EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –The Vikings are grateful for a healthy and jelling offensive line amidst dealing with injuries elsewhere on offense.
Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur said that continuity has been incredibly beneficial for the line after last year being forced to use so many different combinations.
"I think it helps," Shurmur said. "What they do individually in blocking their guy is certainly important, but what's most important is how they play as a unit. The longer the unit can play together, the longer they have a feel and, really, the more efficient they can become. I think there's some benefit to that, [through] the first quarter of the season, we've been able to play the same five guys."
Shurmur said that he appreciates the tough demeanor and resolve of Minnesota's offensive line. He said the players in that group are "similar in a lot of ways" due to the nature of their position.
"It's a gritty, hard job, but they embrace it, because basically you're coming in here blocking somebody on every play. But I like their personality; I like their mindset," Shurmur said.
He added that offensive line coach Tony Sparano, along with assistant offensive line coach Andrew Janocko, have done a good job of coaching and directing the unit, from the experienced players in the group down to the rookies.
"I think Pat [Elflein], as a young center, he's not fazed by much," Shurmur said. "He played in front of larger crowds when he was at Ohio State. So he's done a really good job, he starts in there, and then you've got two veterans – really a bunch of veterans in there, just playing new spots – and they're playing hard. It's not that we don't get beat once in a while, but these guys are gritty fighters, and I think it's helping us."
Here are other topics covered Friday by Shurmur, Defensive Coordinator George Edwards and Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer.
Shurmur on Adam Thielen
The Vikings will have the opportunity to involve wide receiver Michael Floyd in Monday night's game against the Bears.
Floyd is eligible to return to the field after serving a four-game suspension. Although he hasn't been able to practice with the team, the Saint Paul native has participated in team meetings.
"Behind the scenes, he's been involved every day," Shurmur said. "He's ready to go, and he's getting the work he needs."
Shurmur believes that Floyd's size can deceive opponents from gauging his speed.
"Mike is a little faster than people will give him credit for, that's sort of what I've factored in here after watching him in the training sessions," Shurmur said. "He's a pro. He can catch a contested ball because he's a big, strong man, and he's just played a lot of football and made a lot of plays. There's elements of his game that will help us."
Edwards on Bears RB Tarik Cohen
The Vikings will face a pair of tough running backs in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen on Monday.
They both present different challenges, with Howard being more of a powerful runner and Cohen leading running backs across the league in receptions (24).
"Every week we're facing some type of scat back that can get out; he's a tough matchup for linebackers and safeties," Edwards said of Cohen. "So from that aspect, it just looks like, from week-to-week, everybody seems to have one of those guys – whether it's third down or in this case, they use him on first and second down just as much.
"We've faced it throughout the course of the season, it looks like something that's trending, and we'll have to definitely keep working it from week to week," Edwards added.
Edwards on facing rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky
Chicago announced earlier this week that, after benching Mike Glennon, Mitchell Trubisky will make his first NFL start against the Vikings.
Edwards said the defense has been studying Trubisky's 100-plus snaps in the preseason.
"He played in various quarters; he played early in the some of the games, he played later in the some of the games," Edwards said. "We have a good feel for what we think he is. I mean, we think systematically they're going to do a lot of similar things [on offense]. But when you've got a guy like him, you're going to do things that sort of cater to his abilities.
"Some things we feel pretty good about, what they are offensively," Edwards continued. "And then other things we'll probably have to adjust to or see how they're using him in different situations throughout the game."
Priefer on managing opponents' punt-return yards
Minnesota's punt coverage currently ranks No. 1 in the NFL in limiting punt-return yards by its opponents.
Priefer said a variety of factors have allowed the special teams unit to find success in that area.
"Ryan [Quigley] is doing a really good job of directional punting for us. We're doing a good job of protecting. We're doing a good job of covering, our gunners are getting downfield and forcing fair catches," Priefer said. "We're not trying to out-kick our coverage, which will occur sometimes."
He emphasized that it's easier to control the situation when punting indoors, so Quigley has been focusing on preparing for Soldier Field's often-blustery atmosphere.
"[Thursday] he had a real good day; tomorrow we'll punt him again. That will be a big emphasis," Priefer said. "This returner we're facing, No. 29 (Cohen), he's really good. He's quick, he's fast, he's strong, breaks tackles.
"He'll keep me up Sunday night, all day long Monday, I'll be worried about him Monday," Priefer added. "But if we can control the direction and control the distance and hang time of our punts, then obviously we can cover him a lot better. And that's what we've done so far."
Priefer on Kai Forbath's missed FG in Week 4
After making 21 consecutive field goals for the Vikings, Kai Forbath missed a 39-yarder in Week 4.
Priefer said he and Forbath briefly analyzed the kick and what went wrong.
"We know what he did wrong. He didn't finish through towards his target, like we talk about all the time," Priefer said. "He went out [Thursday], he went outside actually – and it wasn't very windy, it was a nice day – and he was 20-for-21 yesterday and had a 61-yarder."
Priefer said he doesn't believe confidence is an issue with Forbath.
"I think he had his confidence in pregame, he had a good pregame, he hit the ball well on the first PAT, and we just have to be more consistent," Priefer said. "He knows that, and that's the only way we're going to win games. He has to make those field goals.