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Vikings Start Most Rookies in Franchise History

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has made it clear throughout the season that he won't lower his expectations for the rookie players on his roster compared to his veteran players.

His mindset was evident in front of a national audience, as Zimmer started six rookies, the most in Vikings history.

Three of the Vikings rookies CB Trae Waynes, S Anthony Harris, and LB Edmond Robinson made their starting debuts Thursday night.

WR Stefon Diggs, LB Eric Kendricks and T T.J. Clemmings, all of whom had made previous starts, also were in Zimmer's starting lineup.

The efforts of the six players broke the Vikings previous franchise record of five rookies: Harrison Smith, Josh Robinson, Matt Kalil, Jarius Wright, and Rhett Ellison started for Minnesota against Chicago on Dec. 9, 2012.

The Vikings missed four defensive starters against the Cardinals, but the team's expectations weren't any different heading into the game on a short travel week.

"One of the big things that Coach preached all week is that no matter who is out there our expectations don't change," Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph said. "I think those guys in the backend stepped up and played well for key guys that were out."

The Vikings were without both starting safeties (Smith and Andrew Sendejo) due to injuries, and Zimmer's 'next man up' mindset was a factor in an inspiring 23-20 defeat in the Valley of the Sun.

Waynes, the first-round draft pick out of Michigan State, made his first career start at cornerback in place of veteran Terence Newman. Zimmer shifted Newman over to the safety position to start the game.

"We thought Waynes was the next-best player and that's how we could get him on the field, by moving (Newman) to safety," Zimmer said.

Waynes had five tackles and took on a heavy load against the league's top passing offense. He played 91% of the Vikings defensive snaps.

"I think I'm making progress," Waynes said.

Harris made his first career start, playing the other safety spot after being signed off the practice squad earlier this week due to the number of injuries at his position.

Harris played all of the Vikings 67 defensive snaps and played nine snaps on special teams.

The undrafted free agent, who had been in Minnesota since May when he began the Vikings rookie program, had a team-high eight tackles (tied with Chad Greenway and fellow rookie Kendricks), and a pass defended.

"I tried to prepare myself and help the team any way I could," Harris told Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. "I was excited for the moment. Thursday Night Football. I wasn't nervous.''

Robinson started in place of the team's second-leading tackler LB Anthony Barr. Robinson was the first Division II player selected in the seventh round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

The product out of Newberry College played 39 percent of the team's defensive snaps and 14 snaps on special teams.

Rookies have been a key component to the Vikings success on offense and defense this season. Diggs leads Minnesota in receiving yards (638), and Kendricks leads the team in tackles (70), according to's statistics.

Greenway, the longest-tenured member of the Vikings defense, was asked about the challenge of starting so many young players on the national stage in the locker room after the game.

"No challenge," Greenway said. "Our coaches do a great job of having people prepared off the practice squad. I just thought I'm so proud of those young guys. To stay with it, and be on their stuff, and not let the moment be too big for them on the road here against a good football team."

Eight rookies have now started a game for the Vikings this season.

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