EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards said he thinks 2015 first-round draft pick Trae Waynes has "gotten better week-to-week" at "things we asked him to get better at."
Waynes was flagged three times in the Hall of Fame Game and was providing part of the coverage on a 40-yard pass play against Tampa Bay. He flashed great closing speed on an impressive pass breakup against Oakland when he played exclusively on the outside instead of also handling some coverage of the slot.
"Hopefully this week we'll see some improvement with the things we worked on this week in practice," Edwards said.
The Vikings visit the Cowboys at 6 p.m. Saturday, and it's likely Waynes will receive a significant amount of reps.
"There is no substitute for experience, getting out there and having to do it under the lights against good competition week-in and week-out, so there is no substitute for that," Edwards said. "Doing it out here at practice is one thing, but transferring it to the game is another. We're just looking for him to make the most of the opportunities we are able to get him at this point in time."
Asked if Waynes could be ready to start by Week 1 of the regular season, Edwards said, "Well, that's what we're aiming for, that's what we're all working for, but we'll just take it from week-to-week. We've still got two more games to go and just keep evaluating it through the process."
More experienced QBs likely: The Vikings first two preseason opponents started QBs without any prior regular season experience (Pittsburgh's Landry Jones and Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston). Last week, they saw second-year pro Derek Carr, followed by former Viking Christian Ponder.
The experience of the two-step of Tony Romo and Brandon Weeden in Dallas could provide an opportunity for Vikings coaches to learn more about their defense.
"There is no doubt," Edwards said. "More experienced quarterbacks are going to look off (defenders), they're going to have better timing, those type of deals."
Long snap decision: Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer opened his first media session since the decision to go with Kevin McDermott over Cullen Loeffler at long snapper by giving credit to both players.
"I wanted to start off by saying that Sunday was a tough day when we had to release Cullen," Priefer said. "Cullen is one of the finest young men that I have ever had the opportunity to coach and it was tough to say goodbye to him. He was a class act from the day I got here until the day he left on Sunday. He handled everything with dignity and I was real proud to be associated with him the last four and a half years. It's a tribute to Kevin and his hard work. It was great competition and he beat out the incumbent, and that's a tough thing to do in the NFL."
Bounce back: Priefer said the team wanted to be able to have two preseason games with the combination of the selected long snapper with Jeff Locke as the holder and Blair Walsh as the kicker.
Walsh missed three field goals and an extra point from the new 33-yard distance against the Raiders on a stormy Saturday, which Priefer said was probably a combination of technique and confidence by the end of the night.
"I think the technique attributed to one or two of his misses and then based on the misses, that's when the confidence comes in," Priefer said. "He's a mentally tough kid and I expect him to rebound nicely."
Punting and covering:Locke punted three times for 126 yards against Oakland, and the coverage team prevented the Raiders from returning any of the boots, despite galoshes and ponchos weather.
"He's punting the ball well. He's gotten a lot of confidence," Priefer said. "Punting the ball in those conditions the other night was ideal from him to prepare for TCF [Bank Stadium] for the rest of the year.
Locke and the coverage team have downed nine punts inside the 20 this preseason.
Marcus Sherels has been known for his ability to return punts, but he's been a key player as a gunner in limiting opponents to 11 yards on four returns and racing down field to down a ball at the Oakland 2-yard line.
"I think the longer he's done it, the more experience he has," Sherels said. "We always tell our gunners to have a plan, don't just go out there and wing it because that doesn't work in the NFL. Marcus [Sherels] has a plan and he does a great job with his speed releases and he does a great job with what we call our counter releases. When you have a plan, you study tape, you know what type of opponent you're going against and you execute that plan like he does, it really helps him be successful. He's gotten better every year that I've been here."
Fall fashion: Charles Johnson's fingertips TD catch against Oakland had style and substance and was ranked No. 4 last week:
The receiver, entering his second year with the Vikings, is also fashionable off the field and has released a line of T-shirts, tanks and sweatshirts at **charlesjohnson12.com**.
This clothing, Johnson said is geared more toward football, but he has plans for another line to be released this fall.
"The designs for the 500 level, the T-shirts, they send me over different designs and I tell them, they basically take who I am as a person and come up with a picture that they find and create and then they send me designs and I approve of everything," Johnson said. "My other clothes line, me and my partner are going to work together and just try to find things that fit each and every person because he's a tattoo artist and a drummer in a band, so he relates to a whole different side of people than I do by being an athlete. We're trying to find things that fit everybody, and it's been fun so far."
Practice notes: The Vikings did some scout team work to prepare for what they might see against the Cowboys, but continued to keep the focus internally. … Teddy Bridgewater connected with Mike Wallace on a deep pass against Xavier Rhodes in 7-on-7, and Mike Kafka found Stefon Diggs for a deep completion against Rhodes in 11-on-11. Rhodes managed to bounce back with a nice pass breakup against Johnson. … Diggs nearly reeled in a catch on a slant, but Anthony Barr pried the ball loose as Diggs was going to the ground. The rookie had fun with the moment, acting like he was going to tackle Barr, but the linebacker picked up the much smaller receiver and turned him upside down, to retaliate the joke. … Joe Berger continued to take first-team snaps at center in place of John Sullivan. In addition to Sullivan, Shamar Stephen and Carter Bykowski did not practice. MyCole Pruitt did not participate in the team period.