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Zimmer Assesses Vikings CBs Rhodes, Newman, Waynes

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is in Indianapolis to evaluate prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine, but took a few moments to discuss three of his cornerbacks from the 2015 roster: Xavier Rhodes, Terence Newman and Trae Waynes.

Viking Update's Tim Yotter wrote:

*Perhaps no one was under more scrutiny in that initial season of the Zimmer era than cornerback Xavier Rhodes. The techniques were changing, and it took time to understand exactly what Zimmer wanted – how to turn the hips, where the foot placement should be, and much more. Rhodes still went through his ups and downs in his second season under Zimmer, but the "cornerback whisperer" simply wants Rhodes to play to his strengths. *

"I'd say early in the year he probably struggled a little bit with some of the penalties and that caused him to be conservative in the way he was playing," Zimmer said of Rhodes in 2015. "Like I told him during the season, he needs to be a power forward, not a point guard. You have to be who you are, and his game is about power and strength and physicality. And if you don't play up to your game, you may struggle a little bit."

During his podium session Thursday, Zimmer was asked about cornerback Trae Waynes. A rookie in 2015, Waynes filled primarily a special teams role aside from filling in on a handful of defensive snaps throughout the season. Zimmer believes Waynes can be a "very good player," and he said he felt last season was a good opportunity for Waynes to learn under veteran cornerback Terence Newman.

"(Waynes) had a chance to learn from a great veteran guy in Newman," Zimmer said. "Newman has helped with Xavier and a lot of these guys. I see him being a very good football player. It's not about athletic ability with him. It's just learning the game of professional football."

Zimmer said he hasn't talked to Newman directly yet but has heard the veteran is interested in playing a 14th pro season. Zimmer said he prefers to think of him as a "defensive back" at this point.

Shurmur and Sparano bring experience to Vikings coaching staff

The Star Tribune's Matt Vensel wrote about new Vikings hires, tight ends coach Pat Shurmur and offensive line coach Tony Sparano. Both have previous experience as head coaches, but Zimmer said that's not the main factor he considered.

"It's guys who I have respect for as coaches," Zimmer said. "It's definitely a positive that they have been because they had to do this different ways, and they may have some better ways than what we're doing."

Zimmer said that Shurmur, who will coach tight ends in 2016, will help the Vikings find their groove with Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson in their shotgun spread formations. Shurmur spent the past three years in Philadelphia working under Chip Kelly, who utilized the shotgun often.

Sparano will join assistant offensive line coach Hank Fraley in working to give quarterback Teddy Bridgewater more protection in 2016.

Zimmer said the Vikings will try to remain balanced formationally, mixing shotgun and under-center formations to produce better results than what they had in 2015, when they finished 29th in the NFL in total offense.

Combined, Shurmur and Sparano bring 35 years of NFL coaching experience to the Vikings coaching staff, and Zimmer calls them "smart coaches."

"I think it's good to get as much input as you can get because I don't believe there is one way to do this," Zimmer said. "That's the biggest thing with me. I always think there's a better way. Somebody in this league is doing stuff better than we are, and we need to find that out and how it can help us."

Vikings projected at 19th in league for salary cap space

Marino Eccher of the Pioneer Press took a look at the Vikings salary cap situation heading into free agency.

*The NFL Players Association announced the figures Thursday. Minnesota's carryover ranks 24th in the league — though it's more than NFC North rivals Detroit ($862,000) and Chicago ($867,000). *

Seattle, which was nearly capped out last year, will carry over the least space at $11,500. Jacksonville will carry over the most at $32.7 million.

In 2015, the league's cap was $143.3 million. One thing we do know is that the 2016 number will be higher. At this point, Spotrac.com is predicting the cap to be at $155 million, while Eccher said ESPN is expecting it to be $156 million.

The site currently projects the Vikings to have around $24 million to spend, 19th in the league — but that could (and most likely will) change once the league year begins and rosters start to churn.

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