EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – Mike Zimmer tried to withhold judgment on the holdover players when he became the new Minnesota Vikings coach in January, feeling he couldn’t get a full understanding simply by watching film.
In particular, watching film of defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd from a disjointed rookie season wouldn’t provide much context anyway.
Zimmer has said he’s not able to fully diagnose what the players were being asked to do, and whether they accomplished the task, by watching the video.
"It’s hard for me to comment about last year very much because I wasn’t here and I don’t know what they were doing," Zimmer said Wednesday. "All I can really comment about what has happened this year and I’ve seen (Floyd) progress. He’s another one of those guys — like I was talking about with Xavier (Rhodes) — you talk to him about something in the meeting about ‘he’s got to do this better, do that better,’ and you see him working on it."
For Zimmer, the past can simply stay in the past. He’s focused on developing a picture of the players with him, in his own scheme. Floyd is in a position to play a big role in Zimmer’s defense, likely ascending to a starting position alongside Linval Joseph on the interior of the defensive line.
Drafted with the 23rd overall pick last year, Floyd was used sparingly behind Kevin Williams. The expectation was Floyd would have a starting spot waiting for him in his second season and he went about training hard in the offseason.
When the offseason program started in April, he was ready to absorb the coaching and learn the new scheme.
"Sharrif’s doing a great job," Zimmer said. "He’s improved tremendously. He’s using his hands well. He’s a very dedicated kid. He’s done a great job in the weight room as far as changing his body and his strength levels. He shows great quickness. We’re very, very excited to have him. I look for him to have a good year."
Last year’s film wouldn’t do justice, anyway, to the 6-foot-3, 305-pound Floyd, who could fill the pocket-busting inside presence Zimmer’s defenses have typically had, such as former All-Pro Geno Atkins in Cincinnati and La’Roi Glover in Dallas.
Floyd had 19 tackles and 2.5 sacks in his rookie season, which got off to a slow start because of a knee injury in the preseason. He said he grow more comfortable as the season advanced.
Healthy, in shape and comfortable with his teammates and new coaches, Floyd’s maturation has continued during the offseason. He also likes the fit in Zimmer’s scheme.
"I’m good, put me in the tilt and tell me to go play ball," Floyd said. "Key the guard, do what I’ve got to do. It’s not hard. Just focus and do my job."
Floyd’s eventual replacement for Williams was much discussed. No matter who was in front of him, the development was all part of a natural progression.
"One man down, next man up type of thing," Floyd said. "I’m just doing what I’ve got to do to help the team, and every day coming out here to get better with my D-line."
That hasn’t stopped Williams from completely being out of the picture. Williams told Sirius XM radio on Tuesday his agent, Tom Condon, has had recent talks with Minnesota as he remains unsigned.
Along with signing Joseph and Floyd’s progress, the Vikings have veterans Fred Evans and Tom Johnson at defensive tackle along with young players in Chase Baker, Kheeston Randall, Spencer Nealy, draft pick Shamar Stephen and undrafted rookie Isame Faciane.
"(Defensive line coach Andre) Patterson and (assistant defensive line coach Robb) Akey are doing a good job with those guys," Zimmer said. "They’re staying on top of them. It’s a good group overall because I think they want to be really good. They’re working extremely hard, but I like Sharrif a lot.
"We as coaches, we don’t look for the next year’s transition, we’re looking for how they improve from today to tomorrow, to the next day."