Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave
Good morning. We’ve had a terrific start to our day. We are putting the players through a dress rehearsal of a normal week, so today is like a Wednesday for us. So far so good.
Q: How did
A: Well, Joe is making strides every day. The other night he missed on a couple throws that he would like to have back, but he did some good things for us too. He made some plays with his legs when we spread him out and got everybody out of the backfield. That is definitely one of his strengths.
Q: Because of what he can do with his legs, how hard is it to evaluate him in a non-game setting where you can’t see all of the things he can do to escape and make plays?
A: Well, it’s not that tough to evaluate him. We know where his strengths are, we know in what areas he needs to improve. We are really working hard to improve those areas, so he can carve up the defense with his arm as well as his legs.
Q: Do you think he looked more comfortable in the second game than the first?
A: I think he did, I think our entire team did. I think we are making strides with the goal of being ready to really be good once we play Jacksonville, so we need to do the same this week.
Q: Have you seen enough from
A: We probably haven’t seen enough yet. We are going to put him through his paces again today, tomorrow, and the following day. It’s like a Wednesday to us with the Friday night kickoff, so another week will be good for his development and for our ability to assess his status.
Q: How eager are you to see
A: We are eager, I’m sure John is more eager than all of us coaches, teammates, or administrators. We want to have him be a contributor, so as soon as he can I know he will be back out there with us.
Q: He is a veteran guy, but being out of football for a year I assume there are some things that he still needs to catch up on.
A: Yep, we’ve got a couple guys between he and
Q: Where has
A: I think Toby has made strides in the pass protection realm of his game. He has always been smart, but I think his technique has been better this year. He is playing with lower pad level. Running the ball too, he seems to be a little bit more assertive, a little bit quicker to hit the hole and I think that comes primarily from familiarity with our blocking schemes and our system.
Q: How much more versatile is this offense with John Carlson and
A: We’re hoping it is more versatile and more productive, but that remains to be seen. We have a plan in place and we look forward to putting it into action, but it is all speculative at this point until he gets out there.
Q: Has it altered your play calling at all, not having John Carlson out there?
A: We have still been able to go some two-tight end sets. Rhett (Ellison) has done a nice job for a rookie, and both Allen (Reisner) and Mickey (Shuler) had good games the other night in the passing game. All of them are really blocking well. We are very pleased with that aspect because we are going to run the football. I don’t know that it’s really altered the play calling, it has just altered the depth there with only having four guys available, rather than five.
Q: Have you reached a tipping point with
A: He’s not going to get maximum work, he is going to get more limited work because we are going to line up the guys and get familiar with the guys that will be playing against Jacksonville.
Q: At what point did you go through the head-first slide rather than the feet-first slide with
A: Well, I think all quarterbacks have to make a determination of which is better, feet-first or head-first. No matter what they decide to do from being around different fellows, I know Drew Brees and John Elway were big head-first guys. Other guys are feet-first. I know Aaron Rodgers does both, and I think it’s a personal preference. What’s really important when a quarterback runs is getting down in a timely manner as those defenders converge. You can maximize and squeeze out the last possible yard but at the same time maintain your health so you can line up for the next play.
Q: Did you find some data that suggested that head-first was a more consistent way to go?
A: The data would just be the film over the last dozen, 15, 18 years. We just try to make cut ups for guys to see other guys play, make audibles, pass, run so we can study them and glean some insight and help ourselves get better. The other night I though Christian (Ponder) did a good job because he was aware of the situation. It wasn’t third and goal from the four or five, it was just third and two. He got himself down in a timely manner. Rather than pushing that line where sometimes that line between being healthy and getting all the yards you want, sometimes it’s almost indistinguishable. He got himself down in a timely manner and got us that first down. If he would’ve had to get in the end zone then it would’ve gotten a little more sticky as we can imagine.
Q: Do you think going head-first every time takes the thought process out of it so you’re never going sort of halfway and rolling over?
