smith would have to return this season would be if he can recover without surgery. Smith is on injured reserve with a designation to return in eight weeks, but if he did need an operation, Frazier said, he would face a four-to-six month recovery, which would obviously end his season.

Essentially, the Vikings' only chance to get Smith back this season is if his injury heals on its own -- or at least improves to the point where he can play through it.

"We're going to take this approach and re-evaluate it at the end of that six weeks (before Smith can practice)," Frazier said. "There's a possibility he won't need it. There's some guys that haven't had to do it. We'll see if he can go out and do anything, and if not, we'll take the next approach."

In other Vikings' injury news:
  • Kicker Blair Walsh (left hamstring) was back to limited participation in practice after sitting out on Thursday; Walsh played last Sunday with the injury, but did not kick off.
  • Defensive end Jared Allen appeared on the injury report for the first time, his participation limited because of an ankle injury.
  • Wide receiver Jarius Wright (ankle) returned to full participation, and cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle) was limited again.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson returned to practice on Thursday after attending a funeral for his 2-year-old son on Wednesday, but Peterson was limited because of a hamstring injury.

Peterson has not been on the Vikings' injury report because of a hamstring ailment this year, and while a major injury would likely have kept Peterson out of the entire practice, a lingering hamstring issue could pose a problem for the reigning NFL MVP on Monday night against the New York Giants. The Vikings, of course, construct their offense heavily around Peterson, and they're certainly hoping he'll be ready to go with Josh Freeman playing his first game this week.

We'll continue to monitor Peterson's status. If he can't play, Toby Gerhart would start at running back.

In other Vikings injury news:
  • Cornerback A.J. Jefferson (ankle) did not participate; he was initially injured in Week 3 against the Cleveland Browns, and coach Leslie Frazier said Jefferson's injury flared up on him this week.
  • Kicker Blair Walsh (hamstring) also missed practice. Walsh did not kick off on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers because of the same injury, which is to his non-kicking leg, but was still available for field goal duty.
  • Cornerback Xavier Rhodes was limited with a sprained ankle. So was defensive tackle Kevin Williams (knee) and wide receiver Jarius Wright (ankle).
  • Quarterback Christian Ponder (rib), center John Sullivan (hand) and tight end Rhett Ellison (knee) were full participants.
  • Lastly, as we discussed earlier today, Harrison Smith (turf toe) missed practice, and could head to injured reserve if he needs surgery.

Robinson stays in Vikings' lineup

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings seem hopeful they'll get Chris Cook and Jamarca Sanford back from injury in time for Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers, but those are the only changes coach Leslie Frazier expects in his secondary this week.

Cornerback Josh Robinson, who has become a favorite target for both fans and opposing quarterbacks in the first four games of the season, will continue to start in the Vikings' base defense, Frazier said. Robinson has been targeted a league-high 38 times, according to Pro Football Focus, and the 35 receptions he's allowed are also the most in the league.

He's probably struggled as much as the slot corner in the Vikings' nickel package as he has in the base defense, but the Vikings would have an easier time making a change in their base defense. They could move Xavier Rhodes to the same left cornerback spot in the base that he plays in the nickel. With Robinson in the slot, though, the Vikings' options are somewhat limited.

Other than Cook and Rhodes, the Vikings only have two other corners on the roster (A.J. Jefferson and Marcus Sherels). Sherels did well with Cook out of the lineup, but Jefferson has struggled this season and was nursing an ankle injury earlier. The Vikings have had contact with Antoine Winfield about coming out of retirement, but they might not have the salary cap room to make a move now that they've signed Brian Robison to a contract extension; they started Wednesday with just over $692,000 of cap space, though a person with direct knowledge of the situation said they cleared some cap space with the way they structured Robison's deal.

So for now, the Vikings appear set with Robinson, hoping the second-year corner shows some improvement soon.

Vikings injury report: Cook, Sanford out

September, 27, 2013
9/27/13
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WATFORD, England -- Along with quarterback Christian Ponder, the Vikings ruled out defensive backs Chris Cook and Jamarca Sanford for Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, leaving their secondary thin heading into a game that they probably need to win in order to keep their season from careening off course.

The Vikings will likely keep rookie Xavier Rhodes at his left cornerback spot in the nickel -- coach Leslie Frazier said earlier this week the Vikings don't want to take him out of his routine there -- but it remains to be seen whether A.J. Jefferson or Marcus Sherels will get more work at Cook's right cornerback spot in the base defense. Jefferson injured his ankle shortly after Browns receiver Josh Gordon caused him to bite hard on a double move on the way to a 47-yard touchdown last week, and Sherels was serviceable in the base defense once Jefferson didn't return.

After Sanford left last week, safety Andrew Sendejo took his place, with Mistral Raymond de-activated for the game. It stands to reason both players will be active on Sunday, and though Sendejo will likely get more snaps than Raymond, this could be an opportunity for Raymond -- who was a starter last year before an ankle injury opened the door for Sanford -- to reassert himself.

