Rookie cornerback Trae Waynes has not made as much of an impact as some members of the Vikings draft class who were selected after him last spring. But as his first season in the NFL nears its conclusion, Waynes considers it a success.
“It was a good year for me to take in a lot from veterans like Terence [Newman] and Xavier [Rhodes] and to be able to learn from them for the future,” the first-round draft pick said Thursday, three days before Sunday’s clash with the Green Bay Packers.
Waynes did not see the field on defense in four of his first seven NFL games. But in his past seven games, he has averaged 20.3 defensive snaps per game. Nearly half of those came in his first career start, the Week 14 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Coach Mike Zimmer said he has seen progress from Waynes throughout the season.
“He has a better understanding of what we’re asking of corners,” Zimmer said. “But he still has things he has to continue to work on.”
Zimmer said the biggest thing has been Waynes learning that he has to be even tighter in man coverage in the NFL than he was in college. He added that it is still something that Waynes needs to work on. And the 23-year-old agreed.
“As a DB, that’s what you have to do,” he said. “You have to cover guys close.”
Zimmer said the play of Newman, who has started every game at age 37, has had “a lot” to do with the team’s top pick being relegated to reserve duty. But while waiting his turn on defense, Waynes has been a valuable member of the Vikings’ two special-teams coverage units. He leads the Vikings with 14 tackles on special teams.
Chatty corner honored
Always ready and willing to talk, whether it is on a random Thursday afternoon or 15 minutes after an emotional Sunday loss, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn was named the winner of the Korey Stringer Media Good Guy award for the 2015 season by Twin Cities beat reporters who cover the Vikings.
The 27-year-old cornerback, who is in his second year with the Vikings, said he was “shocked” when a Vikings staffer told him that he had won the award.
“This is an honor to get this award,” Munnerlyn said. “I heard Korey was a great guy on and off the field. All I heard was great things about him.”
Munnerlyn received 10 of the 13 first-place votes. Wide receivers Mike Wallace, Stefon Diggs and Jarius Wright and left guard Brandon Fusco rounded out the top five.
‘All that really matters’
With just 38 catches, 451 receiving yards and two touchdowns, Wallace is mired in the worst statistical season of his seven-year career. Barring one of the greatest receiving performances in NFL history Sunday against the Packers, Wallace will finish 2015 with career lows in receiving yards and touchdowns.
But he isn’t grumbling because for the first time in four years, he is headed to the postseason, something that didn’t happen in his two years in Miami.
“I’d definitely like a little bit more production, but you’ve got to go with the flow and do what’s asked of you,” Wallace said. “It’s definitely been a success, though. We’re winning, and at the end of the day that’s all that really matters.”
Three starters sit out
For the second straight day, running back Adrian Peterson (ankle and shoulder) and nose tackle Linval Joseph (toe) did not practice. Defensive end Everson Griffen (shoulder) was also a bystander Thursday as the Vikings practiced indoors.
There seems to be little doubt that Peterson and Griffen will play Sunday. Joseph is more of a question mark with that troublesome toe.
Safety Harrison Smith (hamstring) and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (knee) were limited participants. Left tackle Matt Kalil (lower leg), safety Anthony Harris (hip) and wide receiver Adam Thielen (lower back) were full participants.