The Minnesota Vikings selected cornerback Trae Waynes with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2015 draft. When a player is drafted that high it usually means they will be a Day 1 starter, but that was not the case for Waynes during his rookie season. He received limited playing time throughout the season and was really only asked to take the field on the defensive side of the ball when one of the starters went down with an injury.
Waynes played in 15 regular-season games during his rookie season, mostly on special teams, and only started one of those. He recorded 19 tackles and five pass breakups on defense during the regular season, while also leading the team in special teams tackles with 14. Waynes also recorded one tackle and an interception during the Vikings’ only playoff game of the season against the Seattle Seahawks.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer specializes in defensive backs and he wanted Waynes to sit for a year behind cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Terence Newman. They are both good players who have been in the NFL for a number of years. With them on the field, the coaching staff did not see a need to rush Waynes.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/vikings/story/1675374-patterson-a-lot-of-things... His rookie season is over now, but Rhodes is still the No. 1 guy in Minnesota and the team re-signed Newman to another one-year deal. That means that Waynes once again finds himself looking up from the second level of the depth chart, working with the second-team defense in organized team activities. A starting position is not going to be handed to him just because he was a first-round pick, not with Zimmer as the head coach, but so far the coaches are happy with his progress.
“We expect him to continue to compete. He’s doing a good job this offseason, he seems to have recalled a lot from his first year,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said of Waynes. “He’s learned a lot. Just continue to work on the fundamentals and the techniques that we’re working between the different concepts that we have coverage-wise in and to take the next step. Take the next step awareness-wise, competition-wise, being able to recall it when we get out here on the field and make plays.”
There is often a big learning curve for cornerbacks coming into the NFL nowadays. The college game is so different from the professional one that they sometimes have to start from scratch once they get drafted. They need to learn what a new team is doing week in and week out and learn the different schemes they are going to use to counteract that. In college, the coaches will often tell his best cornerbacks to just line up on the opponents’ best receiver and not let him catch the ball.
They wouldn’t have to worry about route combinations, blitzing, run support and a number of other things, so sometimes it takes a bit of time to adjust. But the Vikings coaching staff believes Waynes is on the right track this offseason and want to continue to see him applying the things he learned a year ago into what he is doing during these offseason workouts and be confident in the decisions he is making.
“I really think the biggest thing is him coming in and knowing and being confident in what we’re trying to accomplish schematically, defensively and the different techniques that we ask him to play, as opposed to what he was doing in college,” Edwards said. “I think there was a learning curve there. Again, he approached it, he worked hard at it, he had limited reps last year, but we saw some good things when he was able to play.”
With both Newman and Rhodes running with the first-team defense so far this offseason, Waynes once again has an uphill battle in front of him if he hopes to crack the starting lineup. But, with a year of experience under his belt, he is better equipped to handle that challenge and if everything goes his way he could find himself being a Day 1 starter.