In any case, the Vikings could have their hands full against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, whose MO has long been to hold the ball, extend plays and burn cornerbacks who can't stick with their receivers for six or seven seconds. Roethlisberger's receiving group is depleted, and his battered offensive line could have its hands full with Jared Allen and company, but if the quarterback can stay upright, he might be able to find some big plays downfield against the Vikings' depleted secondary.

In other Vikings injury news:
  • We discussed Ponder's status here, and will have more in a little bit on what it means for Matt Cassel and the Vikings' plans at the QB position.
  • Tight end Rhett Ellison will miss his second straight game with a hyperextended knee.
  • Running back Matt Asiata (hamstring) returned to full participation as did defensive tackle Kevin Williams (knee). Both are probable for Sunday.
  • Long snapper Cullen Loeffler (neck) and LB Erin Henderson (heel) participated in full, and are probable.
  • Running back Adrian Peterson was back at work after being limited because of a coach's decision on Thursday. That offers further confirmation that the Vikings were trying to get him a break -- and in light of their quarterback situation, they need him ready for a heavy workload on Sunday.
WATFORD, England -- Defensive back Chris Cook didn't practice again for the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday, walking out to the team's practice field in England without pads, and the possibility of the cornerback missing Sunday's game seems to be increasing.

Cook
Cook
Cook left last Sunday's game early with a groin strain, and he had a groin injury in the Vikings' third preseason game against San Francisco. He was hopeful he would be able to practice on Friday, but if he can't, the Vikings would likely rule him out for Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"The fact that he's not able to practice today leads you to believe it may be difficult tomorrow," Frazier said. "He wants to try tomorrow, so we'll see."

The Vikings got safety Jamarca Sanford and cornerback A.J. Jefferson back at practice in a limited capacity on Thursday, but it remains to be seen if they'd have either player healthy on Sunday. Frazier said the Vikings would likely have to add a cornerback to their roster if Cook and Jefferson were both out, since they would only have three healthy cornerbacks in that scenario. The easiest move -- especially considering the team is in London -- would be to elevate Robert Steeples from the practice squad, but general manager Rick Spielman said yesterday that assistant GM George Paton is still in Minnesota to give the Vikings a front-office member in the U.S. this week in case they needed to make a roster move, so it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility that the Vikings could sign someone and fly him to England for Sunday's game.

Looking at the rest of the Vikings' injury report:
  • Quarterback Christian Ponder was limited again because of his rib injury, but backup Matt Cassel said Ponder did the majority of the work on Thursday, and Ponder said he was comfortable playing with extra padding on his ribs. We've got more on that situation here.
  • Running back Adrian Peterson was limited because of a coach's decision on Thursday, but Frazier has built in breaks for the running back before, and it's probably safe to assume that's what happened here, especially since if Peterson had an injury, it would be listed on the injury report.
  • Running back Matt Asiata (hamstring) returned to full participation on Thursday.
  • Tight end Rhett Ellison (knee) was out of practice again.
  • Defensive tackle Kevin Williams (knee) was limited, and linebacker Erin Henderson (heel) and long snapper Cullen Loeffler (neck) were again full participants.
A weekly examination of the Vikings' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 17 | Last Week: 23 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Vikings continue to slip in our Power Rankings primarily because of how bad their defense has been. They have allowed the most touchdown passes in the league (nine), and they've already given up nearly 1,000 yards passing in three games. Cornerbacks Chris Cook and A.J. Jefferson, as well as safety Jamarca Sanford, could be hard-pressed to return from injuries in time to play on Sunday against the Steelers, and although Pittsburgh doesn't present an obvious threat in the passing game, neither did the Browns last week. Third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer still threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns, recovering from a pair of interceptions to become the second straight quarterback to beat the Vikings on a two-minute drill.

If the Vikings can't win in London on Sunday, there could be changes afoot after their bye week. Quarterback Christian Ponder has continued to struggle, and a week off might provide the perfect juncture for the Vikings to switch to Matt Cassel. The veteran quarterback had plenty of his own struggles in the preseason and is coming off a miserable year with the Chiefs. Moreover, a switch to Cassel would trigger all sorts of larger questions about Ponder and the decision-makers (general manager Rick Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier) who used the 12th overall pick on him in 2011. Ponder hasn't been the Vikings' only problem, and with surprising lapses on their offensive line, he might not even be their biggest concern on offense. But he's certainly high on the list, and absent a complete performance on Sunday, the Vikings might decide that lifting him is one way to give their team a spark.

Cook, Sanford, Jefferson to have MRIs

September, 23, 2013
9/23/13
1:40
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Defensive backs Chris Cook, Jamarca Sanford and A.J. Jefferson will all have MRIs on injuries they sustained on Sunday, coach Leslie Frazier said, and the Vikings should know more on Monday afternoon about how many of those players will be available for their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Cook and Sanford had a strained groin and hamstring, respectively, so MRIs for those players are likely to confirm they did not tear a muscle. Jefferson replaced Cook gave up a 47-yard touchdown to Cleveland's Josh Gordon on Sunday afternoon, and was out of the game with an ankle injury for the Vikings' next series.

