EAGAN — Bene Benwikere hasn’t been on a team that made the playoffs in four years. He’s hoping to end that drought.
The Vikings signed the free-agent cornerback on Saturday. He took the field that night for a practice and is going through workouts this week.
“That’s definitely something when I evaluated the teams,” Benwikere said of postseason chances. “My first few years in the league, I made it to the playoffs and I definitely want to be back, and that’s my main focus and my goal.”
Benwikere was with the Carolina Panthers when they made the playoffs during his first two seasons of 2014 and 2015. They made the Super Bowl his second year, but he had been lost for the season in December with a broken leg.
Benwikere later played for Dallas, Arizona and Oakland before becoming a free agent. The Vikings signed him because Holton Hill has been suspended by the NFL for the first eight games of the season, and Mike Hughes remains on the physically unable to perform list with knee issues.
“He’s a guy that’s had a bunch of starts, played with a lot of different teams, and we need depth at corner,” said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer.
Benwikere has appeared in 54 career games with 22 starts. He said he spoke to some players who have been on Zimmer’s teams and liked what he heard about how demanding he is.
“He’s going to be somebody that’s going to be on you,” Benwikere said. “He’s not going to let you slack off.”
VIKINGS FACE OLD FRIENDS
The Vikings will run into several old friends when they open the exhibition season Friday at New Orleans.
The Saints have five ex-Vikings, including backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who played for them from 2014-17. Bridgewater is expected to see action against Minnesota for the first time since his departure.
“We’re going to try and hit him just like we do every other quarterback,” Zimmer said.
Other former Vikings on the Saints are running back Latavius Murray, cornerback Marcus Sherels, offensive lineman Nick Easton and fullback Zach Line.
“It’ll be good to see them, all those guys that are down there,” Zimmer said. “They were great, great Vikings for us, and they’re good players. Hope they’re not good Friday night.”
Zimmer blasted his defense last Thursday, saying players were too “complacent.’’ He talked to players and said they got the message.
“They’ve done better since we’ve had a little chat,” Zimmer said. “They’ve done a lot better. They’re on the right track. … I have a vision of what this defense is supposed to look like, and I have very high standards for the defense. I expect them to live up to my expectations, so I’m going to keep pushing them until we get there.”
The Vikings ranked No. 1 in the NFL in 2017 in both total and scoring defense. They were No. 4 and No. 9 in those categories last season.
“My expectation is to be the best they can possibly be,” Zimmer said.
COLLINS INJURY NOT SERIOUS
Zimmer indicated reserve tackle Aviante Collins’ left leg injury is not serious. He went down last Thursday in practice and was taken off on a cart.
“I anticipate him returning, yes,” Zimmer said.
Zimmer didn’t provide a timetable on Collins, who has watched practice this week with his knee wrapped. With Collins out for now, Zimmer said the Vikings are concerned about depth at tackle.
“A little bit,” he said. “We like (rookie Oli Udoh). We think he’s got a chance to develop into something special, but we’re going to be looking on the (waiver) wire. We’re going to be looking everywhere.”
Also missing practice were tight end Kyle Rudolph and defensive end Ade Aruna. Rudolph, who sat out Saturday’s night practice, was wearing a full sleeve on his right leg.
“He’s got a minor little thing,” Zimmer said. “He’ll be fine.”
Returning to practice after missing some time was defensive tackle Jalyn Holmes. Defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Shamar Stephen, both recovering from injuries, still haven’t been cleared to participate in team drills.
TREADWELL DOWN ON DEPTH CHART
Laquon Treadwell entered training camp with designs on being the Vikings’ No. 3 wide receiver. He’s not off to a good start.
The first unofficial depth chart of the season was released Monday night, and Treadwell is at best the No. 5 overall receiver. He’s listed No. 3 at one of the receiver spots.
Chad Beebe is listed at No. 2 at one spot behind Adam Thielen and Jordan Taylor is No. 2 at the other behind Stefon Diggs. Jeff Badet is listed as the other No. 3 receiver.
Treadwell has been a disappointment since being taken with the No. 23 pick in the 2016 draft. He’s entering the final year of his contract, and will be in a fight just to make the team.
There weren’t a lot of surprises on the first depth chart. As expected, Sean Mannion is listed as the backup quarterback behind Kirk Cousins with Kyle Sloter No. 3 and undrafted rookie Jake Browning No. 4.
“I don’t know if (Mannion has) separated from the pack or not, but he’s done a nice job and obviously his experience has helped quite a bit,” said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, whose team opens the preseason Friday at New Orleans.
Among rookies, Garrett Bradbury is listed as the starting center, running back Alexander Mattison as the backup behind Dalvin Cook and tight end Irv Smith Jr. as the backup behind Kyle Rudolph.
There will be plenty of competition at special teams spots. For now, incumbent Kevin McDermott is the top long snapper ahead of Austin Cutting and running back Ameer Abdullah tops the depth chart at both kickoff and punt returner.