When Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards was asked about first-round pick Trae Waynes last week, Edwards mentioned the rookie cornerback from Michigan State continues to improve as the preseason has progressed.
Then he was asked if he’s going to be ready to start Week 1.
Edwards responded, “Well, that’s what we’re aiming for, that’s what we’re all working for, but we’ll just take it from week-to-week. We’ve still got two more games to go and just keep evaluating it through the process.”
Taking the response at its base value, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Of course a team would like its first-round pick to be able to enter the fray and upgrade the team as an immediate starter. But Waynes had struggled a bit in the preseason and was running behind starters Xavier Rhodes and Terence Newman.
Of course, Waynes was drafted with the idea to become part of a lockdown starting tandem with Rhodes. But would he really be ready to start Week 1 against San Francisco?
Not so fast, according to Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. The response was taken a bit out of context, according to Zimmer.
“I read that and I didn’t agree with what George said, to be honest with you,” Zimmer said Monday. “I think it was interpreted incorrectly, I think when he said, ‘that’s what we’re all wanting him to do, is we all wanted them to start.’ I don’t think he specifically meant Trae , so we’ll see where that goes.”
Perhaps Edwards was answering about Waynes readiness to be involved Week 1? Either way, Waynes will likely be a part of the sub packages when Minnesota opens the regular season. He has recently been used as the third cornerback on the field, with Newman sliding into the slot.
The rookie, eventually, should find his way into the starting lineup. But Zimmer appears ready to open the season with Rhodes and Newman.
Zimmer isn’t necessarily displeased with his rookie cornerback, who was selected 11th overall.
Zimmer said Waynes’ best performance in a game to date was Saturday’s fourth preseason game against Dallas. Waynes played 29 snaps, second among all cornerbacks for the Vikings against the Cowboys. He finished with one tackle.
“Well, he was in position the entire night,” Zimmer said of Waynes’ play on Saturday. “I’m not sure 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 were some things we had to talk about on the sideline, but for the most part, I thought this was by far his best performance.”
Kendricks has been credited with seven tackles and one pass deflection in the preseason. The waiting game for a starting job will just have to continue.
Minnesota released three cornerbacks Sunday in the effort to get to Tuesday’s 75-man roster limit, parting ways with Jalil Carter, Justin Coleman and DeMarcus Van Dyke.
Zimmer was asked about his confidence in his corners.
“I think we have some talent at that position,” Zimmer said. “I think other than the one throw that Amari Cooper caught on Newman, he’s been very solid. Xavier has been solid. Waynes had his best game this last week. 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 the breaks, getting in the right position, being able to play man-to-man, those things are all things that we like.”
The Vikings did place cornerback Josh Robinson on the reserve/physically unable to perform list on Monday, meaning the fourth-year player will miss the season’s first six games. Minnesota also has Captain Munnerlyn, Jabari Price, Marcus Sherels and Josh Thomas competing for roster spots.
Zimmer said Rhodes needs more consistency, as well.
“He has to be not just a 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. Learning and understanding the game more, understanding what offenses are trying to do by formations. Sometimes Xavier wants to 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.”
Asked what Rhodes needs to continue the development, Zimmer smiled and responded, “By listening to me and paying attention. Focusing on those things that can make him a great as opposed to just a good player.”