Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner
Over the last period of time since Teddy [Bridgewater] has been playing there have been a lot of people that weighed in in terms of their evaluation and where he is and what type of player he is and where we are at. Sometimes I see some of that stuff and I'm not sure who it is that's evaluating or what their background is, what their qualifications or even what their experience is. So, I thought I'd weigh in because I know my background, I know my qualifications and I do have a little bit of experience with this. I think this is, for a young guy and for a rookie put in the situation he's been put in in terms of we've started eight different offensive linemen, we've obviously started three different tight ends, we've started three different running backs, played five different running backs, over the last five weeks our leading wide receiver is a guy we signed in late September/early October off the Cleveland Browns practice squad and you throw a rookie quarterback into that, I've seen a bunch of guys really, really have a tough time with that and a bunch of guys that are good players. It's pretty incredible to me what he's done, how he's handled it, the things he's gotten done and what he's really done is made everyone around him better and that's a quality that you're looking for. Teddy could be playing 10 years from now and have two interceptions in a game like he did last week. Obviously [Aaron] Rodgers had two in Buffalo against a pretty good defense we had our issues with earlier in the year too. I think [Andrew] Luck threw an interception for a touchdown in the first quarter. Those things happen because that's football and you try to eliminate those but when you ask a young guy who hasn't played a whole lot to go into Detroit and call 49 passes, he threw 41 and completed 31, and ran three times for 30 yards, that's asking a lot of a young guy and we're asking him to carry this group, which I've never had to do that with a young guy. When I had [Troy] Aikman in his third year he had Emmitt Smith who led the league in rushing. When I had Alex Smith in his second year he had Frank Gore who ran for 1,700 yards and when I had Philip Rivers in his second year starting, I think it was his fourth year in the league, he had LaDainian Tomlinson who led the league in rushing. We've kind of had an interesting group and the people we've played on offense has been wide ranging and to do the things he's done, it just tells you something about the type of person he is, the type of player he is and the thing that excites me is he can make any throw you need to make – he does it with people around him, he does it with people hitting him, he does it when he has to slide in the pocket. He knows how to play football and that's the starting point of the quarterback position. He's got the intangibles you need and he's going to continue to get better and better.
Q: How good can he be in the future?
A: To me, you get to a point and he'll continue, obviously he'll grow a lot, he'll continue to grow physically a lot because he's 22 years old. When you see him in four years, he'll look like a totally different person because that's what happens between 22 and 26 if you work the way he does – weight room and all of the different things you can do now to improve physically. That part of it I think can be outstanding. To me he has the intangibles of the guys I spoke of and I think at some point you can get to this good and then a lot of it after that, if you're talking about being one of the best, it's making sure he has the type of people around him that you rely on because any quarterback will tell you, any guy who's played, having those good people around you - good offensive line, running game, receivers, those things – they obviously make you better and then you have the ability to make them better but I don't see him having limits, limitations.
Q: What's an example of a way or player he's made better on offense?
A: Well obviously and the whole thing of the way he moves around has helped our protection and helped our passing game. He runs with the ball, he had 30 yards rushing the other day. People have to account for that. I think understanding when and where to throw the ball, getting the ball to the right guys, I just think those things, and we probably called 40 plays at the line of scrimmage Sunday against Detroit so getting you in and out of the right play, getting the ball out quick when it's not there, throwing the ball away, those type of things.
Q: Is there anything particular that has you thinking about this this week?
A: Probably the thing I said that you get a lot of people who, a good friend of mine who is deceased was the General Manager of the Chargers when I was there, John Butler, always said, "There are a lot of people out there evaluating or talking or covering or whatever who don't know what they don't know," and people talk about the position and talk about our quarterback and evaluate and I just don't know what they don't know. I think it was just on my mind probably because we didn't win the game and he had a couple of negative plays that the perception of how he played and really how he played were so totally different. We have to eliminate negative plays but like I said, I don't know if I've put a guy in that position or we've put a guy in that position, through my background, you put a guy in a position where you went into Detroit with three backup linemen on the road against really the number one defense in the league and ask him, you called 49 passes in a game that was that close.
Q: Was that first 20 minutes the best you've seen from him this year?
