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Transcript: Coordinators Address the Media Thursday

Posted Oct 12, 2017

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur     

Q: What is the number one trait you look for in a backup quarterback?

A: Well certainly they have to have the attributes to be a starter. They have to be good decision makers for one. They have to be accurate passers. They have to understand timing, so when it’s time late in a down, it’s time to scramble. They really have to be good decision makers going back to the first point; early in the down as well as late in the down. I think it helps if the backup quarterback is mobile, so that he can move around and you can use really your whole offense.

Q: What was it about Case Keenum?

A: Well, we do our due diligence with regard to all the players at all the positions in the off-season and our scouting staff had a good feel for him and what they thought of him. And then the coaches get involved when it comes time to bring in a free agent player. I evaluated him, watched him. We were impressed with his skillset. He’s won games as a starter and that’s an important piece for a quarterback and we felt like he’d be a good fit.

Q: Is there a certain skill that some guys have and some guys don’t when it comes to being able to jump into a game and be able to take over?

A: Well certainly when you’re the starter you’re taking most, if not all the reps during the week. But I think a backup player has to be able to go in with the limited amount of reps, and save the game so to speak. Case [Keenum] has that ability.

Q: Do you think the couple passes before halftime helped Case Keenum get started in the second half?

A: I think to get the quarterback started is important and we were certainly trying to do that with Sam [Bradford]. It just wasn’t quite working. I think it’s like anything. It’s like in basketball, you make a couple shots you get some confidence, same thing can be said for a quarterback. If you can get a good start and you can get a drive going and you get a couple first downs – you start to get to more than four or five plays it certainly helps. 

Q: What have you seen from Jerick McKinnon as he’s getting a bigger role now?

A: Well it’s been a one game basis on that and he certainly performed extremely well the other night. He got our most explosive play in that 58-yard run, but I thought down to down he ran the ball well. We knew going in, and it’s always the case when playing Chicago, that’s a gritty big front. It was a fight all night up there. We weren’t quite as efficient with our runs early and then we kept pounding, kind of kept beating on the rock so to speak. We found a way to be efficient at the end. Jerick was a big piece in that.

Q: He’s not the biggest guy but he seemed to run physical. What were your thoughts?

A: He’s fit. He’s got enough size to play the position. I thought he performed well. The challenge now is to do it this week as well.

Q: Was his usage part of the game plan?  

A: I think when you go into the game our intention was to use both of them and then he [Jerick McKinnon] had the hot hand and we just kind of stuck with him.

Q: Will what you look for in a backup quarterback position change depending on your starter?

A: Not really. What I think you want when it comes to the quarterback room you try to get the two or three best players you can get. And then, I said it all along, depending on what that quarterback’s skillset is then you tailor the game to what he can do well. Typically if you have a guy that’s a little bit more mobile than the starter then you can lean a little bit more on the movement throws. Which is pretty obvious I think. If the guy is more of a drop-back style passer than you kind of lean on the kind of things that he does well. I think all offensive systems have elements of all the passes in them and as a coordinator and as a play-caller you have to veer toward making those calls. As you saw the other night we were more in a drop back mode and then I had to make a hard right and then we started doing other things in the second half to move the ball. 

Q: What’s your reaction when you see plays open up like the 58-yarder the other night?

A: I think sometimes the big plays show up and there’s elements of offense that we’ve embraced this year that have helped us. That was a tempo call and it ended up being good for us.

Q: Do you have to change much going from Sam Bradford to Case Keenum?

A: Yes, I think the answer falls along with what I just said. You put an offense together and plays for certain situations and then let’s say we’re at a third-and-six, you have certain plays you want to run and then you pick the ones of those plays that are best suited for the guy that’s in there. 

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer

Obviously, big win Monday night and we’re trying to keep that momentum going Sunday afternoon against another outstanding divisional opponent. We need to do our job on special teams to help us win this game. It’s a big one for us, obviously.

Q: What is the reason for zero kickoff return touchdowns league wide thus far?

A: A lot more teams are content with taking a knee for the touchback so you get the ball at the 25. A lot of kickoff teams are content with forcing those touchbacks. So, telling their kickers to kick it deep. That’s kind of the way the league is going right now. Field position is crucial. At times, I wish we would have taken a knee. Of course, there is other times that I wished we didn’t kick touchbacks because I kind of like covering kicks. We’ve been covering kicks, all but the one Tampa kick, we’ve covered kicks very well this year. That’s when you get them inside the 25 or even inside the 20.

Q: Being able to pin them back deep is a big advantage, correct?

A: That would be huge, especially against a team like Green Bay with the offense that they have and the quarterback that they have. I think any time you can pin them inside the 20, whether it’s on punt or kickoff, that’s crucial for our defense. Give our defense great starting field position. 

Q: How does Green Bay stack up, kick return-wise?

A: They’ve had one kickoff return. I think Jeff Janis is a great returner. I think he’s outstanding, he’s gotten us before. He has one return on the year, last week against Dallas for 17 yards, that’s it. They’re pretty content with taking a knee and giving their quarterback the ball at the 25.

Q: Does the lack of returns make it harder to prepare for the kickoff return unit?

