EAGAN, Minn. — New Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo has tried to make the most of this time during the Vikings offseason program.
From time in meetings to every rep on the practice fields, DeFilippo had a considerable to-do list for a new scheme led by starting quarterback Kirk Cousins and backup Trevor Siemian, both of whom signed this offseason.
In addition to quarterbacks, receivers, running backs, tight ends and offensive linemen, many meetings were attended by Mike Zimmer. DeFilippo’s style in those meetings and other conversations has impressed Zimmer, the head coach said Tuesday.
“He’s very detailed and very passionate about everything,” Zimmer said. “We can have really open conversations, and he listens to the things that I say would hurt defenses. It’s been really good. I think he’s done a great job with the offense.
“When I sit in the meetings with them, he does a great job with communicating exactly what he wants,” Zimmer added. “He’s detailed with the work, the plays and alignments, all the different things that they’re doing. We talked about adding more screens, and we ran quite a few more [Tuesday], so that’s been good. It’s really been seamless.”
The Vikings held their second of three minicamp practices this week on Wednesday and will wrap their offseason program on Thursday.
DeFilippo participated in a media session and was asked about Zimmer’s assessment.
“I appreciate Coach saying that, and I take a lot of pride in trying to make this offense look how Coach wants it to look and spend a lot of time doing that. The fact that he said that means a lot to me.
“Coach and I have a tremendous relationship,” DeFilippo added. “We enjoy talking football. We’re both football junkies. They ran through us on a RPO [run-pass option] a couple of practices ago. We made a blocking adjustment and went over there and talked about it. He and I have very open dialogue and football conversation.”
Cousins on Wednesday said he has been “pleasantly surprised with the rapport” in the two-way conversations with DeFilippo.
“There was a fair amount of carryover from what I’ve done in the past, so that was a good first step,” Cousins said. “Whenever I did suggest something, he’s just been a great listener, he’s been a great communicator, and I love his passion for the game.
“I feel like although we’ve never crossed paths in the past, we do have similar backgrounds, and a lot of times we’re coming from a similar perspective,” Cousins added. “I’ve really enjoyed working with him, and I can’t wait to build reps and build experience with him, such that we have a rapport and a dynamic and a reputation around the league.”
One call away
Cousins explained that he’ll try to strike a balance between continuing to memorize the offense and unwinding, saying that he put so much prep work in during July and August of last season that Week 2 felt like Week 12.
Therefore, he plans to have his digital playbook with him and spend some time going back over items and communicating with DeFilippo and quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski when questions arise.
“It’s a bit like drinking through a firehose right now; I need to use the five or six weeks of the summer to go back,” Cousins said. “The stuff I didn’t catch, I’ll go back through and see that I had starred this, I had check marked this as something to go back to when we had time rather than take time when we were so busy. I’m going to go back, I’ll make a list, probably get on the phone with Coach DeFilippo or give Coach Stefanski an email and just go through it all to get each question answered over the summer.”
Double the competition
Marcus Sherels has cemented himself as arguably the top punt returner in history. He has team records for punt return yards (2,171) and touchdowns (five).
Sherels also has returned kickoffs in his career. This offseason, Sherels has had company in the form of first-round pick Mike Hughes.
Hughes returned 20 kickoffs a total of 635 yards, taking two all the way back for scores and ranking fourth in FBS with an average of 31.8 yards per runback in 2017 at UCF. He also returned 14 punts for 233 yards and a score.
“I think they’re both going to compete for both [spots],” Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said. “I think you need to have at least two guys back there competing.”
Priefer said that Hughes is “very natural catching the ball” on kickoffs and has “come a long way since rookie minicamp” on punts.
“He’s never really been taught how to track a punt, how to catch a punt,” Priefer said. “We do a lot of film work, a lot of close up film work that we go over with Mike and all our returners for that matter, to try to hone those skills. He’s done a really nice job. He’s come a long way. He’s a great athlete, a fast learner, the sky is the limit for Mike. I think he’s going to be a very good returner on both punts and kickoffs.”