EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings defense has gone from 0 to 66K in a little more than a week.
After not game-planning for any of the four preseason opponents or even teams' specific receivers, the unit has been focusing on a prolific Saints passing attack led by Drew Brees, who ranks third in NFL history with 66,111 yards and 465 touchdowns.
The teams open their 2017 seasons at 6 p.m. on Monday Night Football.
Minnesota won't have to face Willie Snead, who has 141 receptions, 1,879 yards and seven touchdowns in two pro seasons, because the third-year pro is suspended for three games.
The Vikings, however, will need to contend with Michael Thomas, who caught 92 passes for 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie last season, and offseason pickup Ted Ginn, Jr.
"[Snead] was definitely a good receiver for them last year, had a lot of production," Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards said Friday. "You could tell Brees was very comfortable with him and the way that they used him. I'm sure they'll miss him, but they have a lot of weapons over there.
"Ted Ginn, they picked him up this offseason, he'll be a viable weapon for them in there," Edwards added before noting that Brandon Coleman and Tommylee Lewis are also back.
Edwards said the Vikings have emphasized the importance of challenging every pass route.
"We've got to do that with proper leverage, we've got to be disciplined in our technique, disciplined in our fundamentals, disciplined with our eyes," Edwards said. "Because you can have a guy covered, and [Brees has] the ability to make all the throws and try to stick it in there."
Edwards also was asked to anticipate how the Saints might use rookie running back Alvin Kamara, who was selected in the third round.
Kamara caught 34 passes in 2015 and 40 in 2016 for the Volunteers in addition to totaling 210 carries for 1,294 yards and 16 touchdowns at Tennessee.
"He can do a little bit of everything for them, in the passing game or the running game," Edwards said. "They've got a good system where they get the most out of the skill sets of their players. They're moving guys around a lot."
Here are two topics covered by Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur and Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer on Friday.
Shurmur on starting offensive line decisions:
The Vikings offensive line dealt with a few injuries up front during the preseason, including left tackle Riley Reiff and former left guard Alex Boone (released during roster reductions). Rashod Hill gained experience in place of Reiff, and Nick Easton started in place of Boone at Seattle.
Easton also competed with rookie Pat Elflein for the starting center job, but the Vikings opted for Easton at left guard and Elflein at center, where he's scheduled to become the first Vikings first-year player to start at the position in Week 1 since Mick Tingelhoff in 1962.
"We feel good about the guys that we intend to start," Shurmur said. "They've done a really good job of working through our practices. We've seen behind the scenes the reasons why they're our best five, and we're looking forward to seeing them work together on Monday night.
"We felt like that was the best thing for us and what was best for our team," Shurmur added. "We certainly appreciate what Alex did a year ago and certainly wish him the best."
Shurmur on Vikings RB rotation:
Shurmur didn't want to describe the strategy part of how the Vikings might implement running backs Dalvin Cook, Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon, but he did say he thinks all three players provide him with multiple options.
"We have three running backs that we feel like can play on first, second or third down. We feel like they're all good situational backs, whether it is short-yardage or goal line, and any of the backs that are going to be active can certainly execute in our two-minute situation, so that's pretty comforting as a play caller. We've just got to see how the game goes."
Priefer on the kicking competition:
The Vikings retained kicker Kai Forbath, who was 15-for-15 on field goals in seven games with Minnesota in 2016. They also brought in Marshall Koehn as competition this offseason. Priefer said he thought the competition helped both kickers and that the decision on which player to retain was "really close."
"If Marshall doesn't miss that PAT [against the Dolphins], it's going to be a very difficult decision the next day. That kind of sealed it for him," Priefer said. "Unfortunately, he didn't hit it well. It was a good snap, good hold, great protection. Too bad for him. He's a good kid, worked hard. I think he made Kai a better kicker. You can ask Kai for yourself, but in talking to Kai, that competition really helped him perform at a higher level than he may have performed just by himself, so it was a good summer for those guys."
Priefer said the Vikings believe Forbath's consistency on scoring kicks will be helpful and complemented by improvements on kickoffs.
"At the end of the day, we felt Kai was going to hit the ball more consistently and be a more consistent performer for us," Priefer said.
Determined by directional punting:
The Vikings also had a competition for punting duties between veteran Ryan Quigley and rookie Taylor Symmank.
Priefer said consistency and the variations of punts that Quigley does well factored into the decision.
"We probably knew a week earlier than we did with the kickers that we were going to go with Ryan," Priefer said. "Taylor has a big-time leg, and we're going to ask Ryan to do a little bit more directional punting, especially indoors. That's kind of Ryan's forte.
"He's probably not as strong as Taylor," Priefer continued. "Taylor is a good, young strong punter. We've had some big-time punts around here before. It's just been inconsistent. We're looking for that consistency and hoping Ryan can give us that."