The Stefon Diggs drama has not been a total bust for the Vikings. At least they can keep the New York Giants guessing about whether one of the NFL’s best receivers will play Sunday at the Meadowlands.
Diggs missed practice Wednesday for reasons not related to an injury, and his availability for Sunday’s noon kickoff was up in the air after he participated in an outdoor practice Friday at TCO Performance Center in Eagan.
“You’re asking the wrong person, boss,” Diggs said when asked if he’ll play against the Giants. “Ask my coach.”
Mike Zimmer didn’t add any clarity.
“I don’t know. We’ll see,” the head coach told reporters.
If Diggs sits Sunday, Oct. 6, it won’t be as punishment for missing practice on Wednesday.
“No, he’s already been punished,” Zimmer said.
Playing in the first season of a five-year contract extension worth $14.4 million annually, Diggs is one of the NFL’s best. Only 25, he averaged 75.5 receptions and 873.2 yards in his four full NFL seasons but has only 13 catches for 161 yards this season and expressed frustration with the passing game on Thursday.
He’s not alone there. After a 16-6 loss last weekend in Chicago, there was more than enough frustration to go around, although teammates insisted this week they’ve moved on. Minnesota’s passing game is among the league’s worst, ranked 31st in a 32-team league with an average 169 yards a game. Quarterback Kirk Cousins’ 64.6 completion percentage ranks 25th among quarterbacks with at least 30 attempts.
Last season, his first in Minnesota after signing a three-year, $84 million contract, Cousins passed for 4,298 yards and 30 touchdowns, although his QB rating was 88.6, his lowest since becoming a full-time starter. Zimmer expressed optimism that Cousins, ineffective against the Bears until a fourth-quarter drive with time running out, will bounce back this week.
“I feel good about it,” he said.
The time for a bounce-game game appears right. The Giants’ defense ranks 25th in the 32-team league after giving up an average of 389.2 yards and 24.2 points a game. The question for Diggs is whether Zimmer feels the receiver would help the Vikings win after missing the first of the team’s three weekly practices.
“I have to watch tape,” Zimmer said Friday.
Diggs told reporters Thursday he missed practice because of a cold, then added fuel to rumors that he is unhappy in Minnesota and wants to be traded — which started after Diggs posted some ambiguous tweets and started following a few New England Patriots on Instagram.
“I feel like there’s truth to all rumors, you know?” he said. He declined further comment on Friday.
The Vikings (2-2) have been one of the NFL’s best rushing teams in the early season, ranked third in the NFL after averaging 155.5 yards a game — despite being limited to 40 against the Bears. Focus on the running game has drawn some of the blame for the dip in passing numbers, but Zimmer said that’s not the case.
“We’re going to try to have balance, but the passing game, there’s a lot more to it than just throwing and catching,” he said. “You’ve got to have a firm pocket, you’ve got to have protection in the right place, we can’t miss our blocks; and then we’ve got to throw it and catch it — be in the right place, be in the right depths, all kinds of things.”