EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Taking a look ahead at one of Sunday's biggest challenges, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer revisited at Minnesota's past for a direct comparison.
Zimmer met with Vikings beat reporters after practice and was asked about the play of Gerald McCoy, the Tampa Bay defensive tackle who has made five consecutive Pro Bowls.
Zimmer looked at the bigger picture of McCoy's impact on the Buccaneers defense and said an elite player at his position can create opportunities for other players on the defensive line while simultaneously posing problems for the opposing offense.
"In the 4-3 defense, typically the [offensive] guards in the NFL are not near as good as the [defensive] tackles, usually," Zimmer explained. "If you've got a great inside pass rusher, that's a disadvantage for the offense.
"I don't know about everybody else, but we're always, in the 4-3, we're always looking for a great 3-technique," Zimmer added. "It makes the (defensive) ends' jobs so much easier because the [offensive] tackles can't sit … they might hold back in there on the 3-technique and don't get out there on the ends quite as fast. There's so many things that happen because of a great 3-technique."
Zimmer then mentioned a former Vikings player who filled that role to near perfection.
I think you probably saw that with a guy who used to be here in Kevin Williams," Zimmer added.
Williams, the No. 9 overall pick by the Vikings in the 2003 NFL Draft, was selected to 6 Pro Bowls and named All-Pro 5 times. Williams is eighth in Vikings history with 60 sacks, and his 171 starts is a Vikings record by a defensive tackle.
McCoy was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, two spots behind his former Oklahoma teammate, current Vikings quarterback Kyle Rudolph.
Zimmer had nothing but praise for McCoy, who has 42.5 career sacks and at least 7.0 sacks in each of the past four seasons.
"He's a stud," Zimmer said. "He's fast, he's quick, he's powerful. He's got wiggle.
"You talk about 3-techniques around the league, he's one of the top guys because of his pass-rush ability and his quickness in the run game," Zimmer added. "He's very disruptive."
Diggs not using lack of time with Keenum as excuse
Stefon Diggs and the Vikings wide receivers group has been here before in learning to adjust to a new quarterback on the fly.
It was just a year ago when Bradford joined the team and had to play catch up in Minnesota's offense.
Bradford is nursing a knee injury and hoping to start Sunday against Tampa Bay, leaving the possibility that backup quarterback Case Keenum starts for the second straight week.
Diggs said everyone needs to pick up the slack when it comes to the production of the offense.
"It's never an excuse. You saw what we did with Sam last year, and he was two weeks out, so we never want to make an excuse on how much time, as far as preparing," Diggs said. "Of course things won't be as crisp as they were with somebody you've been with for six months, but it's still throwing the ball and catching the ball, so we're just going to do the best job we can on the outside, be where we're supposed to be and trust that he's going to put the ball where it's supposed to be.
"We're not going to make it more complicated than it is," Diggs added. "Time is always good, but if you ain't got time, make it work."
Diggs had two catches for 27 yards against Pittsburgh and said he puts the onus on himself to step up and make plays no matter who is in at quarterback.
"We've got to make more plays on the outside. I take full responsibility for that," Diggs said. "I got two penalties as well, so I take responsibility for that, but anytime I get to make a play for (Keenum) or we get to make a play for him, we've got to make it."
Diggs has nine catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns so far this season.
View practice images from Winter Park on Thursday, September 21.
For the Vikings: Anthony Barr (hamstring) and Bradford (knee) were limited for the second straight day. Pat Elflein (ankle), Mackensie Alexander (wrist) and Xavier Rhodes (hip) were full participants.
For the Buccaneers: Kwon Alexander (hamstring), Chris Baker (illness) and Jacquies Smith (illness) did not practice. McCoy (ankle) and Brent Grimes (shoulder) were limited. Devante Bond (knee) was a full participant.