EAGAN, Minn. – Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo has had a unique perspective on Latavius Murray's career.
DeFilippo was with the Raiders when Oakland drafted Murray in the sixth round in 2013. Although Murray was injured and did not play that first season, DeFilippo was impressed by the running back's drive and the way he approached each day like a starter.
"Guys that usually have that mindset as a rookie have a tendency to find a way to find a niche in this league and to carve a way out for themselves," DeFilippo told Twin Cities media members Thursday.
Murray signed with Minnesota in the spring of 2017, and the two were reunited when the Vikings hired DeFilippo in February 2018.
DeFilippo said that Murray has become an even more mature player and is a significant asset for Minnesota's offense. In the absence of Dalvin Cook, Murray had a career outing last Sunday against the Cardinals when he rushed for 155 yards.
"Even when he gets stopped at the line of scrimmage or the point of contact is a yard or two, there's always that surge going in our favor," DeFilippo said. "He's just a big guy, and he's going to fall forward a lot. Just his size and strength, what he brings to the table and what a downhill runner he is."
DeFilippo said there are three things he believes Murray doesn't get adequate credit for.
"Number one, it's his ability to run the mid-zone plays well and being able to get outside and make that first guy miss. And number two, his hands. I think he has much better hands than people give him credit for," DeFilippo said. "And the other thing that [Latavius] understands and another reason he's been able to carve out a niche for himself in this league for so long is that he really understands pass protection. To me, he's a complete back."
Here are five other topics covered by DeFilippo, Defensive Coordinator George Edwards and Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer:
DeFilippo on O'Neill's first start:
Vikings second-round draft pick Brian O'Neill made his first start against Arizona on Sunday and performed well at right tackle.
DeFilippo said he was pleased with O'Neill's performance and re-watched the game (one of multiple times) specifically to watch him on every play.
"There were some plays I know he wishes he could have back, but there were more times he won than lost," DeFilippo said.
He added that there's a big difference between preparing all week to be a starter and being thrown in during the game because of an injury.
"I thought he handled that situation really, really well, and we're looking for him to grow," DeFilippo said. "The thing I like about Brian, too, is that he's tough. He wants to finish guys off. Whenever you have that mentality as an offensive lineman, you have a really good shot."
Edwards on Jets QB Sam Darnold:
It's sometimes difficult as a defense to anticipate how a rookie quarterback will react, but Edwards spoke highly of Jets QB Sam Darnold, the third rookie passer the Vikings have faced this season.
"You look at his body of work through the preseason and the six games we've had thus far this season. He does a great job of staying alive in the pocket, and he also does a good job of locating receivers down the field and understanding what people are doing coverage-wise," Edwards said. "That is definitely going to be a test for us. He understands when people pressure him, how to buy time in the pocket and all of those types of deals. We will have our work cut out for us against them this weekend."
Edwards on Vikings depth at safety:
The Vikings secondary missed safety Andrew Sendejo (groin) last week, and cornerback Mike Hughes suffered a torn ACL against Arizona. Hughes had been splitting time at nickel and also filled in outside. Sendejo hasn't practiced so far this week, but the Vikings feel confident in their depth.
Edwards said there's "no doubt" that Jayron Kearse and Anthony Harris have continued to grow and take ownership of their roles in Minnesota's defense. He also talked about the way that George Iloka, who signed with the Vikings in August, has helped to bolster depth at safety even more.
Edwards pointed out that Harris has made eight starts since his rookie campaign in 2015 and has done a good job when called up.
"I think about the big play he made last week. You go back to last year, the big play he made against the Rams. Arizona the year before, out there on third [down]," Edwards said. "Then adding George to the mix, who has a good skillset allows us to do some things underneath, whether he is back, whether he is pressuring, all of those types of deals. That helps us out matchup-wise as we prepare the different packages from week to week."
Edwards was asked about the benefit of using a big nickel package with Kearse or Iloka moving to slot corner.
"Not to give away anything, but I just think it allows us and execute with a bigger matchup on our receiver," Edwards said. "When you start looking at it, whether it is a receiver or tight end, both of those guys have big height, have good speed and good cover skills. For us, that's a bonus and whatever package we feel like is the best matchup, they will allow us to be able to do it."
Priefer on Jets special teams:
Priefer guaranteed Twin Cities media members that he will lose sleep Saturday night over Jets return specialist Andre Roberts.
"He is so good. He breaks tackles, he can run, makes the first man miss, he's fast enough to score," Priefer said. "Their kicker, [Jason] Myers, did a great job for them last week, made seven field goals, made the three extra points."
Priefer said the special teams unit plays fast and effectively. He pointed out that Jets punter Lac Edwards has a "humongous" leg.
"I remember him after he came out of Houston State a couple years ago. He's another awesome punter that's very effective. When he's on he's very, very good as well," Priefer said. "Like any team you got your work cut out for you, especially at home. They're at their place, they've won two games in a row, their crowds going to be into it.
"There's a little difference between the Jets crowd and the Giants crowd. I found that out firsthand when I coached with the Giants," Priefer continued. "I think those Jets guys are a lot like Philly fans. They're very, very passionate and get after it, like the Giants fans, but I think the Jets fans are a little bit more vocal. It's going to be a fun day."
Priefer on prepping for weather at MetLife Stadium:
Priefer was asked about Dan Bailey preparing for potential winds at MetLife Stadium Sunday and if the weather could dictate the length of field goals that are attempted.
Priefer said that just like any other outdoor stadium, they will assess the weather when they arrive three hours prior to kickoff.
"Obviously if they are gusting or moving around a little bit, it is going to change as the game goes on," Priefer said. "But I think pregame and when we go out right before the third quarter, that usually is when you determine how far those field goals will be and what I recommend to the head coach."
The Giants and Jets share a stadium, and Priefer pointed out the Bailey played the Giants at MetLife once a year when he was with the Cowboys.
"I relied on him a little bit this week. He has gone back and studied all of his kicks at MetLife Stadium. He has talked to the punter. He has talked to the returners a little bit and will continue to do so," Priefer said. "I think game day is going to be figuring out the winds, figuring out the sun for that matter, where the sun is going to be because I think I've only coached one game in that new stadium.
"I think the only game we've played there is a night game, to be honest with you, so I don't know if the sun would be a factor," Priefer said. "You can see it on tape and stuff like that but it is different. Every week the sun changes a little bit, see where it is going to be."