Vikings coordinators: Defensive struggles, Cousins’ fumbles, long snappers and more
Every Thursday during the regular season (when the Minnesota Vikings play a Sunday game), the three coordinators speak to the media. Here’s a few highlights from this week’s press conferences:
Defensive coordinator George Edwards
Q: Is there something that you need to see from George Iloka before he gets more reps?
A: I think right now the way the rotation has been going, we feel pretty good that he has a good understanding and good grip of what we’re doing defensively. It just depends from week to week which packages we have up, but we have confidence in him. He’s worked hard since he’s been in here, and possibly it will show up some this week.
Q: Did you talk with coach DeFilippo this week about what Philadelphia likes to do?
A: This week I think he’s got to concentrate on what he’s doing, but we spent enough time in the offseason talking to him schematically about some of the things that they’ve liked against us, and some of the things that we need to do in preparation for this match.
Q: What do you make of how often teams are using jet sweeps now?
A: The rocket motion, the ghost motion, those things have shown up predominantly in every week thus far throughout the course of the season thus far. It’s something that is not going away, so we got to do a better job with how we leverage it and how we do things in coverages to make sure that we take care of the leverage and the coverage. It’s really just an awareness thing, and we got to get better at the techniques and fundamentals with it.
Q: How do you value the play of Stephen Weatherly?
A: He’s done pretty good. We think he’s been consistent throughout the time that he’s had to go out and start and play for us. Just looking for him to keep continuing to get better.
Q: What would you attribute the team’s struggles defensively thus far to?
A: I think the biggest thing for us defensively right now is getting back to the basics of technique and fundamentals. We’ve had a lot of guys in and out of the lineup, but still, for us right now we can control the things that we can control and we can do a better job of that in our preparation and a better job of executing it on Sunday.
Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo
Q: You’ve been tested with multiple two-minute situations at the end of halves this season. How does your mentality have to change as a play caller in those situations?
A: Depends on the situation, obviously, and obviously how much time [there is]. The half is a little bit different than the end of the game. You want to come away with points, any points, where at the end of the game it could be a field goal or a touchdown. Your mentality, I would say at times that you’re probably a little bit more aggressive at the end of the game, if you need to be. You saw us in Green Bay make a couple tight-window throws, those type of things where at the end of the half, not to steal coach [Hank] Stram’s words, but you’re trying to matriculate the ball down the field. That’s what you’re trying to do. It all just depends on the situation.
Q: Kirk [Cousins] talked about the fumbles, and the things that he can try and control. Are there things that you saw from the Rams game, when he was back in the pocket and fumbles, which he can possibly improve upon?
A: We work it every day, we work pocket presence and two hands on the ball, and Kevin Stefanski does a fantastic job with that, and it’s something that we’re going to continue to work on with him. That was kind of a freak play. Some of the other ones, where he had one hand on the ball, I thought there were some that were avoidable. The one against the Rams, he was double clutching and tried to pull the ball back. Sometimes you get in that position, and the defender from the Rams made a great play. We call that half a man, he was half blocked and Riley [Reiff] was trying to run him by, and he just got a hand in there. In that situation in the Rams game he was double clutching and tried to pull it back to reset his feet, but there were times this year, and Kirk said it himself, where he’s got to do a better job of keeping two hands on the ball.
Q: How much is Aldrick Robinson putting himself in a position to earn more snaps?
A: Well his touchdown-to-catch ratio is pretty good. So we’ll see, we’ll see. He needs to continue to learn the offense, and not just the offense, but the details of it. When you miss as much time and you come in late, obviously he’s going to be a little behind, but I’m pleased with where he’s at. Obviously he was in Washington, so he knows the quarterback, which is huge. And the quarterback knows him, which is huge. Some of the terminology is obviously the same, the same background, so he knows how to run a lot of our routes, but it’s just the details, the splits, the motions, the way we motion, the way we shift, the amount of formations we line up in. Those are the things that he’s going to have to continue to master.
Q: How do you weigh wanting to run the ball with the success you have had through the air? Is yards and points the only thing that matters in the long run?
