EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Week 1 of the 2016 NFL season is upon us.
Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner, Defensive Coordinator George Edwards and Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer spoke to members of the media on Thursday as the Vikings prepare to open their season against the Titans on the road Sunday.
"I guess today we probably have some meaningful questions you might want to ask," Turner joked with media before delving into the past nine days that Minnesota has navigated through.
Here are two topics covered by Turner:
Keeping tabs on Teddy
After Stefon Diggs was released from the hospital following a season-ending knee injury suffered last Tuesday, he's been in the locker room with his teammates a couple of times and spoken with coaches.
"I've seen Teddy," Turner said. "We stay in touch, we're communicating."
Turner said it's important to him to keep a line of communication with Bridgewater even though he won't be in the huddle this season.
"He's a big part of our organization, a big part of what we do," Turner said. "There will be constant communication."
Reaction to Bradford trade
Turner said that after Bridgewater was injured, he had some input in the evaluation process for bringing in another quarterback and the preparation needed. Ultimately, the decision came down to Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and Ownership, but Turner said the move helped instill confidence in the team.
"It was a boost for everybody," Turner said. "I think Coach Zimmer was very involved with Rick and the process they went through. It's bold, but it's very positive."
Here are two topics covered by Edwards:
Defending the Titans ground game
When the Vikings travel to Nashville this weekend, they will be facing a dynamic duo of running backs in veteran DeMarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry.
Edwards said both Murray and Henry are both extremely physical runners.
"We know we're going to have to do a good job of coming off blocks and tackling," Edwards said. "We have to do a good job of block protection. Not only that, but we have to be violent at getting off blocks and making plays."
The Vikings have said they **want to improve their run defense in 2016**, and Edwards said having linebacker Eric Kendricks and defensive tackle Danielle Hunter back in the mix should be helpful in doing just that.
"From what we've seen, we're looking forward to those guys going into this game," Edwards said.
Trae Waynes coming off productive preseason
After being selected 11th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, cornerback Trae Waynes played primarily special teams last season while showing glimpses of defensive prowess when given opportunities throughout the year.
Edwards said he feels confident about the way Waynes has progressed so far and what he brings to the table in his second season.
"Trae Waynes has had a very good offseason, a very productive preseason," Edwards said.
He continued by explaining that he focuses less on the starters of a game and more on individual strengths for specific situations.
"Our biggest thing is, we have different packages for different situations throughout the course of a game, whether it's two-minute, whether it's third down, whatever it is," Edwards said. "We use a lot of different guys and use their skillset, so from that aspect of it, we see a skillset and look forward to [Trae] continuing to progress and being able to help us progress throughout the course of the season."
Here are two topics covered by Priefer:
Kicking it up a notch on kickoff coverage
One area Priefer said he wants to see improve on special teams is with the kick-off coverage unit. He said the preseason game against the Rams offered a good look at some of the younger special teams players, and there were some takeaways he plans to work on.
"I don't think we covered kicks as well as we want to during the season," Priefer said. "We had a couple last week, last Thursday against LA, that were out [past the 35-yard] line. Those are unacceptable.
"We need to cover kickoffs better if we are going to utilize this [new touchback] rule to our advantage," he continued. "If we have to kick them in the end zone, then we'll take the touchbacks, but I'd rather have the tackles inside the 20 than giving a good offense the ball at the 25-yard line, any time."
Kevin McDermott coming back stronger
Priefer said that kicker Blair Walsh has returned for the 2016 season even mentally stronger than he was last year, after missing a 27-yard field goal in the Wild Card game against Seattle last January. Priefer said the support of the Vikings organization, teammates and coaches has kept Walsh's confidence where it needs to be.
Walsh has appeared to Priefer to also have an increased maturity level, which he also credits to the self-confidence.
"He made a tough mistake that hurt our football team, but at the end of the day, he's still a great kicker, and we're going to rely on him going forward to help us win some games this year," Priefer said. "And he has to have that mentality going into games – that he is a weapon for us on kick off and with PATs and field goals. That's the way he has to approach it, and I think that's the way he has approached it."