Former Vikings Corner Has a Chance at Revenge on Sunday

Former Vikings Corner Has a Chance at Revenge on Sunday

Oct 9, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson (38) runs with the ball against Detroit Lions cornerback Mike Hughes (23) during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Leading up to Week 14, much has been written about T.J. Hockenson. The star TE was a top-10 selection for the Detroit Lions in 2019. Earlier in the season, though, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah pulled off a sensational trade, one that brought Hockenson to Minnesota. While a lot of the focus has been on his return to Detroit, former Vikings corner Mike Hughes is also playing his old team.

In the 2018 Draft, Rick Spielman made Hughes a first-round selection. Corner was a position of strength for Minnesota – they had Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander on the team – but Mike Zimmer was well known for always wanting more corner talent. The thinking was that Hughes could be yet another strong defender and could even help with the returns.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go great for the former Vikings corner. He only played in 6 games as a rookie due to an injury, finishing the year with an INT, 3 PDs, and 22 tackles. As a sophomore, he was involved in 14 games, but only had 3 starts. The 2020 season brought along 4 games and just 2 starts.

It wasn’t completely shocking, then, when Spielman decided to move on from Hughes. Before the 2021 season, Spielman sent Hughes and a 7th to Kansas City. The return was a mere 6th-round pick. Hughes went on to play 45% of the defensive snaps for KC (and 38% of the special teams snaps). He appeared in all 17 games, getting 5 starts.

During the offseason, Hughes decided to join the Lions, a team that is currently in 2nd place in the NFC North. So far, he has played in 11 games with 4 starts, piling up 53% of the defensive snaps in that timeframe. He’s playing on a 1-year, $2.25 million deal. It’s possible that a strong finish to the season could lead to a larger payday in the offseason. He’s still only 25.

Somewhat surprisingly, Hughes has 189 snaps as a wide corner and 172 as a slot corner. Given his size – he’s 5’10”, 191 pounds – it’s notable that he’s getting more opportunity along the outside. His 56.5 PFF grade is 81st out of 119 corners. In other words, it hasn’t been a dominant season, though he did finish 18th in the PFF rankings in 2021.

On Sunday, the former Vikings corner will have a shot at revenge on the team that drafted and traded him. Justin Jefferson had a modest game in Week 3, only picking up 3 catches for 14 yards. Much of the credit belongs to Jeff Okudah for containing #18, but Detroit’s CB1 has been battling an illness. Might we see Hughes on Jefferson a touch more in Week 14?

If so, it’ll be a fascinating matchup.

Jefferson has the edge on pretty much any corner he goes against, so it’ll be a tough assignment for Hughes if he does get asked to cover Minnesota’s top receiver. If, however, Hughes mostly stays in the slot, then he could see a bit more Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn (both of whom have more snaps in the slot than Jefferson).

The stakes are pretty high for the upcoming game. Detroit is standing at 5-7, a record that isn’t good enough to be in a playoff spot. They’ll need to pick up a bunch of wins before the season ends to get into the final tournament. Meanwhile, Minnesota is looking to secure the NFC North crown. Getting the win on Sunday would accomplish that goal.

The upcoming game is larger than Hockenson against Detroit and Hughes against Minnesota. Nevertheless, the presence of some players going against their former teams does add an extra layer of intrigue to the already intriguing game.

Editor’s Note: Information from PFF, Pro Football Reference, and Over the Cap helped with this piece.

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