For much of the offseason, training camp and preseason, Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wanted to test first-round pick Trae Waynes and see what he could all do.
Now that he’s seen Waynes covering receivers and defending the run from the nickel cornerback position, Zimmer wants to taper back on Waynes’ responsibilities.
“I actually sat down and watched tape with him myself two days ago, we had a little film session,” Zimmer said. “I’m not letting him play nickel this week, just so he can concentrate on one thing. Maybe I was too overzealous in trying to get him to do too many things.”
Waynes figured to be a glove fit for the Vikings defense, having played at Michigan State the press technique Minnesota employs so often. But, to date, Waynes hasn’t cracked the starting lineup in the base defense. Those two cornerback jobs still belong to Xavier Rhodes and Terence Newman.
Waynes has been backing up Newman at left cornerback.
In the preseason opener, Waynes played 54 defensive snaps, second-most of any Vikings defender. Zimmer wanted to leave him in longer to see how he responded to adversity after picking up three penalties. Last Saturday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Waynes played in 34 snaps, second-most among the defensive players, and didn’t have any penalties.
“In some things he improved on, in some things he didn’t improve as much on,” Zimmer said. “In practice, I keep watching him in the things he’s doing. I think he’s had a better week of practice doing some of the things we’re asking him to do. He’s improving his technique a lot and now there’s some other areas. It’s like every player, we’ve got to work on different areas where we have to keep improving in.”
BARR IS BACKLB Anthony Barr will make his 2015 preseason debut after being held out while the inflammation in his surgically repaired knee subsides.
“He told (head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman) he feels the best he’s felt in a long, long time right now,” Zimmer said. “He’s having fun at practice, he’s excited to get going and now we can start implementing him into things a lot more.”
Barr’s versatility was obvious immediately last year as a rookie. He was a starter from the beginning of the season until his knee injury took him out for the final five games of the season.
Now he’s back in action.
“I just want Anthony to play like he’s capable of playing, no different than anybody else,” Zimmer said. “We’ve got a plan for him going into the game; we’ll use him just like we would anybody else. Just because he dresses doesn’t mean it’s successful.”
THURSDAY PRACTICE NOTES
“It’s a combination of things, really. It’s dehydrated muscles, it’s getting in the position, sometimes it’s over-strengthening, sometimes it’s fatigue,” Zimmer said. “Still, we’re calling around to every expert that we can find and keep digging.”
“I think he’s moving a lot better than he was. He had a good offseason,” Zimmer said. “Unfortunately, when he had the ankle that set him back a little bit, but he was doing good at that point. Now he’s working his way back. He’s much improved from where he was a year ago.”
“I know everybody gets all caught up in the interception he had and the fumble recovery he had, but there’s 118 more plays in a ball game, that’s what I’m concerned about, those kind of things,” Zimmer said. “Can you be consistent, can you do things right, can you make the calls, can you make the checks, can you be in the right position, can you make tackles? The interception was an overthrow and the fumble, somebody else got and he dove on it. Those are not difficult plays for me. We’re still evaluating that position and we’re trying to find guys that can do what we’re asking them to do.”
“I like Shaun and the things he’s doing, but we still have to get ready for the season, so Shaun will get some plays this week and then we will see how it goes the rest of the way,” Zimmer said.