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Edwards, Priefer Address The Media on Thursday

Posted Aug 21, 2014

Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards

Q: How important is it going to be for Robert Blanton to get out there and play?

A: We’re glad to get those guys back out there and working this week, we look forward to getting a chance to see them play this weekend. They are excited about the opportunity they have to go out this weekend and perform and we look forward to seeing them perform well this weekend.

Q: Could you talk about Xavier Rhodes, his talent and what he still needs to learn and how you balance it?

A: That’s the one thing that we strive for every day that we are out here, is that consistency. That’s the one thing that Coach (Jerry) Gray and Coach (Mike) Zimmer are trying to get in the secondary and trying to work, where we come out here every day and we know exactly what we are doing, technique, fundamental-wise and where we want to be as far as location in different coverages on receivers. That’s a big part of it. You see flashes of a player doing something; you just want to keep continuing to work to be consistent day in and day out.

Q: Who are some of the guy you want to get an extended look at in Saturday’s game?

A: We’re still working through the playing time process. We meet tonight and tomorrow, as we go through that. We’re in the process now of filling that out and thinking how long guys are going to play. We’re planning on playing our guys a little bit, just like we did last week to get out there and to compete. We need to see them. We need them to work together in different combinations of different personnel groups. It will be an opportunity to go out and show their talent.

Q: Do you want to get a look at some of the fringe roster players?

A: There’s no doubt about it, especially some of the guys that have been missing the last couple of games and throughout the camp.

Q: What have you seen from Josh Robinson with his limited number of reps?

A: I’ll tell you what, he did a good job yesterday when we were going through the drills, looking at him on the tape as far as position that we’re asking him to be in and those kind of things. It’s just a matter again of getting him out here consistently, getting him with the group. Working the techniques and fundamentals of the different coverages that we are working, we’re pleased where he is right now. We just know we still have a long way to go as far as that process with the time that we have missed.

Q: Given all of that time he has missed, is he still in the mix to be the third cornerback?

A: No doubt. Like I told you before, we’re going to be competing all of the way through this preseason. This weekend is another opportunity for us to go out and evaluate guys and then the next week is another opportunity. For us, especially in some of those positions that we have had a tighter competition and we’ve had some injuries throughout camp, this is a time for those guys to get back out there. We need to see where they are.

Q: What areas have you seen the most offseason improvements from Sharrif Floyd?

A: We were really pleased last week, he got some pressure up inside. Did a good job of pushing the pocket, those kinds of things, he’s been pretty consistent. We’ve worked through the offseason into the training camp, he’s been pretty consistent in his run stuff, but last week was the first time he really got good as far as pushing the pocket inside as far as the pass rush.

Q: Is there any value to playing your starters into the second half to make halftime adjustments with them?

A: I think for certain individuals it is, and that will be something that we talk about, playing time and which individuals do we need to do that. It’s always good to come out and the first time you haven’t done it is the first game, where everybody’s got to come out when we’re starting the second half, we’ve made the adjustments at halftime, “Okay, here is what they are going to do offensively, these are the problems that we had.” Just to make sure they can go out and execute it. From that aspect of it, it will still be a position-by-position basis.

Q: What have you seen from the linebackers group with some of the injuries at the position?

A: It’s an opportunity for the guys behind them to step up. I know Mike Mauti has gotten a lot more reps this week, Audie Cole has gotten a lot more reps this week, Mike Zimmer, our younger guys have gotten a lot more reps, Larry Dean’s gotten more reps, so from that aspect of it, it’s an opportunity for them to take this opportunity and make the best out of it. From that aspect of it, we still have got a lot of competition going on at that position and we’re looking forward for these next two weeks as far as the evaluation. 

Q: What have you seen from Michael Mauti and his extended playing time?

A: He’s done a good job. We’ve moved him, Mauti has probably moved as much as anybody, he’s played inside, he’s played Sam, he’s played Will, he’s played both sides of it. So, from that aspect of it, we think he has a good grasp of what we’re trying to do schematically and now the opportunity to go out there and just show it. So, from that aspect of it, we like where he is at right now. Like I said, we have got another opportunity this weekend. I look forward to him to go out there and compete.

Q: What position do you think he is best in?

A: We think the Will position is probably, where he’s at right now, playing the Will position and then in the sub stuff. We’ve rotated between a back and a dime. From that aspect of it, what we’ve seen and where he’s at right now, we feel comfortable where he’s at.

Q: Did you see anything specific about Sharrif Floyd’s ability to push the pocket like he did last week?

