First-round pick Trae Waynes did not play a defensive snap in his first two NFL games, but due to an injury to one of the starters, he would play a big role for the Vikings in yesterday’s 31-14 victory over the Chargers.
Top cornerback Xavier Rhodes was knocked out of the game just before halftime and did not return after suffering a concussion. The Vikings turned to Waynes, not veteran corner Captain Munnerlyn, in the base defense in the second half. He would go on to play 42 of the game’s 74 snaps.
And he would play well, too, batting down a pass and making five tackles.
While the Vikings weren’t counting on the rookie playing that much, coach Mike Zimmer did say after the game that the plan was to get Waynes some defensive work. Zimmer figured the Chargers would try to wear down his defenders with their no-huddle attack and wanted Waynes ready.
Rhodes, meanwhile, played 32 snaps before his scary collision with safety Andrew Sendejo. He had played every snap this season up until that point.
Fellow cornerback Terence Newman, who turned 37 three weeks ago, was the only Vikings defender to play every snap. Munnerlyn, who manned the slot, played 66 and Marcus Sherels got his first three snaps of the season.
Here are some other observations after seeing the official snap counts:
— Starting wide receiver Charles Johnson suffered a rib injury and played just 25 snaps. His absence created opportunities for backups Adam Thielen and Cordarrelle Patterson. Thielen played 28 snaps and made two catches for 16 yards. Patterson played 14 and was held without a catch. In addition to Johnson’s injury, Zimmer said that fatigue factored into those two guys getting so much time. Mike Wallace, the starter opposite Johnson, played just 36 of the 57 offensive snaps. Slot receiver Jarius Wright played 25.
— While Chad Greenway sealed the win with his wild touchdown, he was used sparingly for the second week in a row. He played just 19 of the 74 defensive snaps. Outside linebacker Anthony Barr led the linebackers with 62 snaps. And Eric Kendricks and Gerald Hodges nearly had an even split in the middle, with Kendricks out-snapping Hodges, 40-37. That is an interesting development given that Hodges had not played much in the nickel in Weeks 1 and 2. But that could have been driven by this week’s game plan. Or not.
— Sendejo started again next to Harrison Smith, who played 68 snaps. But Sendejo may or may not have gotten benched for the second time in three games. Sendejo played poorly before Robert Blanton replaced him in the second half. Zimmer later said that Sendejo, who played 50 snaps, suffered a leg injury, which is why Blanton ended up getting 24 snaps. We’ll see who starts this weekend. Also, second-year safety Antone Exum got a six-snap cameo when Zimmer pulled Smith out late with the game under wraps.
— The Vikings used their tight ends much more against the Chargers, a move that led to running game success. Starter Kyle Rudolph played 50 of the 57 snaps, which is nothing out of the ordinary for him. But Rhett Ellison got 27 and rookie MyCole Pruitt got a career-high 16. Throw in fullback Zach Line, too. He played 15 snaps as the Vikings brought out the beef.
— Running back Adrian Peterson was efficient and effective against the Chargers. He played just over half the snaps with 33, but he got 20 carries and rushed for 126 yards and two scores, in the process looking like the Peterson of old. Matt Asiata got 14 snaps and Jerick McKinnon played 10.
— The Vikings maintained a steady defensive line rotation, with seven linemen playing at least 20 snaps. Defensive end Everson Griffen led the way with 61. Sharrif Floyd had the most among the tackles with 49. Second-year end Scott Crichton got a career-high 25 snaps, in part because fellow reserve Justin Trattou injured his ankle on a first-quarter special-teams play.
— Looking big picture, the Vikings kept a lot of players busy yesterday. On defense, 17 players got at least 20 snaps (and Greenway played 19). On the other side of the ball, 18 players got at least 10 snaps. Injuries, San Diego’s game plan, the heat and the game becoming a blowout late were all factors.