Vikings coordinators: Sacking Stafford, Cook touches, kicking indoors 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: Against Detroit in Week 9, could you see a specific point where the pass rush was really wearing them down?
A: I think it was a combination of things. Again, I think our guys do a great job on the back end with what we’re doing coverage wise. We sort of had him uncomfortable, they had just lost [Golden] Tate, who had been a go-to guy for [Matthew] Stafford. I think that was also a part of the equation, but credit goes to our front being disciplined in their rush lanes, not getting too high in their rush and not allowing him to escape out of the pocket. We kind of had success that way, and they did a great job of rushing up front.
Q: How has Detroit tried to move Kenny Golladay around in wake of losing other offensive weapons?
A: They’ve done a great job of moving him around. You’ve seen his statistics have really jumped up, and he’s got a very good catch radius. I think they trust him in the passing game and are going to him quite a bit. He and 25 [Zach Zenner] both are catching a lot of balls right now.
Q: Why do you think that you’ve had so much success sacking Matthew Stafford over the years?
A: I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. Our guys paying attention to the details of what we’re trying to do, not only just from a rush plan each week, those guys are exceptional in working together in the rush and what we’re doing coverage wise, which is giving them hopefully a little bit more time to get there. I think it’s a combination of those things and a tribute to them as far as the preparation going into the game of what they’re doing in situation football.
Q: What have you seen and what has been the difference with Anthony Barr taking his game to the next level?
A: I think he came back off of that injury and I think he’s really healthy right now. I think he’s always been a pro and paid attention to the details of things. But I think missing that time, again, I say that any time you miss time in football, it’s not like you come back and just jump right back on the bike and it’s hunky dory. He fought through that and prepared the same way mentally, and I think right now he’s really playing at a high level. You can see that from week to week.
Q: Why is pass rushing such an important part of Barr’s game?
A: He’s done it pretty much his whole career. He did it a lot when he was in college, and I think any time you can get him matched up with some of the things that they do in protection, I think that’s a benefit to us, especially last week against Miami and as we go through the season and see what different teams are doing protection wise. If we got a chance to get him in a matchup where he’s going to have an advantage, it’s beneficial to us. A lot of teams counter it because they go to him with the protection and things like that, so a lot of times he doesn’t get that. I think that was a part of it early in the season, and I think just as we’ve progressed different things have happened from week to week and he’s been able to take advantage of it. He gets the opportunity, he makes the most of it.
Q: How common is it to have a guy like Harrison Smith can play multiple roles?
A: That’s a credit to Harrison, because he really has a good skill set and is able to do it around the line of scrimmage, he’s able to do it in the middle of the field if we need him there, or if we need him in the half-field. Harrison is another one that gets the most out of his opportunity, does a great job as far as preparation, allows us to use him within the different packages and use his skill set in different ways. That’s a benefit to us and it’s also a benefit to him the way he gets ready each week going into each contest.
Q: What has made Mackensie Alexander good on the blitz?
A: I think it’s a combination of things. I do think Mackensie has played well down the stretch and continues to get better. He’s not perfect yet, but he continues to get better. You can tell that with his coverage and the things that we ask him to do. But a lot of times, the four sacks that he’s got, he’s really been a free runner at it. But we’ve seen guys miss layups in games where they’ve come back there and missed it. To his credit, he’s been able to take advantage of the opportunity that he’s had, and we just look for him to keep continuing to grow with that.
Interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski
Q: Is there a little more normalcy for you with a full week?
A: Yes, I think last week was a short week and that was probably the hardest part about last week. But now having a normal week and a normal amount of preparation is good for us. I think the players are kind of understanding the rhythm and flow of how we are going to install some things. So yes, having a normal week is better than a short week for sure.
Q: What do you see the test the Lions defense will give you against the run game?
A: They are big people up there and we are going to have to win some one-on-one battles. Again, across the board they are just big space-eating, two-gap, attack you type defense. That is a challenge for the offensive line. Last week is last week. The scheme was a little bit difference. We are ready for the challenge this week to look at those guys and the guys across from them. The nice part is we’ve played them one time so we kind of have a feel for how they play and they have a feel for how we play.
A: We spend a lot of time talking about that. The answer is never, it’s complicated. At times you are going to try to get them open. At times you are going to say, “Listen, there’s one football and someone else is going to win.” There is a bunch of different aspects and a bunch of different ways to attack that and certainly when we have the skill guys when we have, I understand defense that try to do that, but then it’s our job to get in the meeting room upstairs and draw up some plays that don’t completely take our guys out of it but that allow us to have some success, particularly on third down.
Q: Is 21 touches a happy medium for a guy like Dalvin Cook?
A: I don’t know. I think every game is different. That is why I rely on Kennedy Polamalu. Kennedy has a great feel for the backs and when he has to roll Latavius [Murray] in there and get Dalvin in there. I kind of lean on and talk to Kennedy throughout the game, but I don’t think we have a specific number in mind.
Q: Do you hope to see more of Dalvin Cook in the passing game providing a spark at the goal line in the future?
A: Sure and I just go back to Dalvin, who everybody knows is a really good football player, one of our best. Any way we can get him the football we’re going to try to do it both in the run and the pass and certainly down toward the goal line.
Q: How does having Kirk Cousins under center instead of shotgun benefit him?
A: I think there are pluses and minuses to both being in the gun and under center. I think that week-to-week it may vary. I just go back to Detroit, we ripped off that long run to Dalvin that was out of the gun. I don’t think it’s an exclusive thing. We are just trying to be as difficult as we can to defend.
Q: What do you remember the relationship you had with Brett Favre?
A: We don’t have enough time for Favre stories. Brett was a great player here for a couple years. Was great for me as a young coach being in that room, the quarterback room, for the first time and seeing how he operates. But what I appreciate most about Brett, and I’ve told our quarterbacks this, is he was a great teammate. He was a great to his teammates, both by just being himself and then on game day you just saw how important it was to him, how hard he works. That was one thing I will always take with me just about how you lead a team and how you are a great teammate to the guys around you.
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer
Q: To have more explosive plays on special teams is it just as much about what Marcus Sherels is doing as far as the blocking?
A: Yeah, it’s a lot do with the blocking. It’s also a lot to do with how Marcus sets up his blocks, he’s very good at that, he’s gotten better. He’s very experienced as we all know and he’s gotten better over the years at doing that. When he caught the ball he was patient, waited for blockers to set up, and then went down the sideline. It was a great play all the way around.
Q: When you compile all the statistics together is there an obvious improvement on gains when you go indoors?
A: I think the indoors helps. Although, the punting can be improved as well. I think the thing that really helped us Sunday that a lot of people overlook is our defense did such a good job pinning our opponent deep, so now they’re fourth-and-18, they’re fourth-and-20, they’re fourth-and-22, and that allows us to make a call where you can double both gunners and when you can double both gunners in this league you’ve got a chance. You’ve got chance to at least get Marcus going. Who knows from there to be honest with you. Where we get the fair catches is that we’re not allowed to be as aggressive is when we just single press on one gunner, we have to have 7 or 8 in the box because it’s fourth-and-4 instead of fourth-and-20. I have to be more conservative with our calls, obviously, so we don’t give up a fake. So, because it was great complimentary football I know we talk about that a lot. Our offense did a great job moving the ball, we’d punt them deep or whatever, our defense would get a sack or two, now it’s fourth-and-20, we’d go double vice and get a get a big play. So that’s a great formula for success for our football team.