EAGAN, Minn. — Rushing, receiving and pass protecting.
It was all in a day’s work for Dalvin Cook.
The 2017 second-round pick, who was playing in his first regular-season game since Oct. 1, 2017, had a solid start to his second pro season.
Cook rushed 16 times for 40 yards, caught a career-high six passes for 55 yards and helped protect Kirk Cousins on pass plays, as well as a QB keeper.
“I thought Dalvin did a really nice job in all phases,” Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo said Thursday. “I thought he did a nice job in pass protection. I thought he did a nice job catching the football and, obviously, running the football.”
Cook fumbled once at the end of an incredible run on which he lost his right shoe. DeFilippo said Cook and everyone on the Vikings know the importance of protecting the football.
“He will do a much better job of ball security this week,” DeFilippo predicted. “That is just one of those things. You get into a live game for the first time in a long time, and it’s the little things like that. You have to wrap the ball up when you’re in traffic. Everything before the fumble was awesome. You see him break about eight tackles. We just have to finish that play on a more positive note.”
DeFilippo said Cook has “bought into” the different uses that the Vikings have in mind.
“We want him to get the football in a bunch of different spots,” DeFilippo said. “You saw him the first play of the game where we hopped him over and basically just threw a pass. But really we just tossed him the football, and he got us nine yards. Anytime you get your playmakers some space, that is what you want to do. We are going to continue to do that with him, and not only him, but all of our playmakers.
Here are five other topics discussed by DeFilippo, Defensive Coordinator George Edwards and Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer on Thursday:
DeFilippo on preparing for rookie defenders
Green Bay has a new defensive coordinator in Mike Pettine, and the Packers have overhauled their secondary with recent draft high picks and by returning veteran Tramon Williams, who was with Green Bay from 2007-14.
The Packers drafted cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson with their first two picks of 2018, to go along with selecting corner Kevin King and safety Josh Jones early in 2017.
DeFilippo explained he tries to prepare players by watching the limited amount of film on rookies.
“Obviously, some rookie corners are better than others. Everyone in the National Football League is here for a reason,” DeFilippo said. “If they are starting, obviously they are really, really good. Our motto on offense is with anybody, whether it be a corner or a linebacker or a defensive lineman, we respect everybody but fear nobody. That is the way we approach every player on defense.”
Edwards on Mike Hughes’ debut
Rookie Mike Hughes was pressed into action at outside cornerback on Sunday after Trae Waynes was sidelined, and the 30th overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft impressed.
With Mackensie Alexander unavailable, Hughes was in line to play quite a bit at nickel, but the injury to Waynes prompted the Vikings to shift Hughes to the outside spot opposite Xavier Rhodes and bring in safety Jayron Kearse as Minnesota’s fifth defensive back.
Hughes returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown, becoming the first Vikings rookie with an interception return touchdown in a Week 1 game.
“I thought Mike did some good things, some things that he’s shown throughout training camp and the offseason,” Edwards said. “He got in a game, and it wasn’t too big for him, he was able to be good with the fundamentals and techniques. He’s still got some things to clean up off of his first ball game, but he did some good things for us.”
Hughes also broke up a Jimmy Garoppolo pass in the end zone. On special teams, Hughes was able to down Minnesota’s first punt of the season at the 4-yard line.
Edwards on the goal-line stand
The Vikings were able to protect a 10-3 lead late in the first half with an impressive goal-line stand. A fumble forced by Linval Joseph and recovered by Harrison Smith at the 2 ended the 49ers threat. There were multiple plays before that where San Francisco had a golden opportunity.
After earning a first-and-goal at the 4, Alfred Morris rushed for a gain of 1. A holding penalty against Xavier Rhodes on second down negated a sack by Danielle Hunter and gave the 49ers a fresh set of downs a the 1.
San Francisco brought in 310-pound nose tackle Earl Mitchell and ran with Morris on the following play. Smith took on the block from Mitchell, and Eric Kendricks tackled Morris, forcing a fumble that the running back recovered. Morris wasn’t so fortunate on the following play.
“I think the one thing is our guys understand the mentality that it takes to play inside the 5-yard line,” Edwards said. “You could see them and the effort that they were playing with, the mentality that they were playing with. For us. it’s just recognizing the situation and then doing your job when we get down there. They did an excellent job of that this past week. That’s something we’ve got to continuously do throughout the season.”
Priefer on punter Matt Wile’s debut with Vikings
The Vikings opened the 2018 slate with a new punter, Matt Wile, who was signed after being released by Pittsburgh, and a rookie kicker, Daniel Carlson.
Wile punted six times and had four downed inside the 20, including a lob wedge that Hughes caught to give San Francisco terrible starting field position on its first possession.
Wile also had a 56-yard long on the day, as well as one that traveled 29 yards before sailing out of bounds.
Priefer said Wile “had five pluses and one real bad minus.”
“The five pluses were huge. We pinned them inside the 20 four times, and out of those four drives we had two interceptions – one a pick six, our defense did. … Fourth quarter, seven minutes to go in an eight-point game, we’ve got to do a better job of that. If you get rid of that mistake, if his mis-hit is 40-yards, [with a hang time of] 4.2 [seconds], and we force a fair catch, then we’re doing fine. But the mis-hit that’s 29-yards out of bounds in the fourth quarter, we have to eliminate that. Overall, I thought that Matt did a good job.”
Priefer on going for touchbacks
In addition to going 3-for-3 on extra points and hitting a 48-yard field goal, Carlson’s five kickoffs each resulted in touchbacks. Priefer was asked if that will be the goal every time and said no, but it was what the Vikings wanted with a lead on the 49ers.
“I think this first game we really wanted to establish ourselves as a kickoff team that can kick touchbacks when we need them, and the way our defense was playing we decided to keep kicking those touchbacks, especially indoors,” Priefer said. “But there will be teams that we’re going to want to challenge. There will be situations that we’ll want to challenge returning it, and we just didn’t run into those on Sunday. I thought Daniel did a great job kicking off and the field goal and big PATs he made.”