In his fifth season with the team, the Minnesota Vikings cornerback hasn’t gotten off to a great start so far and the team should think about using someone else in his role.
Despite being a top 15 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, it took a little while for Trae Waynes to crack the starting lineup of the Minnesota Vikings defense. It wasn’t until Waynes’ third season with the Vikings, in 2017, that he was able to emerge as one of the defense’s two starting cornerbacks.
Since taking over the role as Minnesota’s No. 2 corner behind Xavier Rhodes, the reviews have been mixed for Waynes. He’s made a number of impressive plays, but he’s also made more mistakes than the Vikings would probably like to see from someone who’s supposed to be the second-best cornerback on their roster.
This year, Waynes is in the middle of his fifth season with Minnesota and he’s gotten off to a bit of a slow start.
During Minnesota’s first six games this season, the 27-year-old cornerback has allowed his coverage to catch 74.4 percent of their targets (up from 63.8 percent in 2018), he’s given up two touchdowns to his coverage, and opposing quarterbacks have a 109.9 rating when tossing passes in his direction.
Waynes is also giving up almost 20 more yards per game to his coverage this year compared to what he was allowing in 2018.
For a guy who is currently scheduled to be a free agent in 2020, he’s not doing himself any favors with his performance so far this season. If Waynes continues to play at his current level for the rest of the year, he’s going to be a liability for the Vikings’ defense and potentially cause them to lose a few games.
Demoting him wasn’t really an option earlier in the season because Minnesota’s cornerback depth wasn’t very strong. Mackensie Alexander suffered an injury in the Vikings’ first game of the year and Mike Hughes was slowly making his return to the field after recovering from a torn ACL.
But now, Alexander and Hughes are both pretty healthy and both have played very well in their time on the field this season. Neither has given up a touchdown this year and both aren’t allowing their coverage to haul in more than 50 percent of their targets.
With the way that Alexander and Hughes are playing, maybe Minnesota should consider moving one of them up the depth chart as their No. 2 corner instead of Waynes?
Both Alexander and Hughes have experience with covering guys on the outside and the inside, so either one of them taking over Waynes’ role doesn’t seem like it would be a big adjustment to make.
With four matchups against top-eight passing offenses in their next six games, the Vikings need to make sure their pass defense is as good as it can get. And if Minnesota continues to keep Waynes as their No. 2 corner for these upcoming contests, it may be a decision that comes back to haunt them.