EAGAN, Minn. – Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo will be calling the Vikings first preseason game from the sideline.
DeFilippo told media members following the team’s walk-through on Wednesday that he plans to be on the field in Denver and assess before making a decision moving forward.
“There might be a time during preseason that I go upstairs,” DeFilippo said. “Going to see how it goes this first week, and we’re going to give it a trial run downstairs.”
When asked if he gets a better feel for the game from the sideline, DeFilippo emphasized that there are pros and cons to each location, and he experienced both perspectives in stops before Minnesota. He highlighted the ease of communicating with the quarterback from down on the field and said he believes he gets “a better feel for the pulse of the team” from that level, as well.
“Now, that being said, your vantage point is not as good as it is upstairs,” DeFilippo said. “We’re very fortunate to have some really good coaches on our offensive side of the ball that are going to be able to provide information and know what we’re trying to look for in terms of being able to attack their defense.”
When DeFilippo served as the Browns offensive coordinator in 2015, he called all of the games from the sideline, but he reminded that the options for communicating with the quarterback three years ago differ from the league’s current setup.
“They did not have the option of coach-to-quarterback from the box. So, you had to go through a middle-man, which is at least two to three seconds,” DeFilippo explained. “So, if the play clock is running down, that’s an issue. You had to go through a middle-man if you were upstairs at that time.”
Here are four other topics DeFilippo addressed during his podium session:
1. Rolling with the punches on offensive line
Currently, the Vikings are without all three of their starting interior linemen.
Center Pat Elflein remains on the Physically Unable to Perform list, while Nick Easton, who had been filling in for Elflein, and guard Mike Remmers have also been non-participants in practice because of injuries.
DeFilippo said that the coaches will need to take into account the offensive line situation when approaching Saturday night’s game, and he added that they’ll “know very early” if the front is holding up. He expressed confidence in the players who have stepped in, including Cornelius Edison taking the first-team reps at center since Saturday.
“I’m really proud of how our young guys have stepped up,” DeFilippo said. “It hasn’t been perfect. Sometimes it’s not 100-percent fundamentally sound, it turns into a little bit of a street fight. Obviously, the toughness factor is there, and we plan on executing well on Saturday night.”
DeFilippo later added of Edison:
“I’m really, really proud of him. He plays with great leverage. He has strong hands, he stays low to the ground, he’s smart, he hasn’t messed up a snap yet in terms of the cadence. He’s done a fantastic job of helping in there, and we’re happy where he’s at.”
2. Evaluating young Vikings running backs
The Vikings have decisions to make at a number of positions, including running back.
Behind Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook, who is raring to go after his rookie season was cut short by an ACL injury, the Vikings are returning Mack Brown and signed undrafted rookies Mike Boone and Roc Thomas, who has missed part of training camp with an injury.
“They keep playing well,” said DeFilippo. “You see them catching the football and running hard. Each guy will have a really good play, and then they’ll have an average play, so we’re really looking forward to this next week or 10 days to having one of those guys really trying to take the forefront in that spot.”
3. Getting a look at young receiver corps
The same goes for Minnesota’s stable of second- and third-team receivers vying for positions, from veteran free agents Kendall Wright and Tavarres King, to former CFL standout Brandon Zylstra, to undrafted rookies such as Jake Wieneke, Chad Beebe and Jeff Badet.
Which of the receivers is DeFilippo most looking forward to seeing play on Saturday? All of them.
“I don’t want to single anyone out, because I want to see them all perform well,” DeFilippo said. “They’ve been doing a nice job out here, but it’s different when you’re going against somebody else, in what for a lot of these guys will be their first NFL action.
“Not only do you want to see guys perform physically, but how are they going to handle this situation mentally, as well. Is it going to be too big for some guys? Will they forget their technique? That’s what you see a lot in young players,” DeFilippo continued. “They’ll come out here, where it’s a comfortable environment and they know the fields and they know the locker room, and all of a sudden a different-colored jersey shows up in front of them, and they forget every single technique that we’ve taught them. We want to see our guys take things from the meeting room to the field, for our young players. We’re really looking forward to seeing them doing that.”
4. ‘Time to play against somebody else’
The Vikings know they won’t be playing Denver’s full-powered defense in the first preseason game.
It will still be nice for Minnesota’s offense, however, to face another team after double-digit practices against the Vikings defense.
“It’s that time of camp to go play against somebody else. The defense knows our calls, we know their calls. It’s getting a little chippy out there,” DeFilippo said. “It’s time to take some chippiness out on somebody else. Denver is a great matchup for us.”
He added that it will be beneficial for the Vikings younger skill position players to go against the Broncos press coverage.
“To play football in this league, you have to be able to get off of press coverage,” DeFilippo said. “It’s going to be great for our guys to be able to experience that and go out for the first time and play against somebody else.”