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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings pushing second-year CB Trae Waynes to be more aggressive, take starting job

By Andrew Krammer

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Trae Waynes flipped his hips from quarterback to receiver, sprinting stride for stride with Charles Johnson on a go route down the sideline.

Before Teddy Bridgewater’s 40-yard pass fell incomplete, a chorus of ‘ball!’ alerts from teammates and/or coaches aimed to clue in Waynes. To this observer, he was in perfect position as Johnson turned for the pass and met a facemask.

Waynes, the 11th-overall pick from last year, could chalk that one up as a success at left cornerback with the first-team defense during Tuesday’s OTA practice.

Or could he? The Vikings and defensive backs coach Jerry Gray want to see even more from Waynes, who didn’t get his head turned to make a play on the ball.

“What I’ve tried to get him to understand is don’t be afraid to take more chances,” Gray said. “So you have all that ability, use it more. Other than using it as a safe mechanism, use it more of a chance mechanism where it gives me a chance to go make plays.

“That’s what I want to see him do. Can you get out of that comfort zone and take that calculated risk to go make a play? I think that’s what’s going to be his next step.”

The 23-year-old Waynes has come a long way, coaches say, from the three-flag outing in the Vikings preseason opener last August. A rookie season spent primarily practicing defense and playing special teams allowed time to learn NFL rules and how to play physical without being penalized. After all, acquiring a pair of physical bookends at cornerback is why the Vikings used the franchise’s most valuable pick at the position on Waynes (6-0, 190), two years after taking Xavier Rhodes (6-1, 218) in the first round.

“Last year there was a learning curve,” Waynes said. “I feel a lot more comfortable this year. I just want to keep progressing.”

While NFL cornerback is a master’s degree compared to college football, playing under head coach Mike Zimmer, the defensive tactician who led the league’s least-penalized team last season, resembles more of a doctorate program.

“I think things have slowed down for him,” Gray said. “And he’s trying to understand now more chances. How do I take more chances? I’m not learning the system anymore. I should be trying to learn the little bitty things. You shouldn’t have to go through everything all over again. Now that’s behind you. Your next step is, how do you compete with Terence Newman for a starting job?”

In Waynes’ limited playing time (195 snaps, one start), he deflected five passes, nabbed an interception and drew just one penalty. He showed particularly well in the playoff loss to Seattle, when he grabbed a tipped pass for his first pick and deflected another Russell Wilson throw.

The Vikings aren’t going to hand over a starting role, however, as the 37-year-old Terence Newman got a $500,000 raise on a one-year, $3 million deal signed this spring. Newman led the Vikings with three interceptions last season and turns 38 in September.

Who will get to Newman first — Father Time or Waynes? The Vikings coaching staff is pushing for the latter, while the reliable Newman continues to take much of the first-team reps during this offseason program.

“It’s time to continue to push him into making more plays on the ball,” Zimmer said of Waynes. “And that’s what I’m trying to get him to do. My expectation is to get him to be more aggressive in the coverage because he knows what to do now. Now it’s time to go be aggressive.”

With rules preventing pads or press coverage before training camp, Waynes is forced to lean away from his strength of agitating receivers at the line. Zimmer said he’s directing his cornerbacks to improve in off coverage, specifically praising Rhodes’ development after Tuesday’s session.

Waynes, the 2015 draft’s fastest defensive back with a 4.31 time in the 40-yard dash, has the speed to stick with just about any receiver. The entire package of size, physicality and speed attracted the Vikings and now Gray wants to see urgency entering his second season.

“He’s probably one of the most talented guys I’ve been around,” said Gray, the former NFL defensive back entering his 18th season as a coach. “He can run, change direction and do all those things. Now what’s your ‘want to?’ If you want to start, show me you want to start out here. It’s not going to be in the weight room, it’s not going to be other things. Show me you want to start out on the football field. And that’s what’s going to determine that.

“He knows the system, understands what he’s supposed to do. So in order for me to beat him out, I have to play better than Terence. That’s what we tell him.”

In his first offseason, Waynes bounced around the country. He spent a couple weeks in Naples, Fla. to escape the cold weather before venturing out to Orange County, Calif. There he worked out with tight end Kyle Rudolph at their agency’s training facility.

“He’s a quiet kid. He works hard and you can tell he wants to learn,” Rudolph said. “He’s got an incredible opportunity here and I know Trae will work hard.”

The post Vikings pushing second-year CB Trae Waynes to be more aggressive, take starting job appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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