A: I think so, we want to protect ourselves. When it is wide open feet-first is fine, when the defenders are converging we just need to get down. We have all seen the vicious hits on Trent Green and Steve Pelluer over the years. It’s just a fine line that the more a quarterback plays in this league, the more you can ascertain the speed and closing ability of these men playing defense at this level.
Q: Were you always a head-first guy when you were playing?
A: It was hard to do a lot of diving from the sidelines. I was over there in a very safe spot. In those preseason games at the end I always tried to. I wanted to emulate the way that John Elway would run it. It was always easy to keep my pads down. I always wanted a lot of forward lean and it just kinds turned out to be the tree timbering down.
Q: So the main thought process is that going head-first gets you to the ground quicker?
A: It gets you there quicker and we don’t want to give a surface for the defenders to hit. We don’t want to expose ourselves by being a periscope up on exposing all our vital organs. We want to give them a very minimal surface and keep our pads down but really get down in a timely manner.
Q: Can ball security be an issue there?
A: It is. It takes practice. It takes turns to be good at it, and the guys that are good at it, they definitely secure the football throughout the down.
A: Not to my knowledge. We talk about personnel every day and we have not had that discussion about anything being locked up. He’s done a nice job and we are looking forward to more strides this week. This is the third preseason game, and we talked about the first two being good, possibly better, but still not quite good enough across the board. We’re looking to be good enough before the Jacksonville game rolls around.
Q: Kyle Williams is an awfully good defensive tackle and it looked like Brandon Fusco held up good against him.
A: He did. He fought him and battled. He learned some lessons, took some licks, but he will be better for it.
Q: What does
A: Well, Devin has just had some bad luck here these first two games. We’ve tried to send the ball his way and various factors have caused him to come up empty, so we are going to keep going to that well. We can count on Devin, he gives us his best effort everyday so the worm will turn in that regard.
Q: Those couple of long balls out of bounds, was he too close to the sideline?
A: Not necessarily. It’s a two-way street. He wants to leave us room to throw it over his outside shoulder but we want to keep the ball in bounds as a quarterback, so I’d say both factors need to improve in that area to result in a completion.
Q: Do you want to get him more time with Ponder too just to see if those two can connect? He’s also played with Webb?
A: He has, just with Jerome (Simpson) emerging on the scene, but last year I know they had a good rapport as did Christian (Ponder) and (Michael) Jenkins. We’ve had some good time out on the practice field and also in Mankato.
Q: It seems that
A: It may be. He probably has more familiarity, he wasn’t the new kid on the block like he was last year. He is a veteran guy, we remind him every day how old he is to try to get him going. But you are right, we’ve got some good leadership there. You can see in the drills that he gets to the front of the line, Percy (Harvin) is right there arm-in-arm with him, Jerome (Simpson) is getting more comfortable, Devin (Aromashodu) has leadership ability to him too. It’s a good group when they go to work.
Q: How much do you think Michael Jenkins knee injury from last year is playing a role this year?
A: I don’t really have a medical opinion on that. It looks like he is getting more and more confident. I don’t know about the time span healing up from that injury.
Q: Have you noticed a lack of explosiveness at all from him in the offseason?
A: No, I know he was still getting treatment, we’ll say back in the OTA’s, we’ll say in May and June. I think he is doing more preventative work in the training room now, rather than true rehab, so he is probably getting real close to being back where he wants to be, if not being already there.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams
Good morning. It’s good to get in the routine of a game week in terms of preparation. We’re game planning a little bit more for this game so it’s good to see the players get in their routine, the coaches in terms of preparation. Looking forward to playing another ball game at home and seeing how we fare against what we think is a very good AFC team.
Q: Was there some game planning against the Bills?
A: We did a little bit more, but not much. I think just guys being in tune to being in their run gaps, leverage wise, guys playing the leverage like they’re supposed to. Ultimately, you usually have some improvement from game one to game two and I attribute that to guys getting used to what our expectations are as a coaching staff and as a defense.