As the Vikings head overseas to prepare for their game in London, their cornerback depth looks like it could be a major issue. They have already allowed more than 1,000 passing yards this season, and though Marcus Sherels acquitted himself nicely on Sunday, the Vikings only had three healthy cornerbacks by the end of the game. They left rookie Xavier Rhodes out of their base defense, wanting to keep him at the left cornerback spot where he'd played in the nickel rather than moving him to the right side, but Frazier said that could change depending on whether Cook or Jefferson is available for Sunday's game.

"We'd have to get him a little work there. He's worked exclusively on the left side," Frazier said. "We have to be careful about that with a young guy, not that we couldn't do that, not that we may not do that. We'll explore all avenues depending on what happens with Chris [Cook] from a health standpoint. But we'll re-evaluate it after, at some point during the day."

Rhodes said he played both the left and right cornerback spots at Florida State and didn't seem apprehensive about the possibility of moving over there. Even if the Vikings tried that, though, they'd need to add depth at the position if Cook or Jefferson has to sit out. They have rookie Robert Steeples on their practice squad, but they typically carry five active cornerbacks into a game, and might need to look for outside help if any of the injuries are severe.

Vikings' secondary a primary concern

September, 22, 2013
9/22/13
10:30
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Those harboring some anxiety about the Vikings' secondary probably were doing so before Sunday, when the team lost three defensive backs to injury and gave up 321 passing yards to an offense with a third-string quarterback and no discernible running game. The Vikings had given up 641 passing yards in their first two games, losing to Chicago last week after a breakdown in the game's final seconds.

[+] EnlargeMinnesota's Jamarca Sanford
AP Photo/Jim MoneJamarca Sanford was one of three Vikings' defensive backs to leave the game with an injury.
But after the Vikings' 31-27 loss to the Cleveland Browns in their home opener on Sunday, their issues stopping the pass are out in the open. There can be no hiding them, not after Brian Hoyer torched the Vikings for 321 yards and rebounded from two second-half interceptions to lead another game-winning drive, and not after Chris Cook, Jamarca Sanford and A.J. Jefferson left the game because of injuries.

The Vikings have forced 10 turnovers in three games (no small feat for a defense that ranked 22nd in takeaways last season), but so far, the team's decision to gamble on young defensive backs appears to be backfiring. And now, Cook is nursing a groin injury for the second time in a month. Sanford has a strained hamstring, and Jefferson (who was burned for a 47-yard touchdown after Cook left the game) sprained his ankle. Coach Leslie Frazier didn't know the severity of the injuries on Sunday, but didn't sound optimistic that he'd be traveling to London with a full complement of defensive backs for next Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"You don’t want to start getting into your depth this early in the season and losing Jamarca and Chris and potentially A.J. That’s a concern," Frazier said. "We’ll have to see how they progress over the course of the week and just means that other guys will have to step up and play well for us."

By the end of the game on Sunday, the Vikings were using Marcus Sherels in their base defense at right cornerback, with Josh Robinson staying on the left side. First-round pick Xavier Rhodes stayed only in the team's nickel defense, Frazier said, because the Vikings wanted to keep him at the left cornerback spot there and not overload him with responsibilities.

Depending on how many healthy cornerbacks the Vikings have for this week's game, though, their plans could change quickly. They hadn't made strong overtures to retired cornerback Antoine Winfield, and it's unknown if the team would have interest in bringing the 36-year-old back. But Winfield was unquestionably the Vikings' best cornerback last year, and his absence has been noticeable early this season as the Vikings try to figure out how to play without him.

The rash of injuries they sustained on Sunday likely won't help them turn things around.

"Defense is what needs to go out there and make plays," Sanford said. "The last couple of weeks we have come up short. We just need to continue to keep working and not complain because it won’t make a difference. We just need to keep working and stay together."
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Vikings' secondary depth, which already looked like an issue early this season, is being tested against the Cleveland Browns today.

Right cornerback Chris Cook is questionable to return with a groin injury, and A.J. Jefferson -- who got beat on a stop-and-go move for a 47-yard Josh Gordon touchdown after he replaced Cook -- has also received treatment on the sideline for an apparent leg injury. Marcus Sherels, the team's fifth cornerback, is currently playing the right cornerback spot in the Vikings' base defense while first-round pick Xavier Rhodes is only on the field in the team's nickel package, playing left cornerback while Josh Robinson moves to the slot.

All that has helped the Browns -- who are starting third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer -- tally up 161 yards passing and 17 points in the first 1 1/2 quarters of the game.

The Vikings' cornerback situation seemed like it could become an issue when the team cut Antoine Winfield in March, but what's been puzzling so far today is how the Vikings have used Rhodes. Evidently, they aren't comfortable moving him across the field in their base defense and asking him to play a different side of the field than what he's done in the nickel. Cook is usually responsible for facing an opposing team's best receivers, so the Vikings might not trust Rhodes to handle that yet.

In any case, they're struggling with Hoyer in their home opener, and their cornerback depth is a big reason why.

UPDATE: Cook was officially ruled out for the rest of the game at halftime. The Vikings will have to finish this one without him.

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