Minnesota Vikings: What the heck is Mike Zimmer doing with his corners?


Call it the Mystery of the Minnesota Vikings Cornerbacks.

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What the hell is Mike Zimmer actually doing by lining up Terence Newman and Trae Waynes together in the nickel while relegating presumed #1 slot corner Captain Munnerlyn to the second team?

It’s a question a lot of fans are asking right now. Why isn’t Munnerlyn out there proving he deserves his starter salary? Is he really going to start the year on the bench or is this just a preseason thing that Zimmer is doing so other guys get more work?

There are two possible explanations as I see it:

One: Zimmer is trying to get Trae Waynes as many reps as possible as the rookie undergoes his baptism by fire in the NFL, and having him out there with the veteran Newman is a way to help him get over some of the bumps.

Plus you get Newman reps in the slot just in case you ultimately need to play him at the slot. In other words, it’s less about Munnerlyn and more about Newman and Waynes and what Zimmer is trying to get accomplished overall.

Then there’s possibility number two: Captain Munnerlyn is deep in Mike Zimmer’s doghouse for some reason and is going to have to earn his way back into Zimmer’s trust.

If you listen to Zimmer, we shouldn’t make too much of the fact that Munnerlyn has apparently been demoted (via 1500ESPN.com):

"“Right now, I wouldn’t read too much into any of this stuff,” Zimmer said. “We’re just trying to get different combinations. … We’re just moving all guys around. You never know what’s going to happen, we might get a nickel hurt and you have to find a guy to go in there.”"

Read into it or don’t read into it, that’s not really the issue.

Here’s the main question to me as we try to unravel this particular mystery: Do you really honestly trust Trae Waynes to be the starter once the San Francisco game rolls around?

Waynes has struggled massively so far, as you would expect given his inexperience. Maybe he’ll improve enough in the final two preseason games to become a viable starter but right now, based on what we’ve seen, no way do I have him in there to begin the year.

When the games start to count I have to believe Zimmer will stash Waynes back on the bench and go with his veteran cornerback combo: Xavier Rhodes and Terence Newman outside and Captain Munnerlyn in the slot.

Will those three veteran guys still be playing at the end of the season? Maybe not. But to start the year, you have to believe Zimmer will go with experience over potential.

Zim may not entirely trust Munnerlyn, a player he has expressed dismay with in the past, but he can’t be ready to roll with the rookie Waynes. That would be a potential disaster.

If Zimmer does actually go with Waynes and leave Munnerlyn on the bench, then he’s way gutsier than I think. And he’s way more down on Munnerlyn than anyone ever realized.

Like I said, Waynes could still improve between now and the start of the season, making this a much easier call for Zimmer. But how much realistically can Waynes improve in two preseason games plus a couple more weeks of practice?

Waynes right now looks like a long-term project. If he’s ready to play by mid-season, that would be a major triumph.

Zimmer obviously has a much better read than any of us on where Trae Waynes stands, but I’d be shocked if Zimmer saw Waynes as being ready to play.

All we can do is trust our own eyes and my eyes at least are telling me that Waynes isn’t a starting corner as of today. If you don’t play Waynes or Munnerlyn then who do you play? Marcus Sherels?

Jabari Price may be an option after he returns from his suspension. We know Josh Robinson will likely start the season on PUP so he’s out.

Does a player like Josh Thomas wind up in the mix? DeMarcus Van Dyke? Shaun Prater? Those players seem like long-shots.

If Josh Thomas or DeMarcus Van Dyke winds up playing before Munnerlyn, then we know Munnerlyn truly is dead to Mike Zimmer and is only being retained because the Vikings don’t want to eat his salary.

If you ask me, the most viable solution to the mystery is that Zimmer wants to get Waynes as many reps as possible so Munnerlyn has to toil with the second team for now. And it will be the Captain when the season starts.

Captain Munnerlyn stinks and I wish Rick Spielman had never wasted time and money on him, but if the other option is putting a rookie first-rounder out there to get his confidence wrecked, then it’s a no-brainer. You have to call Munnerlyn out of the doghouse and put him in.

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