EAGAN, Minn. – Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards is used to game-planning for Kirk Cousins.
Edwards prepped for Cousins when the Vikings and Redskins faced off in 2016 and again in 2017. Now, Minnesota's defense goes against the quarterback daily in practice.
Cousins, who signed with the Vikings as a free agent in March, has earned a reputation for successfully selling play-action passes, and Edwards was asked during Tuesday's media session about Cousins' skill set from a defensive perspective.
"He can make all the throws, that's number one," Edwards said. "He is a very cerebral quarterback, so he looks at what you have. Looks at the leverage and stuff you have in the coverage and what type of deals you are doing coverage-wise against him."
Edwards emphasized that selling the play-action and then being able to make the throw downfield "is huge."
"It's tough. When you run the football on offense and then you have a good play-action pass off of it, it's really tough on a defense," Edwards said. "You can't get caught in between, especially in those early downs. He does an excellent job of understanding different things that you doing coverage-wise, then being able to play off the leverage of corners or defensive backs, whoever is on the leverage of the coverage and being able to get the ball down the field – to put it accurately where they're not having to adjust many routes with his arm. It's been good."
Here are other five other topics covered from the podium by Edwards, Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo and Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer:
Edwards on Jaleel Johnson's progress
Over Minnesota's first two preseason games, Jaleel Johnson has gotten reps both at the 3-technique and at nose tackle.
Edwards said that Johnson, entering his second NFL season, has done extremely well in the run game and is working on improving some areas in the pass rush.
"He's been very consistent throughout training camp as far as the run game, playing the nose, playing the 3-technique. Now we just have to keep pushing him," Edwards said. "As far as the techniques of using his hands, not kicking his hips out and those types of things, not running down in the middle of the guy. He is a very aggressive player. He tries to get his hands on people sometimes and get locks on in the passing game. Those are the things we are continuing to work with him on, and hopefully he will continue to get better at."
DeFilippo on Vikings offensive line situation
The Vikings offensive line has had many moving parts since camp opened.
Pat Elflein remains on PUP, Nick Easton was added to the Injured Reserve list after undergoing neck surgery and Mike Remmers is making a return after suffering an ankle injury last month in training camp.
"It's not ideal. It's not what you want," DeFilippo confirmed of the situation. "I would love for us to be able to go out and say, 'Hey, all five of our guys are hearing Kirk's cadence at the same time, they're hearing Kirk's line calls, they're all hearing Pat's line calls, if he was playing center. I would love to have that."
He pointed out that unfortunately across the league, teams often have to deal with similar types of scenarios when players are injured.
"You don't waste time thinking about that stuff," DeFilippo said. "As coaches, we're problem solvers. So keep finding ways to alleviate those problems."
In responding to other questions, however, DeFilippo did praise the performance of the young linemen who have stepped up. He highlighted the unit's contribution to Minnesota's early success in the run game.
"I really think our offensive line is coming off the football," DeFilippo said. "We're not always perfect – obviously we're not playing with, we're down four starters. So it's not always perfect. But they're playing fast, and they're playing physical."
DeFilippo on Beebe being among 'most improved'
Vikings receiver Chad Beebe, the son of former Bills receiver Don Beebe, has garnered some attention as of late.
Beebe was signed by Minnesota as an undrafted rookie and has been working to impress coaches. He scored his first NFL touchdown on a pass from Kyle Sloter in the Vikings first preseason game, and he came up with a 14-yard catch against Jacksonville Saturday.
Recently, Beebe has received some reps with the second-team offense during practice. DeFilippo was asked if he's been surprised by the receiver's progress.
"I wouldn't say he's surprised me, because the traits were always there – the quickness, the short-area quickness," DeFilippo said. "The thing that he's gotten a lot better at is understanding leverage on defenders. For a guy that's not very big (5-foot-10), he really understands how to lean and lift on defenders.
"So I think, from the time he stepped foot in this building this spring, to now, I would put him right up against anybody in terms of most-improved," DeFilippo added. "I think that's a credit to him, and [wide receivers coach] Darrell Hazell does a great job with those guys, and he's an exciting guy to watch."
Priefer on Carlson winning kicking competition
The Vikings announced Monday that Kai Forbath had been released, effectively ending the kicking competition between him and Daniel Carlson, whom the Vikings traded up to draft in the fifth round.
Priefer emphasized that Forbath handled the release "like a pro." Priefer said that Forbath had a great training camp and that the competition went on "probably a little bit longer" than he had originally anticipated between the two kickers.
"Kai … had a great spring. I thought Daniel out-kicked him by a little bit in the spring, but it was close," Priefer said. "And then he came into camp, and I think he made a couple more field goals than Daniel did. I think they both kicked 34, 35 field goals, and I think Kai kicked a couple more.
"It was just, I could see Daniel continually getting better every day, and the kickoffs played a big part in that, as well," Priefer continued. "So the combination of that and being a young, hopefully up-and-coming kicker who can kick in this league for a long time – one game at a time, obviously, or one practice at a time – at the end of the day, that's the reason that he's here. He performed well, and [it was] well enough to beat out Kai."
Priefer on urgency of improving punt coverage
The Vikings have struggled on punt coverage to start the preseason, and Priefer emphasized that it must improve quickly.
He stressed that having young players in the mix shouldn't be an excuse for a poor special teams performance.
"I'm very disappointed in the punt coverage thus far," Priefer said. "Is it some young guys? Sure. But those young guys should know what to do, and I have to coach them better, and they've got to prepare better, and we have to do a better job in lane integrity.
Priefer added that the punting itself needs to be more consistent and that he's talked with Ryan Quigley about it.
"We have to improve there immensely, and we have to improve immensely in punt coverage," Priefer said. "So going forward in the next two weeks, that's been a huge emphasis [even more than usual]. We've always worked on that, obviously, because we've been pretty good at that here over the years, but we need to fix that quickly before we move on."