EAGAN, Minn. – Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo is getting the offensive unit ready for a Bills defense that could offer new looks on Sunday.
For the second half of Buffalo’s Week 2 matchup, Bills Head Coach Sean McDermott took over play-calling duties from Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier.
Assuming that McDermott carries over the responsibilities to this week, a reporter asked DeFilippo how a team best-prepares for a play caller who hasn’t put much on film. DeFilippo said if he “puts [himself] in that situation,” it’s difficult to make large-scale, sweeping changes to a system over the course of a week.
“And that doesn’t mean that their pressure numbers aren’t going to change, like, instead of pressuring 14 percent of the time on third down, it may go up to 25,” DeFilippo told Twin Cities media members. “There’s only so much you can do when you’ve had OTAs, training camp, two games in the season so far. You can’t just wholesale change and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to go from a 4-3 to a 3-4 or [something along those lines].”
DeFilippo said, however, that he’s expecting the Bills “best shot” and that Minnesota’s defense will be prepared for anything.
“I talked to the players about just following our base rules in protection, being ready for the un-scouted look,” DeFilippo said. “I’m sure they’re going to have something for us that we haven’t seen; there’s no doubt. I mean, Coach McDermott’s gotten the reputation he has for a reason – he’s a darn good coach. So hopefully we’ll be ready for whatever he throws at us.”
Here are five other topics covered by DeFilippo, Defensive Coordinator George Edwards and Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer.
1. DeFilippo on O’Neill’s NFL debut
The Vikings trailed by two scores late in the third quarter when Brian O’Neill was thrust into his first NFL game action.
The second-round draft pick stepped in at right tackle when Rashod Hill suffered an ankle injury, and he went on to play 32 snaps.
DeFilippo used baseball to illustrate O’Neill’s late-game entry.
“Brian’s situation was like coming in with a full count, bases loaded, World Series Game 7. And I thought he performed well,” DeFilippo said. “That was a tough time in the game to come in as your first time as a rookie. I thought he handled himself well.
“There’s a couple times he got bulled a little bit when the guy came down the middle of him, but I thought he settled down after the first play or two, and I thought he did a really, really nice job,” DeFilippo added.
2. Edwards on the return of Tom Johnson
After signing with Seattle in free agency and having a brief stint with the Seahawks, Tom Johnson is back in Purple.
Edwards said the coaching staff is “elated” that Vikings General Rick Spielman and his staff were able to bring Johnson back to Minnesota.
“He’s a player that we definitely wanted to keep last year and didn’t get an opportunity to,” Edwards said. “What he brings as far as the pass rush and things inside, just with the rotation inside, it should help us tremendously as we progress down the road.
Added Edwards: “He’s hit it running, and we’re just working through this week trying to get him prepared for this game.”
Asked how Johnson will be used right away, Edwards said he’ll have a better idea by the end of the week.
“Right now we’re just figuring out exactly where he is. He’s been going through the offseason, and he’s just been here for [Wednesday’s practice],” Edwards said. “He looks good, he’s working his butt off, he’s got pretty good recall for what we’ve got going into the game plan this week. We’re just looking for him, as we progress and see where he’s at toward the end of the week, and just see what different packages we’ll be able to use him in.”
3. Edwards on the flux of Vikings D-line rotation
The Vikings opted to rotate their entire defensive line four players at a time in Week 1, but used a different approach last weekend at Green Bay. Stephen Weatherly spelled starting defensive ends Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter in a three-man rotation.
Edwards said the team “got better at it” against the Packers and that he’s focused on continuing to improve the rhythm of rotation. He explained, however, that sometimes the opponent’s offense will dictate who often you make your substitutions.
“Last week was a little bit tougher because [Green Bay’s] offense doesn’t allow you to sub quite as much because they’re on the field, and if they see you sub, they’re going to run out there. So from that aspect, we just have to be careful because [the line] is out there, it’s out there in that game.
“This game will be a little bit different,” Edwards continued. “So that will change from week to week as we keep progressing through the course of the season.”
4. Priefer on parting with Carlson
Priefer spoke extensively Thursday about kicker Daniel Carlson’s struggles at Green Bay and the organization’s decision to waive the rookie and sign Bailey.
“Nobody wanted to make it more than he did,” Priefer said of Carlson. “He’s a fine young man, he’s a fine kicker, he belongs in this league at some point, and he just wasn’t quite ready for that situation.
“Unfortunately for him, unfortunately for us, we had to make a change, and at the end of the day, hopefully we’re better off because of it,” Priefer added.
Priefer called this a “big week” for special teams but said the emphasis remains the same after Carlson’s missed field goals and having a punt blocked for a touchdown.
“We went in to the meeting Monday and I said, ‘Hey guys, we just need to focus. We need to focus a little bit more, we can’t make the mistakes that we made.’ I think we left some yards on the table on punt return, as well. I think we’ve got to do a better job there,” Priefer said. “But overall, our guys are playing hard, they’ve got a great attitude, and we have a big game in front of us.
“Buffalo plays hard on special teams,” Priefer continued. “That’s one phase they believe that when they come in here Sunday afternoon, they feel like they’ve got a chance to beat us. That’s where we have to stop the initial charge, then we have to get after them for 60 minutes.”
5. Priefer on bringing in Bailey
Had Bailey been available at the end of last season, Priefer would have loved the chance to work with him. And while it’s under unfortunate circumstances to bring him in late, the coordinator is looking forward to working with Bailey now.
“He’s a veteran. This is a guy last offseason [that] I would have loved to have had to bring in here to be our guy. And now he’s here,” Priefer said. “Hopefully some good things are ahead for our field goal team, kickoff team, et cetera.”
Bailey missed four games in 2017 with a groin injury and finished the year with a 75-percent success rate on field goals, a career low for the Pro Bowl kicker. Priefer said he isn’t concerned about the dip in production last season.
“I studied all his kicks before we signed him, again after we signed him. I’ve gone over a few of those kicks with him,” Priefer said. “He’s very, very intelligent; he understands his craft. I think part of that last year was he was overcompensating for his injury, like a lot of guys do – kickers, punters, anybody – football players and athletes in general, they’re going to overcompensate when they have a back or a groin or something.
“He hit the ball yesterday, and he’s fine,” Priefer said. “He hit the ball great. We worked just on the side with the snapper and holder. He’ll kick some more field goals [with the team] today, he’ll kick off with the team today, and then we’ll be ready for Sunday.”