A: The funny thing is someone said he was 13-of-16 and then cooled off and yeah the rest of the time he was 18-of-25, obviously he threw a couple of interceptions. It's the highest completion percentage for a young guy that's over 40 attempts I think in a long time or ever. He was really sharp and I thought our coaches put together a good plan, I thought our players executed it. We did some things they hadn't seen us do. They made some adjustments that slowed us down a little bit but he played, obviously in that game, the way he's capable of playing and he's had other stretches probably not as dramatic as that probably because of the two 80-yard drives. *Q: Do you feel like you are comfortable putting a lot on his shoulders? *
A: I would prefer not. I would prefer not to because it's challenging for him but he handles it and obviously going into the game and looking at the way we had played them the first time and the things we felt we needed to do, we felt that gave us the best chance to win. The only thing I'll say is if you do that with 49 times, your percentages go up in terms of having negative plays and we could have eliminated the negative plays but against that defense they create and make some so you're kind of pushing it a little bit the way we played the game.
*Q: Do you think Christian Ponder is still capable of being a starting quarterback in the NFL? *
A: Based on my experiences with guys who have been in that position and gotten opportunities, yeah, I think he could be.
*Q: What do you see from him that makes you believe that? *
A: Well I think he's got all of the things you need physically. I think he was thrown in this situation in terms of being the guy and sometimes guys it takes a little longer to grow into it and I just know that there have been guys – Rich Gannon is a good example of a guy who was here, was in Washington, was hurt, late in his career someone gave him a chance and he ends up being MVP. I'm not suggesting that, I'm saying that he's too talented to say that he can't be a starting guy.
Q: What has Charles Johnson done to go from a guy you just signed in September to a guy that is a top option?
A: Well I think it comes down to he's got some naturalness as a receiver, he's grown up as a receiver, he's an excellent route runner, I think he a ran a 4.38 [40-yard dash] coming out of college so he obviously can run. We ask him to do things and he did them the way we wanted to do and then he continued to do them at a higher level and he's had outstanding consistency and when you watch him run a route and you watch the corners how they react to him, they respect his speed, they respect the way he comes off the ball – he creates separation – he's a guy that I think has very good upside.
*Q: What have been your impressions Ben Tate and what can you do to maybe get him more involved? *
A: I was happy for Cordarrelle and it was nice him being ready when we stepped in there. He knows if the opportunity presents itself we have confidence in him and yeah, we'd like to continue to get all of our guys more opportunities.
Q: How do you assess the running back spot heading into the final two games?
A: Well Matt I think showed, I think he's shown throughout, but he's showed in the game that he's a guy that gives us the best all-around running, catching, protection. He had an outstanding game so I would expect Matt to get the bulk of the work and when there's opportunity to get someone else in there we'll do it.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards
Q: When you look back at the tape what did you think of Xavier Rhodes' game?
A: I thought he did a great job of competing. I thought he did a good job of technically and fundamentally doing the things that going into the game we had talked about. He did some new things that we'd asked him going into that football game and I think he paid attention to the detail of it and played effectively for us.
Q: What is different for a cornerback playing on the opposite side than they normally do when they are asked to shadow a receiver?
A: We've done it with a lot guys in the past, just depending on matchups. You're right, you get used to being on one side of the field and playing everything from a different leverage point. For the techniques and the things that we were asking him to do, we didn't think it was going to be that big of a difference, he seemed to handle it very well last week in practice and it carried over to the game.
Q: Do you get used to playing that sideline as an extra defender?
A: I think sometimes you can, depending on what you're doing coverage-wise, whether you're inside or outside leverage and how you're going to turn when the quarterback throws the ball. There's a lot of things that go with it. Again, I think he adjusted to it during the week well, and that's something we have been talking about doing and last week we decided to do it and he handled it well.* *
Q: What's the difficulty in defending a receiver when they start in a stacked formation?
A: When teams get into stacks that's a way to get you off of the press, so from that aspect of it, teams will use that to try to get you off of the guy. We have to be careful how it's defined and those kinds of things as we go through it during the week. It was one of those things, if you ask him, you look back at it technically, fundamentally what we are asking him to do there, as opposed to looking back, if he would have stayed with his vision point where it was supposed to be, I think he's still been in pretty good shape on it.
Q: How important has Harrison Smith's versatility been?
A: I think it's very good. Harrison has done a good job, from day one. Number one, picking up on what it is we are asking him to do out of the position. He does a lot communication-wise, he does a lot alignment-wise, he's playing deep, he's playing up near the line of scrimmage, sometimes he's like a linebacker, sometimes he's blitzing. I think his skillset enables us to be able to use him in all of those different avenues. He's done a good job of retaining and carrying things to the game, as far as performing on Sunday. You feel good when you've got a guy that pays attention to the details of things like that. Really is helping the people around him with his presence, his communication and those kinds of things, he's done a good job of that all year.
Q: Does having a player like that help you disguise what you're doing?
