EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — Rashod Hill might not take part in the joint practices with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Minnesota Vikings this week because of a minor injury.
Perhaps, then, he’ll have a brief moment to reflect on his progressing career, considering the presence on the same field of his former and current team. An undrafted practice squad player with the Jaguars just two years ago, Hill has become a key cog on a championship contender as the front runner at right tackle.
Standing 6-foot-6 with a mobile 315-pound frame sure helps, but he never would have made it this far without the willingness to learn and a determination to work that helped give the Vikings confidence Hill can be a quality NFL starter.
“He’s an extremely athletic guy that has been getting better and better,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “Sometimes later in the game his concentration leaves him a little bit, so that’s where we’ll have to extend him more plays so he gets used to doing those things. He’s done a really nice job. He’s moving well in the running game. When he sets good in the passing game, he’s really hard to get around. He’s done some good things.”
Zimmer made those comments on Monday, before Hill rolled his ankle in practice in a tangle with nose tackle Linval Joseph and was taken away on a cart. Hill returned to the field that afternoon and said afterward the injury was not a concern, but he was held out on Tuesday.
The Jaguars, who signed Hill out of Southern Mississippi in 2016, join the Vikings for practices on Wednesday and Thursday before their exhibition game at U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday.
“I’m looking forward to seeing them,” Hill said.
The Jaguars were second in the league with 55 sacks last season and second behind the Vikings in both fewest yards and points allowed, so they’ll provide a valuable test for the work-in-progress Vikings offensive line this week. The challenge will not include defensive end Dante Fowler, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, because he’s being kept home as punishment for fighting with fellow defensive end Yannick Ngakoue .
“Guys just bought into the program, and I knew they were going to take off,” Hill said, assessing the Jaguars defense.
Hill, who was on the practice squad with the Jaguars when the Vikings signed him away a little more than halfway through the 2016 season, started seven games last year including both matchups in the playoffs.
The Vikings are down both starting guards from 2017, with Joe Berger retired and Nick Easton sidelined by a likely season-ending neck injury, so they moved right tackle Mike Remmers to right guard. There’s an obvious need on the interior, but the Vikings surely wouldn’t have switched Remmers if they weren’t sold on Hill’s ability to man that critical position.
Hill already had a setback earlier in training camp with a sudden stomach illness that kept him out of action for a few days, but he said he has gained back all the weight he lost and started practice on Monday at 317 pounds, in the range of his ideal size.
“We’re just happy he’s back and feeling better,” offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said last week. “You’ll see his stamina continue to grow as we go along.”