EAGAN, Minn. — The possibilities could be endless for the Vikings offense.
Minnesota has a strong running back tandem in Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray, a Pro Bowl tight end in Kyle Rudolph and a collection of wide receivers headlined by Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.
Add in quarterback Kirk Cousins, the new face of the franchise, and the Vikings have a handful of weapons on the offensive side of the ball.
It’s up to Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo to put his players in the best positions to succeed, and that means giving everyone a chance to make plays.
“You want guys, a lot of guys, touching the football,” DeFilippo said. “Because obviously they can’t focus in on a certain area of the field where it’s always the ‘X’ in a three-by-one or it’s always the ‘Z’ in a three-by-two or whatever, the ‘Y.’
“You want to keep the defense off balance in terms of moving guys around, having different personnel groupings, there’s no doubt,” DeFilippo added.
DeFilippo will be making his Vikings regular-season debut Sunday against the 49ers after spending the previous two seasons as the Eagles quarterbacks coach.
He couldn’t be more excited.
“I’m confident enough in myself and more so confident in the assistant coaches that are helping me and the players we have that are playing on our football team,” DeFilippo said. “I think anytime you have the comfort level of a really, really good coaching staff that’s going to help you out and backed by really good players, I think that gives you a lot of confidence as a play caller. We’re looking forward to going out and preforming.”
Here are five other takeaways from the podium sessions of DeFilippo, Defensive Coordinator George Edwards and Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer on Thursday:
1. Double dose
There is plenty of hype surrounding Cook as he makes his return from an ACL injury this Sunday.
But don’t forget about the guy who led the Vikings in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in 2017.
DeFilippo was asked about keeping Murray on the 53-man roster and what the former Pro Bowl back can bring to the offense.
“First off, I think we have two legitimate starting running backs on our football team,” DeFilippo said. “Personally, I can’t speak for anyone, I don’t like to see really good players leave if they want to be back or you have a chance to keep them.
“If we have a really good football player here that wants to be here and is a great character guy, and a great teammate, and a great player, and brings a lot of things to the locker room and the field, I think you want as many of those guys as you can get,” DeFilippo said.
2. Praise for Parry
The Vikings chose to keep nine defensive linemen on their 53-man roster, with All-Pros, Pro Bowlers and rising stars dotting the group.
Defensive tackle David Parry did enough to make the team and drew praise from Edwards on Thursday.
“I think the one thing that he was, he was consistent with the fundamentals and techniques that we look for out of our nose guards and our 3-technique,” Edwards said. “He can play 3-technique and was very good versus the run and can push the pocket versus the pass.
“He did a lot of good things that way,” Edwards added. “We really think he can help us out rotation-wise as we move forward.”
Parry has 32 starts in 33 total games and has 4.0 career sacks.
3. Familiar territory
Good luck hearing your defensive teammate on the field Sunday afternoon.
Vikings players and coaches expect U.S. Bank Stadium to be deafening this weekend, just the same as it has been since the building opened in 2016.
Edwards said the crowd noise makes communication tricky for Minnesota’s defense, which relies on silent signals to make adjustments on the fly.
“That’s one thing that we constantly work on, especially playing at home,” Edwards said. “We know defensively that we’ve got to be on with our adjustments and those kinds of things.
“That’s one thing that we do our due diligence to work through, that’s one thing we practice with noise and those kinds of things so those guys can know that we have to do things like signaling and all of those kinds of things,” Edwards added. “From that aspect, we’ve spent quite a bit of time making sure those guys realize how hard that’s going to be, and everybody has to be on the same page.”
4. Hill’s return ability
Perhaps the biggest highlight of the preseason for the Vikings special teams units came in the preseason finale when Holton Hill returned a kickoff 53 yards to open the second half against the Titans.
The big play helped spark a win, and it also helped Hill carve out a spot on the 53-man roster.
Priefer said he likes what he sees from Hill’s potential as a returner but divulged that he only recently unearthed the fact that Hill had some return ability.
“I’ve been a big Holton fan since he got here, but I was teasing him that he didn’t tell me the truth when he first got here,” Priefer said. “I asked them to raise their hands if they had any return ability, and he didn’t raise his hand.
“I found out by accident when I saw some high school tape of him returning the ball,” Priefer said. “We started using him, and he really doesn’t know all of the ins and outs yet, but he did a great job against Tennessee.”
5. It’s showtime
The Vikings struggled in punt coverage in preseason play, giving up a handful of lengthy returns and ultimately releasing Ryan Quigley over the weekend.
Minnesota brought in Matt Wile on Sunday, whom Priefer said impressed during successful preseason with the Steelers.
Yet as the Vikings get set to embark on the 2018 season, Priefer said everyone, including himself, will need to raise his game.
“It’s my job to make the young men that are here better and give them an opportunity to make the team,” Priefer said. “Sometimes they have to do a better job, but I have to do a better job and we have to punt the ball better. Ultimately, that’s what we’re looking for on Sunday.”