Vikings coordinators: Griffen’s return, Elflein’s influence, kick returner rotation 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: How much success in [the Lions’] run game is attributed to their offensive line play?
A: I think their offensive line has done a great job of getting movement up front all year. You look at the one thing that has stayed consistent with their offensive line and also with 33 [Kerryon] Johnson being their running back. He’s come in, he really has good vision, can catch, ability to run inside and outside, ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. It will be a true test his weekend to line up and stop the run.
Q: Now that Golden Tate is gone, what do you make of their receivers now?
A: They obviously feel good about their receivers that they have. When you look at them, number 11 [Marvin Jones Jr.], 19 [Kenny Golladay], now 10 [Brandon Powell] and 13 [T.J. Jones] in there. All of those guys have played for them and have been successful for them. Also, the use of their backs in the passing game. They’ve done a good job of using them, utilizing them in the passing game, whether it’s been screens or check downs or just the option routes out of the backfield. Tate is who he is. He is a great run after the catch guy, he does a great job of getting open in certain situations. He had a big part for what they did situationally. We will have our test as far as matching up against their receivers this week. We are just going through game planning against them. We understand what we need to get accomplished in those different situations. We just have to keep working the leverage and the coverage. Then you sit back there and decide. The quarterback can get the ball to any of them. You see all the big plays they’re making down the field with 11 [Jones. Jr.] and 19 [Golladay]. We’ve got our work cut out for us this week.
Q: What are some of the things that make Eric Kendricks so consistent?
A: Number one, starting with him, I think Eric really pays attention to the details. He understands angles, staying inside out on the tackling. He’s got the speed to get to the perimeter and still maintain leverage on backs and receivers when we pass off in coverage. Then again I think it’s also a credit to our front. They do a great job of handling double teams. Allowing him to roam from sideline to sideline. I think it’s a cohesive effort by everybody in the front. Eric does a great job as our middle linebacker, understanding angles, understanding leverage, understanding what teams are trying to do in the run game and the passing game.
Q: What has Anthony Harris done in the past to earn the trust of the coaching staff when there are injuries, he comes in and steps up?
A: I would have to say consistency. Anthony has prepared consistently throughout his whole time here. His number has been called quite a few times during his tenure here. As coaches, you appreciate that because you can trust him to go in and he is going to know the calls. He is going to know the checks. I think our players understand when Anthony is in the game, it is not going to be a drop off as far as the knowledge we are trying to get accomplished. That is a credit to him and his preparation from week-to-week. When his number has been called. He has been able to step up and he’s been able to play. We credit that to him and his preparation and everybody feeling confident in what he brings to the table.
Q: How did Everson Griffen do in his first game back?
A: Everson did a good job. Playing football is not like riding a bicycle where you can just all of a sudden you can hop on and start pedaling. It’s not that easy. He is working through all of those things. I think he’ll tell you getting back into the flow of things is going to just keep getting better with time. I think with what he showed us back in the first ball game and preparation and going through this week will be critical. We just have to keep working at it and I think he will continue to get better.
Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo
Q: What do you see from the Lions secondary that can make them dangerous?
A: I think number one is they get up in your face. All of those guys. They’re not afraid to go three across, two across and get up in your face right away. They do a great job of using their hands within five yards and try to disrupt your timing in the passing game. Obviously the longer the quarterback has to hold on to the ball, the worse things don’t go so good. We are going to have to do a great job of helping our guys and maybe some shifts and bunches and those things. Our guys are going to have to be just as violent as they are at the line of scrimmage.
Q: What have you seen from Deroit’s run front?
A: Stats are what they are. They can be deceiving at times. They’ve given up a few really long runs. Then you watch the rest of the tape and it’s two yards, three yards, five yards, zero yards. They’ve given up a few explosives in the run game which I think kind of throw those stats off a little bit. If you look at their overall body of work, taking away those few plays, they’re a lot better than 31st in the league in rush defense.
Q: How influential has Pat Elflein been in the run game?
A: Very. Very. Especially when you are running your inside zone. Any runs. We always just talk about getting the play started. Getting the play started and when you’re running inside, Pat does a good job of denting the line of scrimmage at the point of attack to where you can get the play started and I think you’ve seen our amount of negative runs decrease since he’s come back. Obviously, our backs are doing a heck of a job running the football as well.
Q: What are the keys to Elflein getting the play started so well?
A: I think he’s really quick with his hands. He gets the ball out to the quarterback very, very quickly. He has a great first step. He’s quick. The other thing is he knows what is going on. He understands, he can diagnose fronts very quickly. He understands safety rotation, understands the alignment in the front where there could be a stunt up front. He does a great job of recognition and understanding what the possibilities of what is coming at him.
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer
Q: Do you think you’re going to rotate anybody in with kick returns after Roc Thomas’ injury?
