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Presser Points: Edwards on Teaching Young Players

MANKATO, Minn. —Defensive Coordinator George Edwards spoke about the youth on the Vikings roster, and Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer on Thursday hit on the potential return of one of the NFL's best kick returners.

Here are three topics covered by Edwards:

Rookies have done 'a good job mentally'

With the Vikings returning all 11 starters from their 2015 defense that helped win the NFC North, Edwards has been able to focus his teaching efforts toward younger players and has had valuable help.

"I think this rookie class, I think it's a culmination of things, has done a good job mentally for us throughout the offseason as we come to training camp. I think a big part of it is that the guys in front of them are good examples for them. They're reaching back to help them, to teach them the techniques, to help them understand how to recall that information and be able to apply it to those situations. Communication is such a big key to what we do in the NFL defensively. It's such a big key to make sure that everybody is on the same page. They seem to have a pretty decent grasp on it as a group, I think as a rookie group.

Pick is progressing

Media interest in the progression of Mackensie Alexander, the Vikings second-round pick in April, has been high.

"He's still in a cognitive state of learning, so he's still learning the things. It's his second time through pretty much everything, but he's still having to think a little bit as far as what we are anticipating call-wise and what we are doing technique and fundamental wise. The thing he's done a good job with is, he's been focused, he's doing a good job of competing every day. As long as he keeps doing that, the more experience that he gets within the system, he'll continue to get better at it. The biggest thing we try to encourage him to do is to come out, concentrate and focus on what we are doing from the meeting room and the individual [period] and then have that transfer over to our team period."

Difference of a year

The Vikings have lined up Alexander on the outside and in the slot, a move they did some with 2015 first-round pick Trae Waynes a year ago. Minnesota then opted to have Waynes focus on the outside.

Edwards said Waynes is "a lot more" comfortable with the defense.

"You can't even put a grade on it. Now, he's not having to think and he's not having to think about alignments or assignments as much. You look at him coming in, it was sort of different than what he did in college. All of a sudden, he's asked to play a little more zone and make different adjustments rather than just lining up and playing man-to-man. Now, he doesn't have to think about those things quite as much. He can line up and play and concentrate on the technique and the fundamental of each call as we go through it.

Here are three topics covered by Priefer:

Patterson working back

Cordarrelle Patterson made a tremendous catch on Friday but suffered a shoulder injury that sidelined him. Priefer said the Vikings will work the NFL's leader in kickoff return average in 2015 back into the mix when possible.

"Coach [Mike] Zimmer and I will talk about it. We'll see where he's at. Obviously, he wants to do it and get some reps under his belt. I know this is year four for him – and he has got a lot of returns under his belt – but like any young man, especially at this stage of his career, he's going to need some reps to get prepared for the season. My hope is to use him a little bit, maybe not in the first couple of games, but maybe the last few preseason games, if we can."

Down the center

Priefer was asked of kicker Kevin McDermott has a preferred hash mark to kick field goals from, and said the Vikings have made a change as the return of playing home games indoors is approaching.

"I've made the preferred hash mark the middle of the field," Priefer said. "We've changed that. We're going the middle of the field."

If an offensive play preceding a field goal attempt occurs outside of the hash marks, however, the ball will be spotted at the closest hash mark.

Throwback Thursday

Priefer was asked about the fake punt that the Vikings used to set up a field goal on their opening possession at the Packers in Week 17. Adam Thielen ran the ball 41 yards to set up the first score.

"Coach Zimmer is very aggressive, and that makes my job fun. We design either a surprise onside or fake field goals or fake punts, whatever it may be. And Coach (Zimmer) is always asking me, 'Is it there? Is it there? Is it there?' So, we install it early in the season, and we work on it against different looks that opponent has that week, and if we get the opportunity to run it, we can run it, and we'll go from there. But he's very aggressive, and obviously it's his call. He's the one who made the call last year, and our guys went out and executed it."

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