A: I think it’s something he has been working on. I think you felt his presence more inside last week as far as the push inside. We thought that was his best performance as far as going out and pushing the pocket. We’ve seen it out here in practice numerous times but coming out of that first ball game to the second, you really felt him a lot more with his inside presence in the pass rush.

Q: What do you think clicked for him?

A: Probably being more comfortable with the techniques and fundamentals that we are trying to teach him. Understanding things pre-snap. I think it’s a combination of all of the things that we have been working on through the offseason and through training camp.

Q: Do you have a clear idea of when you will be getting Linval Joseph back?

A: No, I don’t at this point in time. I know he’s here working every day. He’s a true pro. He’s staying up on what’s going on. From that aspect of it, I haven’t been given word when he will be back.

Q: How valuable has the time Linval Joseph has missed for Shamar Stephen?

A: Again, we want competition at every position for that reason. That when somebody is down, the next guy is up and he’s got to come in, we don’t want a drop off in performance. From that aspect of it, there’s a young guy, a prime example, that has come in here and worked his butt off all through the offseason, all through training camp and now it’s starting to show in his play. Each week we go out and perform, from that aspect of it, that’s what we’re trying to create at each position.

Q: Do you see Shamar Stephen as a guy that will definitely make the roster?

A: We still have got two more weeks of evaluations, so, everybody is still competing, from that aspect of it. We haven’t said, “Okay, here is our 53-man roster.” We still want that competition going all of the way throughout training camp and now that we’re done with training camp, through these preseason games. It’s a continuous evaluation as we keep going through it.

Q: Do you want to move from evaluating to getting an idea of who your starters will be?

A: That’s why we’re playing guys that we think are going to play more. We’re playing them more in the games, so they get a feel of playing with each other more, from that aspect of it. As far as cutting it down to 53, we’re still in a competition mode, we’re still in an evaluation mode and we’re trying to get better.

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer

Q: What do you think of Blair Walsh? What have you seen of him so far?

A: You know obviously he’s had a really good training camp. Going into that game the other night he was I think 47-of-50 in team period and obviously that doesn’t mean a whole lot when you miss a couple of field goals but he’s striking the ball, he’s hitting the ball well. We’re working on a little bit part of the follow through and I think we’ll tweak that and he’ll be just fine.

Q: Is there any adjustment that he’s doing just to adjust to the elements in there?

A: No, really both of them were beautiful nights. We’re not going to get much better weather than that I think during the rest of the season and he’s obviously kicking off well, so he’s doing a lot well. We’ve just got to mold it and put it together and we should be in good shape.

Q: How are things working out with Joe Marciano?

A: Good. He’s a knowledgeable coach, he’s been very successful, he’s been in this league a long time. We’re trading ideas as we’re gameplanning for these first two ballgames, three ballgames, really because we haven’t gotten as far as New Orleans yet because it’s a lot of work with the other two. We’re getting there and I think. Unfortunately, I have to leave the building for a few weeks, but we’re going to leave the guys in good hands.

Q: What have you seen from the punt return coverage and kick return coverage in these first two games?

A: I’ve seen some good things, I’ve seen some young guys step up, I’ve seen some veteran guys make plays. Larry Dean and Gerald Hodges made nice plays and Adam Thielen and Jamarca Sanford have made some nice plays. Shaun Prater made a nice play on that kickoff the other night. We’re kicking off well. We only had two punts the other night but we punted better than we did in the first game. We’re starting to gel a little bit. This is a huge challenge for us this week. Kansas City has one of the top coaches and one of the top special teams units in the NFL so it’s a great challenge for us on Saturday night. I’m a little bit nervous, approaching it like a regular season game because we’re taking a look at guys but we also want to be successful and keep building as we get closer to game one. 

Q: How can you build as you rotate guys and trying to prepare for week one?

A: That’s part of the building process I think, trying to see if the right guys make the team. We’re giving everybody an opportunity to earn a spot and not only do they earn a spot but they are ready for Week One. They’ve got to be ready if they’re going to be on that 46 that dress for the first game. Every day is a building process and we’re kind of taking a look at. I think we worked and repped 42 different players on the four core special teams in our last game, and that’s a lot and that was on purpose. We need to do that in this game as well to give the guys an opportunity because I promised them when they got here an opportunity to play and not only that but also to get them ready for Week One if they do make our team.

Q: Where is that number typically at?

A: I don’t know, I think it’s between 25 and 40 usually and we had extra guys in there the other night.   

