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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Second-year corner Trae Waynes still waiting for his chance with Vikings

By Bo Mitchell

MANKATO — With the obvious caveat that it’s still awfully early in training camp, the Trae Waynes era doesn’t appear to be materializing quite yet. The second-year cornerback is still running on the second-team defense behind veteran Terence Newman and has a few things to work on before he begins garnering more playing time.

Vikings fans shouldn’t necessarily interpret that as a bad thing, though.

The expectations for Waynes’ rookie season were inflated –perhaps unfairly — after the team made him the highest-drafted defensive back in franchise history, 11th overall.

It became clear early on, however, that Waynes had some work to do in his coverage technique. He tended to bite on double moves and made a habit of collecting pass interference penalties in the preseason (e.g. the Hall of Fame game against the Steelers). Those tendencies led head coach Mike Zimmer to label the rookie as being too “handsy” with receivers. Limited primarily to special teams during the regular season, Waynes eventually earned one start, drew one penalty and had five deflected passes on the season, but he was a stalwart on special teams.

His biggest highlight came in the postseason game against the Seahawks, where he flashed during the second half and snagged his first career interception.

Waynes opened camp this summer where he left off last season, but his steady progress has not gone unnoticed by the head coach.

“He seems a lot more comfortable in everything he’s doing,” Zimmer observed Sunday. “I think he’s done better getting out of his breaks. The kid has got great acceleration.”

It was that acceleration – that 4.31 speed — that quite literally separated Waynes from the cornerback pack as a rookie, as he recorded the fastest 40-yard dash time at the NFL scouting combine.

The athleticism is definitely there. The coverage techniques are still being refined, though.

“I’ve been working with him quite a bit, trying to finish plays a little bit better,” Zimmer said. “I think that’s what he needs to do. He’s been really close a lot of times. There was a play yesterday – it was kind of a crossing route – and instead of going in front of the receiver to knock the ball down, he goes behind him and gets shielded by the receiver’s body. So it’s some of those things that he has to continue to develop.”

Fortunately for the Vikings, they can afford to be patient with their speedy, young corner. On many teams, the 23-year-old would probably have already been pressed into a starting job, but the Vikings have the luxury of having the soon-to-be 38-year-old Newman around for one more season.

“He looks like he always does,” Zimmer said of the veteran. “Very intelligent, smart, helping a lot of the other guys.”

Like a durable old pair of sweat pants, Newman represents comfort to the Vikings’ coaching staff. They know he knows where to be, what to do and how to do it. As one of the NFL’s elder statesmen, he can still get it done despite playing a position that often matches him up against faster, (much) younger opponents. Newman even earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors last season following a two-interception effort in the Week 10 win over the Oakland Raiders.

“I really don’t see too much difference,” Zimmer added Sunday after watching Newman in camp for a few days. “He’s the same guy. He works the same.”

The clock is ticking for both Waynes and Newman. The kid just needs to smooth out some rough edges before he gets his chance to make his mark in what should be a very good Vikings defense that ranked 12th against the pass last season. The expectation is he makes those strides before the veteran loses another step.

Take a deep breath, Vikings fans. Waynes will get that chance this season – precisely when that happens will depend on him.

The post Second-year corner Trae Waynes still waiting for his chance with Vikings appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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