A: If it’s a young returner, probably. We know Jeff [Janis] a little bit because of his past successes. It will be in terms of the schemes that they like to use. Today in the walk-through and today in practice we’re working on the schemes that they’ve run in the preseason, they’ve run last year. I don’t think it gets any harder to prepare, it’s just preparing differently, if that makes sense.

Q: When a team hits on a trick play, does it keep you up at night?

A: I’ll be honest with you, I was very upset with myself. That was a bad call. I put our team in a bad situation. It was not anything that our players did wrong. Now, I would’ve liked to make the tackle after they got the first down because the way our defense was playing, we might have forced a field goal situation. But, at the end of the day, that call was on me. I felt pretty bad about that so, no, I haven’t slept a whole lot since then. But, I can take solace in the fact that we covered kicks well, we covered punts well. Our field goal kicker did a great job. We protected against a really good field goal block team. I thought we came out of there with a win and just one really bad play. Obviously, on punt return we have to eliminate the two penalties we had. That’s the first time we’ve had that all year. That needs to be eliminated. They did a good job. They executed it well, they caught us in something I should not have made that call. We should not have been in that situation.

 

Q: What did you see on the penalties on the punt return unit?

A: Well, I think we kind of pulled the guy on the back of his jersey a little bit to slow him down. You’ll never get away with that. That’s kind of my coaching point to our guys, don’t give the official an excuse to throw the flag. You guys have heard me say that before. The second one, it probably should’ve been called because of where his hand was, but the force was from the side and the kid did a great flop. Actually, it wasn’t even a very good flop, it was a terrible acting job in my opinion. He took a little bit of NBA knowledge, NBA-flop technique. We should not put ourselves in that situation, especially in the fourth quarter, seven and a half minutes to go in the game. We’ve got to set our offense up with great field position so we can go down there on that drive and kick the game-winning field goal. We had to punt it down and [Ryan] Quigley did a great job of punting them down and Harrison [Smith] got the interception and we won the game. That was a big win for us, obviously, we don’t win out there very often.

Q: Do you like the way that Ryan Quigley has been punting?

A: The first punt of the game was not a very good punt. They had a 14-yard return which is really the only return more than five or six yards that we’ve given up. Other than that, he was outstanding. His high hangtime kicks. The gross punt, I don’t care. We’re going to net what we punt, that’s our goal. You can look at his gross punt numbers, he gets frustrated at that. I’m telling him, he’s doing exactly what we need him to do to help us win to eliminate the possibility of a big return, that’s our goal.

Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards  

Good to get back home this weekend. Another tough opponent, another good offense that we’re facing this week. Probably a first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback so we have our work cut out for us in preparation this week. 

Q: You’ve done a good job of getting after the passer. What are the different challenges with Aaron Rodgers’ ability to break the pocket?

A: He is able to scramble and run. He is able to scramble. He can make all the throws. That is the biggest thing that poses. His receivers do a good job adjusting down the field as he starts to move around the pocket. He poses a lot of challenges as far as our rush plan this week. Coach [Andre] Patterson and those guys are doing a great job of preparing this week. We just have to pay attention to the details as we get going and keep working through the progression of the week.

Q: Is Aaron Rodgers hard to shadow or mimic in practice? When you have a guy playing him, is it hard to get a guy that gets it exactly right?

A: Oh yes. If not, that guy would probably be playing. [Rodgers] is pretty good at all of those things. He can throw on the run, he can take off running as he did last week to keep the clock moving. We’ll have our work cut out for us to contain him inside of the pocket and hopefully do a good job of defending the pass. Just like every week, our pass rush and our coverage go together so we have to do a good job on both ends.

Q: What do you see from Harrison Smith with that big play at the end obviously was huge, but just game to game is he as consistent as you’d like?

A: Harrison is one of the most consistent players we have. Day in and day out, he is going to come to work. He is going to pay attention to the details. He can transfer it from the meeting rooms to the field, and then to the game on Sundays. Everything he does he is a true professional. We are fortunate to have him. In the right place being able to make that play last week was huge.

Q: How much of a luxury is it to have the depth that you have in the front?

A: That’s really a good point. Our guys do rotate quite a bit up front. The next guy that goes in, we expect him to be paying attention to details. Our front is really a good front. Whoever is in there, the level of play doesn’t go down. They’re all professionals, pay attention to the details and hold each other accountable. Coach Patterson does a tremendous job with those guys up front. It’s a blessing to have depth in that room.

Q: What has made Green Bay so successful in the red zone?

A: Just going through the red zone, these guys are number one in the red zone and there’s a reason. [Aaron Rodgers] is doing a good job of checking them into the right play, understanding what teams are trying to do against them, the leverage of the routes down there they that do. The scramble rules are still in effect. He does a lot of good things down there. That’s why they’re number one in the red zone. He’s number one in a lot of categories. They’re five-for-five on fourth downs. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us as far as preparation and getting ready for this game this week.

Q: Do you go in with them maybe expecting even a more aggressiveness on fourth downs than maybe you see from other teams?

A: Not necessarily more aggressiveness, but they have their tendencies just like every team does from week-to-week. We just have to pay attention to the details of what we’re facing that week.