Q: How much do you get a chance to fight for your guys during that final cut?

A: I think we do a great job here. Rick [Spielman] has always been a guy that’s an information gatherer, he’s going to take all of the information from the coordinators, the position coaches, obviously Coach [Mike] Zimmer is the same way, and they are fair. I try and look at it from the big picture from their eyes and I also look at it from a special teams point of view obviously. At the end of the day there’s going to be input on my part but Coach Zimmer and Rick and the personnel guys are going to make that final decision.

Q: Is there any relief from you that the Chris Kluwe thing is over? Any thoughts you have on that?  

A: I’m really excited about playing the Kansas City Chiefs this week. I’ve been focused on them all week. It’s something that I really haven’t given much thought and the bottom line is we have a game to play and we’ve got a season to prepare for.  

Q: Do you think Cordarrelle Patterson will get a chance to return a kick on Saturday?

A: I hope so. That’s up to, obviously, Coach Zimmer but I hope so. We’ve talked about it a little bit and as we get closer to game day we’ll talk about it some more but he took more reps this week as we’ve gone and excited about getting him back in there although the other guys, the young guys, have done a nice job for us.

Q: What do you need to see from him on Saturday other than to shake off some rust?

A: That’s mainly it. I don’t need to see anything from him but you’re right. I think it’s one of those things that if you only do it in practice the tempo isn’t the same, the timing is not quite the same and a lot of our returns are based off of timing, so getting him out there for a rep or two will help him get ready for St. Louis.

Q: What makes him such a special returner?
A: Size, speed, strength, he’s got great quickness and, like a lot of the great returners in this league, he’s got great vision. I’ve coached some guys that have the size and speed before and didn’t have good vision, they just kind of ran into blocks and stuff, but he has an innate ability to see things right before they happen and he’s very good at that. 

Q: Is there a tradeoff there to maybe back him off kickoffs to allow him to be more involved in the offense?
A: I hope to not back him off at all. That would be my plan but of course it’s not just me. That’s up to Coach Zimmer and how we use him on offense and his health and last year he was very fresh. Even late in the year we used him a lot even though he was involved in the offense more and more. To me it’s the first play of the offensive series, that’s the way I look at it.

Q: Will you also try and get more punt returns for Marcus Sherels this game?

A: He had two last game, did a nice job on the first one, second one we didn’t block, that was a shorter punt. He’ll get another opportunity this week.

Q: How has he looked as this camp as a guy who is always sneaking up on people but now he’s in the driver seat and guys are coming after him?

A: He’s not going to surprise anybody this year, that’s a good point, but he’s gotten better. We’re going to be more aggressive with him this year. He’s a very sound, disciplined returner. I don’t want to say we are going to take chances but we need to be more aggressive in what we do in the return game and I’m looking forward to that. 

Q: How does the skillset that Marcus has and the skillset Cordarrelle has translate between punt return and kick return?

A: He’s got great quickness and he’s got great courage. I think as a punt returner you have to have great courage, especially as a guy that is not as big as some of the other guys that are out there. Marcus has got great speed and great quickness and he’s gotten better over the last three years of seeing the openings and getting the timing down and getting that great vision.

Q: At what point do you try and shift from evaluating players to getting them more set?
A: That’s a great question. This weekend. This weekend we’re going to get a little bit closer hopefully to what we’re going to have ready for St. Louis. In the back of my mind I’m still looking, “Okay if this guy is starting on defense who do I put in on punt? Or is this guy doesn’t make the team who do I put in on kickoff?” And try and mix and match as we go. There’s a lot of moving pieces to the puzzle so to speak and we probably won’t play 42. We’re going to play a bunch to see who’s ready for us on game one.

Q: Where was Blair from the 50-yard line and beyond in practice? Is that any concern you guys have?

A: No, it’s not. I think he may have missed one from 50 or maybe none in practice. Again, it was one of those deals where if he was shanking the ball and he was wrapping his foot, he was pushing the ball too far to the right every time I’d be concerned, but he’s hitting the ball well, even in the games. He hit the ball well, there’s just a few things he needs to do with his follow through and once we straighten that out and we’ve already gone back and looked at a couple of old tapes from game tapes from his rookie year and from last year, just hey pull up this game, I had a good game this game or pull up this game, I had a good 50-yarder plus in this game. It’s one of those things he’s got to just continue to focus on his follow through and the little small attributes that make him such a great kicker compared to the other kickers in this league.

Q: Can a guy overthink to much with wind charts?

A: He could. I don’t think he’s there but he could.

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