CINCINNATI – Vikings coaches got a good, long look at Trae Waynes Friday night when the second-year pro started against the Bengals in place of the sidelined Trae Waynes.
Waynes showed up on film early in the evening, covering veteran wide receiver A.J. Green and pushing him out of bounds to force Cincinnati's first third down. A snap later, Waynes denied a dart from Andy Dalton intended for Green to force a field goal.
The cornerback played the entire first half, holding his own against a Bengals offense that threw to his side of the field often. With just over five minutes remaining in the first quarter, Cincinnati backup quarterback A.J. McCarron dropped back to his own 24-yard line and launched a 45-yard pass. Waynes disrupted the pass intended for receiver Tyler Boyd, nearly coming away with the interception.
One of the things Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer wanted to see from Waynes heading into the 2016 season was clean coverage. Zimmer said defensive backs are allowed more lenience with contact at the college level, and it's something he focuses on with his players. Waynes had his work cut out for him – from deep balls to short passes – and played solid defense while avoiding any interference penalties.
"I definitely feel a lot more comfortable in my second season," Waynes said following the game. "I give the credit to Coach Zim' […] for that."
Zimmer liked some of what he saw in Cincinnati, but he said there were also areas to work on and clean up.
"I thought Trae did some good things," Zimmer said postgame, before adding that there were a few instances in which Waynes lined up farther back than he would like him to.
Perhaps more valuable than a preseason win was the opportunity for the Vikings younger players to get more reps and grow their experience. Zimmer said there would be plenty to go over in practice in the upcoming week, for Waynes and his teammates.
"A lot of this is a learning experience for a lot of these guys," Zimmer said. "There was a lot of good situation football tonight."
Waynes, who finished the 2015 season with 19 defensive tackles in addition to contributing on special teams, recorded four tackles in Minnesota's 17-16 win over the Bengals. With the first preseason game of his second season in the books, Waynes is just ready to get back on the practice field and keep working.
"I just try to carry over from last season [and] what I learned in camp into this season," Waynes said. "I just want to keep progressing."