EAGAN, Minn. — As the Vikings prepare for their third preseason game, there is a lengthy checklist of items that Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo wants his side of the ball to improve on.
Minnesota’s first-team offense gained 13 total yards on 16 plays as quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for 12 yards and was sacked for an 11-yard loss. Running back Latavius Murray tallied 12 yards on six carries and fumbled twice.
The Vikings also went 0-for-12 on third downs for the entire game against a stout Jaguars defense.
But when assessing where the offense can be better, DeFilippo wasn’t afraid to look at himself in the mirror and critique his own performance as the play caller.
“You should always judge yourself harshly. If you want to get better, you judge yourself harshly,” DeFilippo said. “I go back personally and watch the game several times and say ‘What calls did I like, what calls did I not like, did I put the team in harm’s way?’
“And you go back and you self-evaluate after every game — whether it’s preseason, whether it’s the regular season, playoffs — it really doesn’t matter,” DeFilippo added. “I think if you don’t do that you’re not getting better and you’re not putting the football team in the best chance for success.”
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, who calls Minnesota’s defensive plays, said he could easily relate to DeFilippo.
“You always second-guess yourself. I still have calls that I second-guess myself on,” Zimmer said. “That will never change, but that’s kind of what makes you better. You go through the situation, the process of it and think, ‘OK, well, I should have done this or I should have done that.’
“That’s how you learn. That’s why the preseason games are great. Everybody talks about how it’s not good football,” Zimmer added. “There’s a whole bunch of young kids here trying to make the team, so it’s really good for them, and it’s good for the coaches and situations in football. There’s a lot of really good things.”
Vikings wide receiver Laquon Treadwell said DeFilippo called himself out in a team meeting about needing to be better.
“That’s nothing we didn’t expect, he’s been doing that since he’s been there,” Treadwell said. “If he feels like he didn’t call a good practice, he’ll put it on his shoulders.”
DeFilippo pointed to the sack on Cousins as a play that he wasn’t happy he called. The quarterback was smothered on a rollout attempt after he faked a handoff.
“I didn’t like my call in the naked [bootleg] with Kirk,” DeFilippo said.
“That one was really the one that stuck out,” DeFilippo later added. “I just didn’t coach that play well enough.”
DeFilippo is in his first season as the Vikings offensive coordinator after spending the past two seasons in Philadelphia as the quarterbacks coach. He last called plays as the offensive coordinator with Cleveland in 2015.
DeFilippo said he critiqued himself harshly then and will continue to do going forward.
“There’s a couple plays that I would like to have back. I wouldn’t say that I disliked the whole way I called the game. I think there’s always two or three plays, whether you win or lose. There are two or three plays I wish I had back against Denver.
“Those things always haunt you, but then you got to remember the good ones as well,” DeFilippo said before adding a bit of brevity to the situation. “I think I called 1,257 plays or something in 2015 [with Cleveland], and I guarantee you that if I went out and had 1,257 swings at my 5-iron I’m going to shank a few – not many, but a few. But as a competitor and someone that strives to be perfect all the time, even though you know that you’re never going to get there but are striving for it, I think you’re always thinking that way, and our players are very, very similar.”
Zylstra optimistic about first Vikings game
Fans who made it to Verizon Vikings Training Camp were able to see Brandon Zylstra make several plays, including during the night practice at TCO Stadium.
While that evening has more of a game-like feel than most practices, Zylstra hasn’t been able to show what he can do in a real game yet. An injury sidelined him for the Vikings first two preseason games, but the Spicer native is optimistic about making his debut against the Seahawks.
Zylstra said he’s aware of the limited time remaining for players to compete for roster spots is tough but he remains confident. Technically an NFL rookie, Zylstra led the CFL with 1,687 receiving yards on 100 receptions and caught eight touchdowns in 2017.
“I just trust myself, that if I’m on the field, I’m going to get things done,” Zylstra said. “I’m just waiting for my time now.”