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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Mackensie Alexander’s growth tied to being coachable

By Matthew Coller

According to Mike Zimmer, the biggest difference between 2016 Mackensie Alexander and the 2017 version is simple.

“He listens,” the Vikings’ head coach said Wednesday.

Alexander, who has taken all of the first-team reps in nickel packages during training camp, was praised by his head coach on Wednesday as the cornerback who has taken the largest step forward in camp.

“Alexander has done good, he’s done really good, especially in the slot, he’s playing a lot more in the slot, he’s done really good, so I’d say he’s the guy that’s jumped up the most,” Zimmer said.

The Vikings’ 2016 second-round pick played just 68 snaps last season. He was targeted 13 times and gave up 9.8 Yards Per Attempt and one touchdown, according to Football Outsiders data and was flagged three times for 28 penalty yards.

Zimmer acknowledged earlier this offseason that the team had trouble getting through to Alexander in his rookie year, but said that the former Clemson star changed his tune so much that he spoke to rookies about his experience.

Young cornerbacks couldn’t dream of a better situation than the one they have in Minnesota. Not only has Zimmer coached the likes of Deion Sanders, but veteran Terence Newman is a coach on the field, Xavier Rhodes has grown into a star corner and DB coach Jerry Grey was a Pro Bowler in his day.

On Monday, Newman appeared to be giving pointers as he spent a chunk of practice standing next to Alexander on the sideline. Last year, that probably wouldn’t have happened.

The Vikings have shown a great deal of confidence in their young nickel CB. There were opportunities to sign free agents like Nickell Robey-Coleman or re-sign veteran Captain Munnerlyn, who had a solid 2016 season.

Behind Alexander, there are very few players with experience within the cornerback group. Antone Exum Jr., the current second string slot corner, hasn’t played since 2015 and played safety when he did appear

“One thing he’s been, he’s being pretty consistent right now with the technique and the fundamentals and doing a good job mentally with the calls and the communications,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said Wednesday. “We just look for him to keep that consistency going, and to keep getting better at the things we’re asking him to get better at.”

Alexander will have to be consistent this season because the Vikings face a number of high-powered offenses, including the New Orleans Saints in Week 1 and the Atlanta Falcons later in the year. Zimmer plays nickel packages around 70% of the time, so he will be an important piece to slowing down top passing games.

One trend that has carried over from last year is that Alexander rarely speaks with the media. He declined multiple requests in Mankato and elected to not speak on Wednesday.

The post Mackensie Alexander’s growth tied to being coachable appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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