Q: How do you envision
A: The neat thing about Marvin is that he’s played a lot of different positions in the NFL when he was at New Orleans, when he was at Miami. He is a smart ball player; he can play each one of the positions. It’s still yet to be determined, we’re looking to see, there’s a battle there between he and Erin [Henderson] and we’re kind of waiting to see how that shakes out. Really, there are battles with a lot of positions on the football team and that’s what the preseason is for, to allow guys to compete for positions, to allow guys to beat out one another in the show. We’re still waiting to see.
Q: How do you assess
A: He played well; he hustled, he ran around. I think Jasper is getting more comfortable with having to command the defense, making calls, making checks, getting people lined up. He is running extremely well, he played downhill a little bit better. We’re looking to see if he can do that in more of a consistent basis more this ball game with more reps.
Q: Have you seen him be tentative at all?
A: Not tentative, just playing more side to side than downhill. I wouldn’t say tentative at all.
Q: This team has been known for a dominant defense, can you be a top five or top ten team again?
A: I think so, it just depends if we’re going to play consistent football. I’ve always said we’re not too far off last year and it had nothing to do with talent, it just had to do with guys paying attention to detail and being in their run gaps and just executing the defense. If guys do that, we’ll be a top 10 defense; we just have to make sure as a coaching staff, we’re in tune to making sure that guys are detailed about carrying out their assignments. That was the biggest difference with this last week, guys stayed in their gaps, we tackled well and pursued to the football.
Q: Did you challenge
A: We challenge all the guys to be aggressive, that’s one thing we want to do. We want to hustle, we want to play with great hustle actually, and we want to be a physical defense. When offenses turn on the tape, we want them to say, “Wow, you better buckle up. You better come to play hard because the Minnesota Vikings are going to play tough football.” So no, not Mistral, but I did challenge the entire defense to be physical.
A: He does, he is a young corner in terms of experience. Not a bad thing whatsoever, it just means he has a great upside. We look to get him as much experience as we can. He has a big upside; he’s fast, he’s tall, he had a nice strip in the ball game. He’s coming along the way we think he should and we’re just waiting to see how high that ceiling is.
Q: Did he get cleared to practice today?
A: I’m not sure, when I talk with [Head Athletic Trainer] Eric Sugarman I’ll see.
A: I hope so, I do. He has a ton of talent, he can run, he’s a physical ball player also. He showed that in last week’s ball game so we look forward to getting him some more reps this week and seeing how fast we can bring him along. We want to make sure that we get him good reps against good competition to see what he does and how he fares.
Q: Was his physicalness one of the questions you had coming in because he is so fast?
A: No, not at all. The NFL game is a little bit different from the college game and you want to see if they show the same things that they did in college and he did. Again, we look forward to getting him more reps and getting him going with the defense.
Q: If Jasper is the linebacker that comes off the field the nickel, will Erin call the defense?
A: He will, yes.
Q: How much of Audie’s two picks were because of what he was reading or was it because of the right place at the right time; could anybody have made those plays?
A: Yes, yes and yes maybe. Audie’s play was a great example of doing exactly what the linebacker coaches ask him to do, drop in coverage, see the quarterback, and break on the ball. Nothing any more or any less than that, he executed the defense and if guys do that, in a lot of cases those will be the results. Audie was a great case of doing what the coaches asked him to do and his part is, and I don’t take this for granted, catching the football and scoring with it. I don’t take that for granted at all because there are a lot of balls that hit the hands and are on the ground. The coaches did their part and Audie did his part and two touchdowns were the result.
Q: Where have you seen Mistral progress?
A: I think he’s feeling more comfortable in his skin. He’s moving around, he’s communicating more, he has his own personality out there and he’s starting to develop that where he’s not just lining up in one specific place. His disguises are a little bit better and he tackled well this ball game. I look for him to just keep progressing in terms of feeling comfortable in what we’re asking him to do and he seems to be doing that. He is working his butt off outside of just being on the football field in terms of watching tape, taking notes and getting with Coach Joe Woods for the extra things that he needs to do to be successful.