Mike Zimmer on Monday wanted to clarify something his defensive coordinator said about his top draft pick, an innocent remark that made a few headlines a week ago.
Last Thursday, defensive coordinator George Edwards was asked if cornerback Trae Waynes, the 11th overall pick in the 2015 draft, would be ready to start in Week 1.
"That's what we're aiming for," Edwards replied.
Of course, the Vikings want all of their top-line players, including their first-rounder, to be prepared to start. Zimmer wanted to get that point across when a reporter brought up Edwards' comment, but he stopped short of saying one way or another whether Waynes will have a significant defensive role in the season opener on Sept. 14.
"We'll see where that goes," Zimmer said.
The Vikings have their top two cornerbacks set in stone, and Waynes isn't one of them. The best-case scenario for the former Michigan State standout is that he earns the nickel cornerback job, which would still get him on the field for about 60 percent of the snaps.
The good news is that after a rocky start to the preseason, Waynes is starting to show progress.
"I think I've improved week by week, so hopefully the streak continues," Waynes said. "I'm feeling more comfortable and understanding the system more, so I'm able to play faster."
Since being flagged three times for 43 yards in the Hall of Fame Game, Waynes hasn't given the officials reason to remove the yellow hankies from their pockets.
He got beat for a big play in each of his first two preseason games, and the Raiders just missed dropping another deep ball on him in the third. But against the Cowboys on Saturday night he allowed only two catches for 10 yards in 29 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
"He was in position the entire night," Zimmer said. "His technique was much better this last time. I thought he was in the right position much better and there were some things we had to talk about on the sideline. But for the most part, I thought this was by far his best performance."
Still, the top cornerback configuration at the moment appears to be Xavier Rhodes and Terence Newman starting in the base defense with Captain Munnerlyn coming in to cover slot receivers in passing situations, something he did with inconsistent results last season.
Munnerlyn, who mysteriously had received little playing time early in the preseason, got the nod as the first-team nickel cornerback Saturday night. The veteran played well, other than one costly third-down penalty that gave the Cowboys a first down.
If Waynes enters the season as the fourth cornerback, he would be one of likely a few healthy players picked in the top half of the first round who won't start right away.
The Buccaneers and Titans have already named Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota their respective quarterbacks. Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper and Falcons defensive end Vic Beasley have starred in the preseason. Redskins guard Brandon Scherff, Giants offensive tackle Ereck Flowers and Browns nose tackle Danny Shelton are among those who will start, too.
Waynes was the first of four cornerbacks selected in Round 1. Kevin Johnson of the Texans and Byron Jones of the Cowboys are also expected to begin their careers as reserves. Marcus Peters could start for the Chiefs in Week 1, but that effort is aided by a looming suspension for Sean Smith.
That should be no cause for alarm. First-round cornerbacks usually don't seize every-down roles right away. According to Pro Football Focus, the 30 corners drafted in the first round in the past eight drafts averaged 612 snaps as rookies.
One of those cornerbacks was Rhodes, who was the team's third cornerback early in the 2013 season before becoming a full-time starter that November. He played 674 snaps, which was 57.8 percent of the defensive plays, as a rookie.
"You have to stay focused, stay on your path and set your own expectations to the point where you can only disappoint yourself," Rhodes said of the lofty first-round expectations at the position. "You want to go out and have expectations for yourself and not listen to all the hoopla and all that because that can distract you from your team goals and your self-goals."
Waynes is taking the long view when it comes to his development. One can assume he wants to play right away, but he insists he won't be disappointed if Zimmer makes him wait his turn.
"I'm not worried about that," Waynes said. "I'm just worried about getting better every day and just letting the rest play out."
Staff writer Master Tesfatsion contributed to this story.