Rookie cornerback Trae Waynes as a starter on opening day?
“That’s what we’re aiming for,” Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards said after Thursday’s practice. But aiming and expecting are two different things. And even then you have to take what Edwards said with a grain of salt.
Edwards said Waynes, the team’s first-round pick in the 2015 draft (No. 11 overall), showed definite improvement through three preseason games.
“He’s gotten better week to week,” Edwards said. “First week to second, he got better at some things we asked him to get better at. And, in the third game, we thought he got better. Hopefully this week we’ll see some improvement with things we worked on in practice.”
Now, when Edwards talks about Waynes starting, he’s more than likely talking about having him as the third cornerback in the team’s nickel defense.
Waynes is listed behind veteran Terence Newman at left cornerback. But he has been getting most of the snaps as the third corner in nickel situations, with Newman moving inside.
So while the Vikings might be aiming for Waynes to start, or even be the starting nickel, it appears he’ll have to show more consistent production to do so by opening day. “That’s what we’re all working for, but we’ll take it week to week,” Edwards said. “We have two more [preseason] games to go, and we’ll keep evaluating through the process.”
WHAT WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR
Finally, a big Teddy Bridgewater-to-Mike Wallace connection. It came during a seven-on-seven drill when Wallace ran down the left sidelines and grabbed a long Bridgewater pass with one hand.
The next step, of course, is to see it in games. Wallace, brought in during the off-season, has been pretty quiet in the preseason, with just one reception.
Don’t worry, Bridgewater says.
“We do want to get Mike going heading into the regular season,” Bridgewater said. “And he’s a guy who is going to be huge for us in the pass game. He’s going to force teams to give us different looks this year. So we definitely want to get him going, whether it’s this week or definitely going into Week 1.’’
Special teams coach Mike Priefer said, after some intense film work with Blair Walsh on Sunday and a strong week of practice, he expects his kicker to rebound from a difficult game Saturday.
Walsh, coming off an up-and-down 2014 regular season, has struggled during the preseason, going 2-for-6 on field goals. Saturday against Oakland, in the swirling winds at TCF Bank Stadium, he missed two field goals inside 40 yards and an extra point as well as a 49-yard field goal attempt.
“He owned up to it, he came in early on Sunday morning and we watched the tape,” Priefer said. “Some of the mistakes he made were uncommon for him. He’s worked real hard this week to tweak his technique. I just think he needs to get his confidence back. And I think he had a good week of practice. I look forward to him rebounding well this week.”
Center John Sullivan, whose back spasms have kept him out of practice since Thursday of last week, missed practice again. Also missing were T Carter Bykowski (pectoral) and DT Shamar Stephen (knee). TE MyCole Pruitt (knee) was able to do some early work in drills. TE Rhett Ellison, who left practice early Wednesday, was back at work Thursday with a bandage on his nose.