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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings first-rounder Hughes impresses Zimmer, takes first-team reps

By Matthew Coller

If the Minnesota Vikings’ staff and front office made a list of players they hoped would stand out during the opening preseason game against the Denver Broncos, Mike Hughes would have been at or near the top on the defensive side.

Coming in with the second team, the 2018 first-round cornerback played well, blanketing his receivers in coverage and jumping into the backfield off the edge for a run stuff. He was targeted just once in Denver’s passing game in 17 coverage snaps.

His reward for a good night’s work: Reps with the first team during Tuesday’s practice.

“It was part of the plan, I said ‘just give him some,’” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “I want to see how he reacts, I want to see how Mackensie [Alexander] reacts, I want to see how he interacts with the other guys.”

Hughes has been working at nickel and outside corner throughout the offseason, but could have a chance to make noise in the competition for the starting slot job, which currently belongs to Alexander.

One of the toughest parts of playing inside corner is the complex nature of playing the position. Around the league, it’s mostly veterans who start a nickel. Last year 39-year-old Terence Newman won the job away from Alexander.

But with Hughes, the Vikings’ head coach said picking up the defensive scheme has not been an issue.

“Number one, all he’s done is come in and worked,” Zimmer said. “Number two, he’s been really good at understanding a lot of [concepts]. Our scheme is a lot of man within zones. That’s the most difficult thing for these guys to do. They have to do pass-offs, they gotta carry, they gotta work in-and-outs with linebackers and different things and he’s done a really good job with that.”

“I think he’s just a pretty smart kid and things happen quick for him,” Zimmer added.

Hughes is also physically gifted. At the NFL Combine, he ranked in the 84th percentile or higher in the broad jump, 3-cone drill and bench press.

“What sets him apart is he has unbelievable break and quickness coming out of cuts, his feet are unbelievable,” Zimmer said.

Zimmer isn’t the only one who has been impressed with Hughes’ progress. During an interview Saturday night with the broadcast’s sideline reporter, star corner Xavier Rhodes talked about the progress the Vikings’ rookie has made.

“Mike comes out of his break nice,” Rhodes said. “His eyes are right. He’s not looking back at the quarterback, he’s breaking on the ball, getting picks, knocking balls down. To me honestly, he plays like he’s been in the league before and I think years down the road he’s going to be one of the best in the league.”

The next few days could be big for Hughes. The Vikings will match up against the Jacksonville Jaguars in joint practices before playing each other at US Bank Stadium on Saturday. Whether the UCF star receives first-team reps during a preseason game or not will give us an indication of where the competition stands.

“I love when the coaches feel like they can trust me to put me out there with any group,” Hughes said after practice.

The post Vikings first-rounder Hughes impresses Zimmer, takes first-team reps appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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