Zimmer explains Laquon Treadwell's on-field absence

By now, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the Vikings like to ease in their rookies with some tough love. Yet, here we are wondering why Laquon Treadwell has only played a pair of snaps over the first three games.

"He has to continue to do better in practice," Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said of the team's 2016 first-round pick. "He's working, just biding his time until he gets an opportunity like how (Stefon) Diggs was last year. I still think he's thinking about the number of steps to take on each route and things like that, being at the right depth."

Zimmer and the Vikings are a miracle at 3-0 right now, especially without their franchise quarterback and running back. But part of the reason they are so successful is the way they ensure younger players are ready for the spotlight before placing them in games. The Vikings, according to NFL GSIS statistics, were sixth in the NFL last year in common lineup usage on offense -- a statistic that measures how often a team keeps their most used lineup on the field. Only the Steelers, Bengals, Falcons, Cowboys and Panthers did it more. It should also come as no surprise that many of those teams were quite successful a year ago.

Teams get caught up in optics -- how often their first-round picks play and how badly it would look if they took someone in a high-profile spot that wasn't immediately put to good use. But just look at their rate of success.

Cornerback Trae Waynes, for example, played just 195 snaps a year ago (18.17 percent of the total defensive snaps) and already has 173 this year, or 80.47 percent of the team's total defensive snaps. And while injury had something to do with the increase, Waynes looked so much more prepared than he was during his rookie season a year ago. Dating back to last January's playoff game, he has 20 tackles, three picks, eight pass breakups and a tackle for loss in games against Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton. Had he played early a year ago, developing poor footwork and technique on the field, there is no way he'd be in the position he is now.

Zimmer was similarly hesitant to play Cordarrelle Patterson, even though Patterson was selected before Zimmer's time in Minnesota.

So what are we learning? Good teams keep the most knowledgeable and prepared players on the field for the most amount of snaps. Treadwell will be a part of that unit once he can run the offense at a rate similar to or better than Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Charles Johnson (the three leading snap counts among wide receivers on offense).

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