Van Dyke catching onto Zimmer’s teachings

Minnesota Vikings cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke has qualities the coaches like, and he’s liking the coaching he’s getting.

There are a lot of new cornerbacks in the Minnesota Vikings secondary this offseason and a big reason is a lot of them want to play for head coach Mike Zimmer. He is known as a defensive backs specialist, so plenty of players hope to play for him in hopes that they can improve their own game.

One of those players is DeMarcus Van Dyke, who signed with the Vikings this offseason. One of the biggest reasons he signed with the team this offseason was so he could have the opportunity to work with Zimmer, and he already feels as though it is starting to pay off.

“At first I was a little shaky with the technique, but now coach Zim is working me after practice, during practice, to make sure my technique is on point so I think I’m getting there,” he said.

Van Dyke was originally a third-round draft pick by the Oakland Raiders but has never had the opportunity to live up to that. This is only his fourth NFL season, but he has already played for four different teams, and he was out for the entire 2014 season when the Kansas City Chiefs released him in early September and no other team picked him up.

Now he is looking to start over in Minnesota and prove to the coaching staff that he deserves a spot on the team’s roster, and so far he has been doing a good job at doing just that.

“He’s a guy that comes and competes every day,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “He can really run. The biggest thing with him is honing in on the techniques and fundamentals that we’re asking him to do. The big thing is with corners, everyone thinks you go out there and just cover, but there’s a lot of technique depending on the splits of the receivers, depending on if you get stacks, clusters, those types of deals. So there’s a lot of things involved other than just lining up and going and covering. He can line up and run with the best of them, but understanding what we need to get out of him by call, fundamental technique, just keep improving and take that to the game.”

In practice, Van Dyke is often around the ball and making plays, and has even recorded multiple interceptions a couple times. In fact, every day he sets a goal for himself where he wants to record two interceptions. It doesn’t always work, of course, but he feels like it helps him make plays.

Now he just wants to be able to take that playmaking mentality to the field on game days, where it really matters. He knows that you can make plays all you want in practice, but if it does not translate to the field it doesn’t mean much.

Van Dyke comes in at 6-foot-1, 187 pounds, which is a little light, but the coaching staff loves to work with cornerbacks who are long and fast, which should only help his chances to make the roster, as long as he is able to pick up all the little techniques they are trying to teach him.

“We’ve got short corners, we’ve got tall corners,” Edwards said. “We like the longer, linear guys. Sometimes those longer, linear guys have a little bit more trouble getting out of cuts, but they have the long speed, they’re physical, but we like size. We like big corners and we like guys that can run.”

There is currently an interesting situation happening in Minnesota that might allow cornerbacks to have a better chance at making the team. Josh Robinson has been out with a pectoral injury all through training camp and is still sidelined with it. He could end on the physically unable to perform list to start the season, which would mean couldn’t play in the first six games as a minimum. Add to that Jabari Price has to serve a two-game suspension at the beginning of the season.

Having those two guys out means that the Vikings may keep a player they might have otherwise cut, and it opens up the door for guys lower on the depth chart, like Van Dyke.

“There is an opportunity to make the team with two guys being out,” he said. “But I just have to go out and make plays and let it go from there.”

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