MANKATO – Trae Waynes took a step back at Mike Zimmer’s request. With the Vikings coach watching over him, Waynes jammed the receiver with a forceful shove and kept pursuit stride for stride down the sideline.
As soon as receiver Stacy Coley reversed toward the quarterback on a comeback route, Waynes — the 2015 first-round pick in his first preseason as a starting cornerback — stopped, turned and extended his right arm to deflect the pass. Waynes awarded Coley almost no separation. That’s the kind of step forward the Vikings are looking for in the 25-year-old from Michigan State.
“It’s about time!” Zimmer shouted.
Waynes improved last year in his second season, spelling both Xavier Rhodes and Terence Newman with 11 pass deflections and three interceptions in eight starts. Throughout this offseason, Waynes has been in the starting lineup, a promotion the Vikings hope turns into more growth.
“I think he’s where Xavier was two years ago,” defensive backs coach Jerry Gray said. “He was close to making plays and now this is your chance to start. OK, can you take that next step? Can you go from being close to making the interception?”
The Vikings have eased in Waynes, the highest-drafted defensive back in franchise history at 11th overall, with special teams work and 774 defensive snaps in his two seasons. Still, Waynes’ position coach isn’t shying away from expectations for him.
“I expect for Trae to be the best corner in the league,” Gray said. “That’s my expectation. Now I hope he expects the same thing.”
The Vikings have no concern about running back Latavius Murray’s availability for the season opener Sept. 11, according to Zimmer. Murray was limited in his first practices Monday and Tuesday. He will not play Thursday during the preseason opener at Buffalo.
“I still have a lot of catching up to do,” Murray said. “They’ve seen a lot of [Dalvin Cook], he’s been on the field. He’s been playing. He deserves everything that he has right now. I have to prove to the coaches and team that I’m still able to go out there and perform at a high level.”
Laquon Treadwell’s health was a sign of optimism this offseason, but the second-year receiver missed his sixth consecutive practice Tuesday because of a muscle strain in his leg. His unavailability at practice makes it unlikely he will suit up Thursday.
On a positive note, left tackle Riley Reiff practiced for a second consecutive day after returning from a back injury suffered at the start of camp. Reiff has been limited, hasn’t taken contact in practice and also isn’t expected to play Thursday.
Linebacker Kentrell Brothers (hamstring) did not practice Tuesday.
Thielen bids adieu
An early Wednesday morning practice will close the Vikings’ 52nd and final training camp at Minnesota State Mankato. The departure will have an added meaning for receiver Adam Thielen, who first earned a scholarship at MSU Mankato, scored touchdowns at Blakeslee Stadium and rose to prominence with the Vikings on the same practice fields.
“It’ll be bittersweet getting out of the dorm room, that’s for sure,” Thielen said.
Vegas likes Hunter
Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter is a favorite for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, at least at Bovada Sportsbook. The 22-year-old was given 22-1 odds to win the award this season, which would be the Vikings’ first since 1989. Hunter, who will be a first-year starter this season, is seventh on the list, behind J.J. Watt, Khalil Mack, Von Miller, Joey Bosa, Aaron Donald and Luke Kuechly.