In the Minnesota Vikings’ first preseason game, Waynes played 82 percent of the defensive snaps, second-most on the team. Since then, Waynes has continued a heavily involved role (although not nearly that high) as the coaches look to get him more experienced and ready for game action.
The result, so far, was Waynes’ best game Saturday night against the Dallas Cowboys, according to Zimmer.
“He was in position the entire night,” Zimmer said. “I’m not sure if his guy caught any balls on him. His technique was much better this last time. I thought he was in the right position much better and there was some things that we had to talk about on the sideline, but for the most part I thought this was by far his best performance.”
The Vikings’ first-round pick has been getting extra attention from coaches, especially Zimmer, throughout the offseason and training camp.
His usage in the preseason opener, at 82 percent, remains a high-water playing time for him, but he has averaged about 50 percent of the defensive snaps in the three games since during a high-rotation time for other players.
Last week, defensive coordinator George Edwards said he hoped to get the Waynes ready for a starting role by the regular season. However, Zimmer tapped the brakes on that thinking Monday.
“I read that and I didn’t agree with what George said, to be honest with you. I think it was interpreted incorrectly,” Zimmer said. “When he said, ‘That’s what we’re all wanting to do …’ I don’t think he specifically meant Trae. We’ll see where that goes.”
The Vikings have two quality starting cornerbacks already with Terence Newman and Xavier Rhodes, but Waynes could increase his role for the regular season with continued progress.
“I think we have some talent at that position. I think other than the one throw that Amari Cooper caught on Newman, he’s been very solid,” Zimmer said. “Xavier’s been solid. Waynes had his best game this last week. So these guys all have a lot of ability in what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to teach – the acceleration out of breaks, getting in the right position, being able to play man to man – those things are all things that we like.”
Newman has been holding off any perceived challenges by Waynes or Captain Munnerlyn at left cornerback, and Rhodes has always been considered the starter at right cornerback after his solid second season in the NFL last year. However, Zimmer said he would like to see more consistency from Rhodes.
“He didn’t help the situation the other night on that long pass. He has to be not just a good cover guy. He’s got to be a complete player,” Zimmer said. “The first third down they checked to that little wide receiver screen and he came up there and knocked the guy pretty good, but the overall parts of the game, understanding the game more, understanding what offenses are trying to do by formation. Sometimes Xavier wants to just go out there and, ‘OK, this is what I do’ instead of understanding everything about it – where offenses are trying to attack. Those are the next progressions in his development.”
Zimmer said that can be a “multi-year” process for cornerbacks to get to that level of understanding, but he believes Rhodes is starting to get there. Still, more off-field work is needed.
“A lot of times if you do a good job studying you can have an idea what kind of concepts this offense is running and you might get this certain split in this play. Those things would help him out a lot, but it takes some extra work,” Zimmer said.
Newman can help the younger cornerbacks with that, and if Rhodes is willing to listen to Zimmer, the coach said, then Rhodes can become “a great player as opposed to just a good player.”