EAGAN, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings rookie guard Ezra Cleveland won’t play on Sunday, Nov. 22, against Dallas but fullback C.J. Ham could.
Cleveland was ruled out Friday due an ankle injury. But Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer said Ham, placed Thursday on the COVID-19 reserve list, could be activated in time for the 3:25 p.m. game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Cleveland was hurt early in Monday night’s 19-13 win at Chicago and remained in the game but was unable to practice all week. Brett Jones will replace him in the lineup at right guard.
The Vikings listed tight end Irv Smith (groin) and cornerback Cameron Dantzler (concussion) as questionable for Sunday. Smith sat out against the Bears and was limited all week in practice. Dantzler, who has missed the past two games, was a full participant in practice Friday after having been limited in five previous workouts.
If Ham is not able to play Sunday, the Vikings could elevate rookie fullback Josh Bargas off the practice squad for his first NFL game.
Jones will become the fourth different starting right guard this season for Minnesota. Pat Elflein, who has since been waived, started the opener, before Dru Samia got four starts and Cleveland four.
Jones is in his third Vikings season. He started the first three games in 2018 at center when then-center Elflein was hurt. He had 14 starts for the New York Giants in 2016 and 2017, 12 at center and two at guard.
“He’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever been around,” said Vikings center Garrett Bradbury. “When he’s not playing, he almost wears the hat of being kind of a coach because he knows so much about defenses and about schemes. Brett is going to do an awesome job.”
It has been an adventurous year for Jones. He was released just before the season, signed to the practice squad, re-signed to the 53-man roster on Sept. 18 and released again Oct. 27 before being signed again last Monday to the active roster. He has played in the past eight games, including having three recent practice-squad elevations.
“He really likes being here,” Zimmer said. “He likes the guys, I know all the guys in the room like him. The coaches like him. I’m sure it was disappointing at the beginning of the year when we did release him, but we wanted to get him back.”
The Cowboys on Friday listed as out center Tyler Biadasz (hamstring) and as questionable defensive ends Randy Gregory (illness) and DeMarcus Lawrence (illness).
Not worried about targets
Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph has just 18 catches for 238 yards this season. That puts him on pace for just 32 receptions, which would be his lowest output since he had 24 during an injury-riddled 2014.
But the 10-year veteran is not getting caught up with his numbers.
“I’ll do whatever it takes for us to be successful on offense, whatever it takes for us to win football games, and quite honestly, whatever it takes to help this team try to win a championship,’’ Rudolph said. “I know that whether I have one target or 10 targets in the pass game, there’s still going to be 55 to 60 other plays throughout the course of the game that I can impact this offense.”
Rudolph, 31, has gotten plenty of acclaim for his blocking and at least he has caught more passes recently than he had earlier in the season. He has seven receptions for 103 yards in the past two games after not having had more than two catches in six of the first seven games.
In Minnesota’s last game against Dallas, a 28-24 road win on Nov. 10, 2019, Rudolph scored a career-high 14 points. He had two touchdown receptions and a caught a two-point conversion pass.
“I remember it being the day after my (30th) birthday and having a nice steak dinner the night before,’’ Rudolph said.
Familiarity with Dalton
Zimmer has plenty of familiarity with Dallas quarterback Andy Dalton.
Before joining the Cowboys this season, Dalton played for Cincinnati from 2011-19. Zimmer was the Bengals’ defensive coordinator during Dalton’s first three seasons.
“Andy’s a great kid,’’ Zimmer said. “Really good person. Great family. He won an awful lot of games there. I loved being able to go out and compete against him all the time (in practice).’’
Dalton will return Sunday after missing two games due to a concussion and being on the COVID-19 reserve list. Dalton, the backup until Dak Prescott suffered a season-ending ankle injury, in Week 5, will make his third start of the year.
“He’s a very poised quarterback,’’ said Vikings co-defensive coordinator Adam Zimmer, a Cincinnati assistant in Dalton’s third season of 2013. “He’s very smart. He knows where to get the football. He has some playmakers on this offense that he can get it to and he won’t hesitate to do that.”