*EAGAN, Minn. – *Terence Newman has been getting some reps at safety, and on Wednesday he looked the part.
Newman and Andrew Sendejo pulled a jersey swap prior to minicamp practice, and the veteran corner repped No. 34 well while Sendejo is still on the mend.
“We’ve played him at a little safety here in the past couple days, and he did his rendition of Sendejo today,” quipped Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards.
Edwards addressed Twin Cities media members after the second of three mandatory minicamp practices. All jokes aside, he emphasized the value of versatility by Newman, who is entering his 16th NFL season.
“Terence has done a good a job,” Edwards said before reminding reporters that Newman has had to start at safety in a pinch (at Arizona in 2015) and was up to the challenge.
“That’s a hat that he can wear, and we’re glad we’ve got him,” Edwards said.
The ability to play multiple positions also transfers to the classroom. Edwards pointed out that Newman’s familiarity with Head Coach Mike Zimmer’s defense is an advantage, but that Newman also has been asked to “always be paying attention to everything.”
“That way, you’ve got to have that versatility in that room, that if somebody gets injured or something like that, the next guy’s gotta be up,” Edwards said. “And he’s [a great example], especially for the young guys – ‘Hey, the more that you can do, the longer you’re going to be able to stick around and help us win football games.’ ”
Here are five additional topics covered by Edwards, Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo and Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer at the podium Wednesday:
Edwards on development of Danielle Hunter
Danielle Hunter has three seasons in Purple under his belt, and the defensive end seems to have taken a step with each year.
When asked what stands out about Hunter this spring, Edwards pointed to his off-the-charts work ethic and dedication to improving. He added that the coaching staff has “added some more tools to his toolbox” in the pass rush.
“He’s out here going against Riley [Reiff] every day, and that is tough enough,” Edwards said. “I’ll tell you what – he’s done a really good job of working different techniques, different fundamentals, really working on his pass rush.”
Edwards reiterated that the effectiveness of a defense isn’t reflected solely in sack numbers.
“If our guys can get the quarterback off the spot or make him feel uncomfortable or have to step up, where his footwork is not as good as he goes to release the ball, that’s a plus for us,” Edwards said. “The thing you see with Danielle, he is affecting the passer.”
DeFilippo on communicating with Cousins
When Kirk Cousins threw an interception in the red zone during practice, DeFilippo didn’t hesitate to encourage short-term memory by the quarterback.
“In the headset I was just telling him, ‘Next play, next play.’ We’re going to go through rough stretches at some point in this season,” DeFilippo said. “That’s real-life football.”
Using the headset to communicate with Cousins is beneficial in more ways than one. DeFilippo can call set plays and occasionally offer little reminders. But he’s always careful to simulate a game scenario, cutting off any verbal communication when 15 seconds remain on the play clock.
“My eyes go straight to the play clock as well, as soon as those guys break the huddle,” DeFilippo said. “I’ll give him some reminders, though. I’ll be like, ‘Hey, remember to back over the ball here, remind the back he’s got to have that back wide here. Hey, 2-on-1 here.’
“There’s a lot of subtle reminders I give him,” DeFilippo continued. “The other thing is when he’s calling the play and playing [it] through his mind before he gets the ball, he doesn’t need to hear me playing in his head too much.”
*DeFilippo on early impressions of Zylstra *
Minnesota native Brandon Zylstra was given a shot with his home team, and he’s working to make the most of it.
“That guy continues to impress,” DeFilippo said of Zylstra, who attended Concordia College – Moorhead and played two seasons in the Canadian Football League with the Edmonton Eskimos.
“The more he starts to understand the speed of the NFL game – he’s a big, strong guy,” DeFilippo said. “People are going to have a hard time getting up in his face and pressing him. He has tremendous hands, he’s smart. He’s one of the guys that can line up anywhere, we could put him anywhere. We’re very fortunate he’s on our football team.”
Priefer on the competition at kicker
The Vikings kicking competition hasn’t yet yielded a clear-cut winner.
Priefer said the competition between Kai Forbath and rookie Daniel Carlson, whom the Vikings drafted in the fifth round, has been close this spring.
“Daniel showed how talented he is; he’s got a big leg. He’s done a great job with the kickoffs,” Priefer said. “More than likely, I think he should have made a few more of those field goals. He’s … 16-of-19 in team, which is not bad.
“Kai has had one of the better springs, or the best spring he’s had since he’s been here,” Priefer added. “He’s actually done quite well on kickoffs, as well. It’s been a very good competition so far.”
Priefer on approach to new kickoff rules in 2018
The rules surrounding kickoffs will look a little different this season.
NFL Owners voted this spring to tweak the rules, and Priefer is looking forward to the new look.
When asked if he expects there to be more kickoff returns in wake of the rule changes, Priefer laughed and quipped that he’d been asked the question close to a thousand times, including by Zimmer.
“It’s going to be exciting. I don’t know,” Priefer said. “I think it’s going to be fun to adjust and see what people are doing and watch what other teams are doing on tape.”
Priefer said the Vikings have their “ideas and how we think the play is going to go,” and they hope to capitalize on the changes.
“I told our guys, ‘We want to be the first team to score a touchdown with the new rules.’ I don’t know if that will happen. I certainly don’t want to be the first team to give up a touchdown,” Priefer said. “Hopefully we’ll keep working hard and have a good talented return team back there and see what happens.”
Priefer said he’s learned over years of coaching to embrace change.
“That way you approach [rule changes] with your players is you’ve got to be positive about the change. Understand why they’re doing it, to make a safer game, which I think is great,” Priefer said.
He added: “I think it’s fun. It’s like you’re tinkering with a new toy.”