If there’s one player on the Vikings roster that can relate to rookie cornerback Trae Waynes, it’s Xavier Rhodes.
Like Waynes, Rhodes was a first round selection known for his aggressiveness coming out of college. He went through his own struggles after leaving Florida State in 2013, but Rhodes flashed his All-Pro potential last season in his first season under head coach Mike Zimmer.
So naturally, Waynes has approached Rhodes about the growing pains he’s already experienced in coverage three months into his career. Rhodes said the hardest adjustment he had to make as a rookie was playing within the NFL rules.
“Within those five yards not trying to be too aggressive, that’s by far the hardest thing that you can adjust to in the NFL,” Rhodes said. “You have to be technique sound here in the NFL. In college, you can be more aggressive down the field. In the NFL, you have to be able to work your feet more than your hands.”
Waynes, the 11th overall pick in this year’s draft, was flagged twice for defensive holding and once for pass interference in his first preseason game, but he hasn’t drawn a penalty in the last three Vikings’ friendlies. The transition period is far from over, however.
Last week in practice, Waynes was flagged for pass interference during an 11-on-11 period. He was in good position to contest a deep ball but grabbed the receiver’s arm right when the ball arrived, causing the sideline official to reach for his yellow handkerchief.
Rhodes was only flagged once as a rookie during the preseason, but he drew two flags in his first regular season game — an illegal block above the waist and a pass interference penalty. He drew six penalties in 13 games played his first season.
But as time progressed, Rhodes improved his technique and had a better gauge of how to remain aggressive yet play within the rules. He finished last season tied for fourth in the NFL with 18 passes defended.
“It’s going to take time,” Rhodes said. “[Waynes] asked me when I grew out of it, and I said after the 30th flag. After a while, you’re like, ‘Something’s got to go. Something’s got to change.’ I said eventually you’re going to grow out of it, and you’ll eventually find yourself. Just don’t pressure yourself into trying to force [out of] it because the more you force it, the worse it’s going to become. Just let it come naturally, and once it does, you’ll be good.”
Rhodes is also very familiar with the media, social media and fanbase hype that can surround a first round selection. He was selected with the 25th overall pick in 2013, one of three first round picks for the Vikings. There’s often an unrealistic expectation that every first rounder must have an immediate impact, which is far from the truth. Rhodes stressed that Waynes, who was the first cornerback taken in the draft, shouldn’t focus on all the external pressure he will face in his career due to the draft.
“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. “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.”
The Vikings announced this evening that they have released 11 players, including tight end Brandon Bostick and running back Joe Banyard.
Bostick is best known for being the player who mishandled an onside kick for the Packers in last year’s divisional round, leading to a loss.
Banyard rushed for 88 yards last season and he scored the game-sealing touchdown in Saturday night’s win against the Cowboys.
The Vikings also cut cornerbacks Jalil Carter, Justin Coleman and DeMarcus Van Dyke, wide receivers DaVaris Daniels and Jordan Leslie, offensive tackle Stephen Goodin, linebacker Josh Kaddu and defensive linemen Crishon Rose and Caesar Rayford.
The Vikings now have 78 players on their active roster and must get down to 75 by Tuesday’s NFL deadline at 3 p.m. CDT
Mike Zimmer won another preseason game, a perfect 8-0 for those tracking of Zimmer’s preseason record over the last two seasons, as the Vikings defeated the Cowboys 28-14 on Saturday. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had another sharp performance, completing all seven of his pass attempts for 76 yards, but we’ll focus on five other topics that stood out in the Vikings’ fourth preseason game.
1. Eric Kendricks was everywhere on the field. For a rookie linebacker in his fourth preseason game, he looks very comfortable both against the run and in coverage. He was used with the first team in the nickel package as the middle linebacker with Gerald Hodges receiving the start in the base, but Kendricks served as the backup middle linebacker with the second unit. The UCLA product recorded four tackles in 27 snaps. As much as Zimmer has mentioned how other defensive players haven’t cut it loose during the preseason, that hasn’t been an issue for Kendricks.
2. The running game struggled again without running back Adrian Peterson and center John Sullivan. It fared better later in the game when the third stringers were in the game, but Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata finished with 12 yards on nine carries. Despite the emphasis in practice on the running game, McKinnon’s longest run went for four yards. I still wouldn’t panic, however, considering the Vikings’ best player and best offensive lineman weren’t out on the field, but the Vikings didn’t improve in this area at all.
3. It’s starting to look more and more like the Vikings will keep six receivers on the 53-man roster. It’s a pretty good unit, too. We saw that Mike Wallace is still capable of taking the top off a defense when he caught a 39-yard deep ball from Bridgewater. It should ease any concerns fans may have had about the lack of receptions for Wallace, who had one catch for two yards prior to the Cowboys game. He finished with three catches for 50 yards.
Stefon Diggs had another impressive game on both offense, three catches for 49 yards, and on special teams with a 23-yard return. Cordarrelle Patterson didn’t have a target on 16 snaps, but he scored on a 107-yard kickoff return in the first half. The Vikings aren’t going to give up on a first round pick like Cordarrelle Patterson after two seasons, regardless of the growing pains he continues to go through as a wide receiver. Adam Thielen also didn’t have any catches on 16 snaps on offense, but he’s been reliable on both offense with the backups and special teams, where he had 16 snaps as well.
4. The penalties were a problem on every phase of the game. The Vikings were called on 11 penalties for 80 yards. It’s the most penalties the Vikings have been called for this preseason, and it’s a week after they were penalized just once against the Raiders last week. The penalties included a delay of game on backup quarterback Shaun Hill, a false start on left tackle Matt Kalil, a false start on offensive lineman David Yankey and 12 men on the field on punt return. These are all mental errors that could’ve been avoided but racked up 20 yards of field position for the Cowboys.
5. Tom Johnson is a very valuable backup defensive tackle for this team. Sharrif Floyd had a good outing, but Johnson has performed very well throughout the preseason. He finished with a sack and two quarterback hurries. The Vikings are set up well at nose and three-technique tackle with Johnson and Shamar Stephen backing up Floyd and Linval Joseph.
ARLINGTON, TEXAS — Fans who were clamoring for a big play from Mike Wallace finally got what they were hoping for in tonight’s 28-14 win.
Midway through the second quarter, Teddy Bridgewater went to the line with a running play buzzed into his headset from the sideline. But as the quarterback started counting silver helmets, he determined there were too many Cowboys in the box. Time to call an audible.
Bridgewater switched to a pass play and backed up into the shotgun. Seeing that he had Wallace in single coverage, he took a shot downfield to his speedy wide receiver. The result was a 39-yard reception.
“It was a look where we wanted to run the ball at first but we had a bad look, so we just had to get out of the play,” said Bridgewater, who went 7-of-7 for 76 yards tonight. “A quarterback’s job is to get us into the right play.”
The chunk play, which set up a Vikings field goal, was one of three catches on the night for Wallace, who finished with 50 yards receiving.
But in the locker room, Wallace shrugged it off when a reporter asked him if it felt good for him to break through with his first bomb in purple.
“It’s preseason, man. It’s preseason, man,” he said. “We’ll take it. It’s a good way to get it started. But the season hasn’t even started yet, so it’s cool.”
Coach Mike Zimmer admitted that the Vikings came into the game with a plan to get a couple of touches. But the 39-yarder wasn’t in the script.
“I know everybody wants to see Wallace get a bunch of deep throws and so do I,” Zimmer said. “But it’s important for us to go through our progressions and make our reads and make the correct throws and that’s why [Bridgewater’s] completion percentage was 100 percent tonight, because he continues to do those things.”