A: I was waiting for somebody to ask me that. Here is the thing. There is no one in this building that wants to run the ball more than I do. Because it takes a lot of pressure off of me to not have to have the perfect protection, to not have to call the perfect route against the coverage that you deem you think you are going to get. The quarterback in duress at times where if you run the football with efficiency, obviously it is a lot easier on the play caller, it’s easier on some of the players. But at the same time there is a fine line. There is a fine line when you say balance. As the offensive coordinator, take the winning and losing out of it. We all know when we get on the bus, we all know whether we won or lost. We all know that. The whole world knows that. I feel like I did my job as a play caller as an offensive coordinator if our best players were the ones, our playmakers, were the ones that touched the ball in space and gave them a chance to help our team win. We all know who those players are. We don’t need to name them. If those guys are targeted, catches, our time of possession is still good, we’re efficient in the red zone, we’re efficient on third down then at least we gave our team a chance for success. It doesn’t mean we won, but we gave our team a chance for success. The long-winded answer to your question, I apologize, is do we want to run the football with more efficiency? One hundred percent. And we are grinding our butts off to make that happen. But at the same time, the Rams game, Aqib Talib is out. Marcus Peters is on one leg. I like our matchups on the outside more so often than trying to bang our heads up against Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. Like I said, there is no one that wants to run the ball more than me. We are going to try to establish that and continue to keep grinding on that. At the same time there is a fine line of doing something just to do something and maybe taking some success away from your team. I hope I answered your question there.
Q: With the production of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen is this level of production through four weeks sustainable?
A: We have high expectations. Yes. We have high expectations for everybody, myself, our players. We take a lot of pride in trying to get our guys in the right spot. I think that is why you see us line up in so many formations. So many guys in different spots, we try to do that and there is a reason for it. But yes, we knew those guys were going to come in and be productive. They are playing really well. Just call it what it is they are playing really, really well. We are throwing it well and we have to continue to do that but with more balance if possible.
Q: As you try to find a perfect combination of protection packages, do you still see an opportunity to potentially experiment with moving guys around on the offensive line?
A: We are always looking for ways to get better. If that means potentially moving some guys around, then we will give it a shot. I don’t see that happening in the near future but you never know. You never know. We are going to continuously always self-evaluate ourselves to see if we can do things better.
Vikings Special Teams coordinator Mike Priefer
Q: What is the process like getting a backup long snapper ready throughout the week in practice?
A: Well, we only do it on a day like today, Thursday after practice. We have the backup snappers, backup holders each work. They do work for about 10-15 minutes after practice. The reason that is important is obviously, it’s happened to us now twice in less than a year. Does it happen to a lot of teams? I don’t know if everybody has a backup snapper, but I do know that we had Jared Allen here and he was drafted as a snapper so it was never a big deal. Chad Greenway was a great backup snapper. Adam Thielen is probably our best backup snapper. I’m certainly not putting a Pro Bowl receiver in there on a punt or a field goal to get hammered. I think I’d be in trouble for that one. When David got here two years ago we made sure that we started training him. Tyler Conklin we’ve been training him. There’s offensive linemen we’ve trained to be backup field goal snappers as well, so that’s always a constant process that we always have to work on just in case.
Q: What did the trainers say to you? Did they say to you that your long snapper lost part of his finger?
A: Yeah, Eric Sugarman does and the whole training staff, they do a phenomenal job immediately, no matter who gets hurt, they come up to me after they let Coach Zim know. They come to tell me and it’s important for our depth chart and moving people around our depth charts and all the phases. Eric Sugarman came up and said Kevin is in the locker room. He hurt his finger. Alright, no problem. I went immediately and found David [Morgan] and we got to move on. Then I went back to Sug afterwards and he told me what happened and then the first thing Kevin said to me, “Hey Prief! I lost half my finger.” I said congratulations, right now here’s what we got to do to win this game. So we addressed that afterwards. I’m proud of Kevin [McDermott] and what he did. He’s a tough guy. I know he’s gained a lot of notoriety from what he did from a lot of people. I had some guys that coached before Lonnie Paxton, I coached him in Denver and he said, “Man that’s insane.” What a stud Kevin is after the game and all that stuff. I was real proud of him and how he responded and how he snapped quite frankly after that because that takes a tough man to do that.
Q: Marcus Sherels is a guy that doesn’t say much, but when he is injured and on the sidelines how much of a help is he with coaching up some of the young guys?
A: That’s a great question. He does a great job with our guys. In pre-practice he’ll be back there talking to them. He’ll talk about elbows and hands; the things he and I talk about all the time, the things we don’t have to coach him on that anymore. I do if I see something, but he’s another coach on the field on the practice field and he’s been tremendous helping with the gunners in the gunner’s meetings, talking to guys about kickoff as a safety in kickoff meetings, and talking punt returners and kickoff returners and everything in between. Everybody respects him so much for what he’s done in this league and who he is as a man. He is quiet, but he does some quiet coaching on the side and really helps those young guys out.
Q: What kind of help can Kentrell Brothers be now that he’s back?
A: Kentrell’s got experience. It’s his third year in the league he came back and it looks like he’s in really good shape, which was obviously the challenge for him. It was tough for him to be away, it was tough to have him away. I’m glad he’s back and it looks like he’s in shape, so I hope to use him this week and it’s not, it’s obviously not my call whether or not he’s active, but we’re going to prepare like he is and then we’ll have somebody ready if he’s not.