A: Yes, we are going to have to. As soon as he went down, we put Marcus [Sherels] back there. Marcus is always a great option because he’ll know what to do. He’s always prepared. Holton Hill can always be an option depending on Xavier [Rhodes]. We could put Mike Boone back there. He’s been catching kicks as well. We have a bunch of guys, Brandon Zylstra, we are having a bunch of guys be prepared. Depending on injuries, depending on their usage on offense and defense that will determine who we put on those phases.
Q: What do you have to do to get Sherels going?
A: Finish blocks. Get the gunners blocked, first of all. Get him going, finish the blocks at the point of attack. He had a nice game against the Jets. Last week like I said, he just had the one opportunity. I tell our guys all the time, you play a team like New Orleans, you play a team like Detroit, they have good offenses. They are not going to punt the ball a lot. You have to take advantage of every opportunity. You might have two or three returns total in that ball game. We have to make it work on those two or three returns. We have to get the gunners blocked. We have to finish blocks legally down field. We have to do a great job at the line of scrimmage. We have to pressure the punter when we do run pressures. Hopefully he hits a line drive kick to us and that has been our success over the years is pressuring guys to kick line drive kicks and Marcus taking advantage of those types of kicks.
Q: You talked about illegal shots to your center. Do you send those into the league? How do you approach that going into this game?
A: I think we just have to remind the officials to look for it, that’s what they do. They’ve [Detroit] already been called for it this year, it’s kind of their M.O., that’s what they do. It’s not going to be called every time, so I’m not going to rely on the officials making that difficult call, that’s a hard call for make for those guys. We got to do a better job protecting, there’s no excuses. I’m not making excuses for last year at all. We have to do a better job of protecting, and understand that that’s what they’re going to do. We need to do a better job of protecting our center, protecting our launch point and making sure we get the ball up in the air with good timing. It’s timing and elevation for the kicker, and we got to make those kicks.
Q: How can you go about protecting the center if that is how they’re going to do things?
A: It’s about technique. It’s the same technique, we were teaching the same technique last year, we just did a poor job at it, to be honest with you. We did a poor job in protection and we hit a little bit lower of a kick on the first one. That’s on us, it doesn’t matter what they do, it’s got to be about us and it’s got to be about us protecting that launch point. Make no excuses, let’s go out and do our job.
Q: [Dan Bailey] had never missed an extra point when he was playing in Dallas indoors, and he obviously missed on last week against the Saints. Was there anything different that you saw on that kick? It’s a very rare situation for him to find himself in.
A: Yeah, you’re right. He shouldn’t ever miss a PAT. I think he just wrapped his foot a little bit and maybe tried to rush it. I was baffled, I was totally surprised he missed that, and I think he was too. He expects more from himself, but the good thing for him is that he’s a pro. We hit 20, 22 kicks yesterday indoors. We went in and got some work and he was 21 of 22, and the only one he missed was a mayday situation, a hurry-up situation where I didn’t give him time to give his steps. Then we did another one and he drilled a 48-yarder down the middle. He’s ready, he’s ready to go, and we’ll have another good day [Thursday] and get him ready for Sunday.
Q: Is it safe to say that because U.S. Bank Stadium is indoors, it’s essentially the same environment that he was in in Dallas?
A: I think the turf might be a little bit different, and the sightlines might be different because of the stadium, but there’s no wind, obviously, and the temperature is the same. He’s got to make those kicks, especially. Outdoors I would expect him to make a PAT, because it’s not that far. I don’t like it when people say chip shot, because there’s no chip shot field goal, no matter what. If it’s from the 1-yard line, a 19-yard field goal, to me I don’t like the word chip shot because there’s still a snap, a hold, a kick, protection, everything is involved, the rush, etc. All those type of things are involved, so we go out and approach each kick like they’re all the same. Left hash, right hash, middle, doesn’t matter. Go out and get your sight line, get good elevation, good timing and put the ball through. That’s his job.
Q: Is there any advances in technology to help you analyze special teams?
A: The statistical analysis that our guys do a good job with that in terms of kickers and punters, snappers, and returners. Now it’s when to bring the ball out on kickoff, kickoff return – is it really a good idea to bring it from five deep or take the touchback? I mean all those things are evolving and changing. We stay on top of all that stuff, all the statistics mainly. In terms of the technology part of it I think the more data that comes out the more I learn from it, especially in the offseason. We’re a team that doesn’t use the head. We’ve talked about that before – keep the head out of the game in terms of tackling and blocking and taking on blocks. To me that’s very important to keep our guys healthy, like Roc Thomas had a real nice tackle last week, but he put his head down at the last second. The first thing I told him “That was a nice job, you were in position to make a nice play, but keep your head up.” Number one it could be called for penalty and I’m not worried about that as much as I am about him staying healthy and tackling correctly and doing the right things and making sure we keep kickoff, kickoff return in the game but most importantly keep our guys healthy because that’s very important to me and that’s how we teach it.
Press conference transcripts provided by the Minnesota Vikings.