Vikings secondary aims to replicate success
Published 3:27 pm Monday, July 27, 2015
MANKATO — After climbing from last in the NFL to No. 7 in pass defense during coach Mike Zimmer’s first year, the Minnesota Vikings bulked up the secondary even more.
Those roster moves came to life Monday during drills on the second day of the 50th annual training camp at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
“There’s a lot of talent in the secondary,” said Terence Newman, a two-time Pro Bowl cornerback who signed with Minnesota on March 27. “We’re going to try to compete and make each other better.”
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Newman, a 13-year NFL veteran, played for Zimmer when Zimmer was the defensive coordinator at Dallas and Cincinnati.
“Working with Terence has been great,” said Zimmer. “He’s very, very intelligent. I know it was a while ago, but he was the 60-meter indoor Big 12 champion, so he’s always had great speed, athletic ability, tremendous heart, tremendous courage and I’ve always had a great deal of respect for him.”
The other end of the experience spectrum is rookie cornerback Trae Waynes out of Michigan State, who is 14 years younger than Newman.
The Vikings drafted Waynes with the 11th overall pick, which made him the highest-drafted defensive back in Minnesota history.
Although Waynes said the Spartans’ physical style of play with one-on-one matchups helped him prepare him for the next level, he still has homework to absorb defensive coordinator George Edwards’ system.
“We’ve been working on everything,” he said. “From stance to position to all of the plays. It’s been tough, but it’s definitely coming along.”
Waynes said his roommate is fellow rookie Eric Kendricks, who was the Vikings’ second selection in the draft at No. 45 overall.
With seven years in the NFL, Captain Munnerlyn has the second-most professional experience in the secondary. He said Waynes is progressing.
“He’s doing a great job, and they’ve got him all over the place,” Munnerlyn said. “They’re teaching him a lot of different things, and he’s doing very well with that.”
Before Waynes, the last defensive back the Vikings chose in the first round was Xavier Rhodes in 2013 out of Florida State. Rhodes found his stride last season. He started all 16 games and led the team with 18 passes defended, which was fourth in the NFL. Rhodes credited his success to Zimmer.
“He played a big role,” Rhodes said. “He saw the potential in me and brought it out.”
Minnesota’s other offseason acquisitions in the secondary Demarcus Van Dyke, who was a third-round draft pick in 2011.
In undrafted free-agent signings, the Vikings picked up Anthony Harris and Justin Coleman.
Despite showing depth, the Vikings’ secondary took a hit on Friday. Second-year cornerback Jabari Price was suspended the first two games of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
“We’re trying to clean up all of those kinds of things off the field with the Vikings,” Zimmer said. “We’re trying to make this a team that the fans respect; we’re trying to make this a team that our fans are proud of.”
Minnesota will play its first of five preseason games at 7 p.m. Aug. 9 at Pittsburgh. The Vikings’ season opener will be at 9:20 p.m. Sept. 14 at San Francisco. Minnesota’s home opener will be against Detroit at noon Sept. 20 at TCF Bank Stadium.