Coach Speak: Kickoff Returns, Browns' Stout D, & WR Josh Gordon's Return

Posted Sep 20, 2013

The Vikings three coordinators had their customary weekly press conference on Thursday following the team’s morning walk-through. In this weekly piece, we’ll choose a comment from each of them and explain or react to what was said.

Question asked: (Asking about the emotional swing from Cordarrelle Patterson’s 105-yard kickoff return touchdown to open the game and then Devin Hester’s 76-yard return on the ensuing kickoff) What’s the emotional swing like in that minute or two of real time?

Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said: “That’s the one thing I’ve always been concerned about because any time you score right away like that, which we’ve done here a few times, the very next play you’re covering a kickoff with a lot of the same guys who were on the return touchdown. We’ve talked about calling a timeout in the past. But obviously that’s a big swing, not only for our special teams but the entire team, the entire sideline. You score, everybody’s up. The only thing I’m doing – I’m not celebrating – I’m looking for flags and I’m getting the field goal team out there for the next play. And then we’re getting the kickoff team ready for the very next play knowing we have to face (Devin) Hester.”

Reaction: This is an interesting glimpse into what goes on in the mind of a NFL special teams coordinator. So often we forget about the phase of special teams, and many football fans would be surprised at just how many special teams plays are in each game. Taking last week’s Vikings-Bears game as an example, the first three plays of the game were special teams plays – Patterson’s return touchdown, the extra point and then the ensuing kickoff. It’s also interesting to note that Priefer has to be concerned with the fact that many of the players who blocked for Patterson’s return were also responsible for running down and covering Hester.

Question asked: When you look at the two yards per rush (allowed), is that mostly the defensive linemen making plays, or the linebackers? Where are they best at stopping the run?

Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave said: “Well, their front seven. Their front seven is good and their safeties are good tacklers. It’s a very sound, Ray Horton defense. We played Arizona the last couple years, against Ray Horton, their coordinator, and I’ve known Ray for years. The Oregon-Washington thing runs deep between he and me. He and I were teammates in Dallas. He does a terrific job, so it’ll be a challenge for us to stack up against them.”

Reaction: We noted this dynamic in the both the “5 Storylines to Watch” piece and Wednesday notebook piece earlier this week, pointing out that for the first time this regular season the Vikings would face an odd-man front and that this was a defense coordinated by Ray Horton, who is known for being aggressive. Horton cut his teeth and likely cultivated his penchant for aggressive play calling while working under Steelers Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau from 2004-10. There’s good news and bad news for the Vikings on this front. The bad news is this defensive front, with its talent and aggressiveness, will be a challenge. The good news is it’ll be a good teaching point for next week’s matchup in London with the Steelers.

Question asked: What does Josh Gordon give them?

Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams said: “He gives them a big, athletic target for the quarterback to throw to. I know they’re looking forward to getting him back on the football field. He’s been productive for them in the past. It’s another big receiver that we have to defend.”

Reaction: This is an element to this matchup we’ve yet to touch on this week, but it became even more relevant this week after the Browns traded running back Trent Richardson. With Richardson gone, it’s not as if the Browns will abandon the run, but it should certainly be more difficult for them to run and it could lead them to rely more on the passing game. Relying more on the passing game is going to be made easier for Cleveland with the return of Gordon, a player whom Cleveland selected in the 2012 Supplemental Draft. He measures in at 6-3, 225 pounds and possesses the combination of size and speed that makes him a dangerous weapon all over the field. The Vikings have faced this type of receiver twice already this season – Calvin Johnson in Detroit and Brandon Marshall in Chicago. The Vikings fared well against Johnson, but Marshall got them for over 100 yards and a score.