The Vikings opened their season with Mike Hughes and rookie Cameron Dantzler at cornerback and Holton Hill entering when Minnesota took a linebacker off the field and switched to its nickel defense. Considering how often NFL teams are in nickel, that meant that Hughes, Dantzler and Hill were starters.
The Vikings had stuck with Hill through two separate four-game suspensions handed down by the NFL during the 2019 offseason because they thought the undrafted third-year player had the ability to become a starter. Now, he had his chance. It didn’t last long. Hill struggled playing an outside corner and suffered a foot injury that had sidelined him since Week 5. On Tuesday, the Vikings decided to waive him off injured reserve.
The decision to move on from Hill is an interesting one considering the time and investment the Vikings made in him. Hill hadn’t been selected out of Texas in the 2018 draft because he reportedly failed a drug test at the NFL Scouting Combine. But the Vikings then gave him the most guaranteed money of all their undrafted free agents, agreeing to a $15,000 signing bonus and $60,000 in base salary guarantees.
Hill, 23, appeared in all 16 games as a rookie, starting three times. He had an interception, seven pass breakups and contributed 36 tackles on special teams. But Hill was limited to eight games (and one start) last season after being suspended for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy and then for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs.
Hill started two of the four games in which he played this season, finishing with a sack, three pass breakups and 24 tackles.
What’s interesting is only one of the three corners who played the majority of the snaps in Week 1 is still seeing regular time. That would be Dantzler, a third-round pick, who had an interception (the first by a Vikings cornerback this season), a forced fumble and a recovery on Sunday in a win over Jacksonville.
Hughes, the Vikings’ first-round pick in 2018, was placed on injured reserve in late October because of a neck injury. Dantzler and Jeff Gladney, a first-round pick in April, started at cornerback on Sunday. Kris Boyd saw extensive time in the nickel defense, with Gladney moving inside when Minnesota went to three corners. Gladney suffered a calf injury in the fourth quarter and was replaced by rookie fifth-round pick Harrison Hand in the nickel defense.