A: No doubt about it. If you feel comfortable enough with the guys, they're blitzing one play, so they're up there on the line. Then the next play, they're running back to the middle of the field or whatever it is. Whether we're playing split safety and he's got outside leverage, he's got inside leverage. From those things, I think it helps disguise what it is we're trying to do from week-to-week.
Q: What will it feel like to be coaching against the Dolphins on Sunday?
A: I've done that before, it's just another game for me, at the end of the day. I had actually left there, went to Buffalo and went back there. I've done it before. To me, it's just another game, it's a chance for us to go get another W, all of the concentration and focus is on that. I know a lot of guys over there on the other side, at the end of the day we've all got a job to do.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer
Q: How do you asses Blair Walsh's performance this past Sunday?
A: Kickoffs were good. He pushed the field goal. He gave the 68-yarder a ride, and the block wasn't his fault. I told him, we talk about complementary football all of the time. We start the game with a touchback, the defense holds them three-and-out, they punt to us, we rip a 35-yard return out to midfield, we get it close enough to a field goal, we miss the field goal and now they have good field position. So, that was probably the biggest disappointment for me, because we always talk about complementary football. How do we with the six special teams phases help our football team win. We started the game out right, we just didn't capitalize on the field goal.
Q: Do you think you set the bar high for him his rookie season when he went 10-for-10 from beyond 50 yards?
A: I'm going to set the bar high anyway. I really think he's a good kicker. I don't know if he's in a slump right now, maybe he's not hitting the ball exactly how he wants to. Obviously, he's still swinging the ball well, they're not ugly misses. He will get it figured out. He's a pro. He's a mentally tough kid. We'll keep working and try to get him better.
Q: Was it more coaching the mechanical side of it or the mental side of the game this week?
A: Probably more mental than anything. I think he's fine that way. A little bit of mechanics, but mostly it's the mental part of it.
Q: What have you seen as a coach in 50 -yard field goals happening more often in the NFL?
A: A lot of these young guys come in, they're so strong and they've been in these kick camps for six, seven, eight years, so their technique is so good. The combination of good technique and leg strength is a recipe for success and that's what guys have been doing, so you're going to see more of that as you go along. Now head coaches are going to be more apt to try them and try to get the points up on the board.
Q: Have you seen more progress from Jeff Locke recently?
A: Oh yeah, really the last month to be honest with you. He's kicked well in the cold weather. The last few games he's really done a nice job. He only had two opportunities on Sunday, but he did a great job. He punted it great, we covered it great. I know he's excited about going down to Miami, a little warm weather down there and then finish strong against Chicago. I'm real proud of the way he's developed. I just need to be patient with him. He's young, it's hard to develop a young punter, but he's got a great mental-makeup and great work ethic and he's plenty talented enough, we're going to keep going in going in the right direction there.
Q: Have you worked on directional punting much since training camp or do you not try and teach stuff like that during the season?
A: I think anytime that you struggle early with the directional punts, you've got to come back. It's still directional a little bit, but we're not trying to get it outside the numbers. We're trying to get it as high and as far as you can, let our gunners go down and make plays and our gunners have done a nice job. We've protected well all year, knock on wood. I'm excited about the last couple of games. We can see his success here down the stretch.
Q: Do you think you will go back to teaching the directional punting at some point?
A: Maybe, yeah, absolutely. Like I told you guys before, I coached Jeff Feagles for three great years. I learned a heck of a lot more from him than he learned from me. One of the things he told me, it was the 9th or 10th year he finally had it all figured out. It takes some time with the punter, it really does. What did he punt 18 years, 19 years? Whatever it was. It takes a lot longer for young punter to develop than it would be a young kicker, in my opinion.
Q: Who was normally in the spot on field goal where J'Marcus Webb was?
A: Charlie Johnson has been there most of the year, then when he got hurt we have (Austin) Wentworth in there, and J'Marcus is 330 lbs., I thought he'd be perfect because they're really big and strong inside, Detroit. The technique was off and he gave up a block.
Q: How good was it to see a couple of the longer returns?
A: It was great. The first one (punt) was a fake reverse and Adam Thielen sold it to perfection. They didn't bite like take off and run, but they bit just enough to get Marcus (Sherels) to go. It was well executed by our guys. The kickoff return was a great cut by Cordarrelle (Patterson), we wanted to keep it right, but the safety did a nice job of filling. The way the three (technique) played it, we were trying to pin him in, we ended up kicking him out, because he jumped outside, so we couldn't get up to the one. Cordarrelle made a nice cut and got up to the 49 yard line. That was exciting. Hopefully, we can keep that going the last two weeks.