*EAGAN, Minn. – *Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer got the present he really wanted for his birthday: a solid performance from his players at practice.
Zimmer told Twin Cities media members on Tuesday that the practice was “one of the better ones” that the Vikings have had since kicking off Organized Team Activities.
“[We] got back to being more crisp, doing things a little bit quicker and faster. Got a lot of situational work in,” Zimmer said. “Finish up this week and then a couple more practices next week and get ready to take a little break and get back ready to go.”
To celebrate the coach’s birthday, the rookies serenaded him during a team meeting.
“It was bad singing,” Zimmer quipped. “No presents. The good practice was a good present.”
Here are four other topics Zimmer covered during his podium session:
*1. ‘Cat and mouse game’ *
Zimmer is getting looks at the Vikings new offensive coordinator, John DeFilippo, in action during OTAs.
With DeFilippo, along with a new quarterback in Kirk Cousins, Minnesota’s offense is likely to look a little different.
“They’ve got some new other wrinkles in what they’ve been doing,” Zimmer said. “In the spring, it’s always a little bit of a cat-and-mouse game with the offense and defense. They run a couple plays that hurt the defense, and the defense will come back and run something that will hurt them.
“It’s really about trying to get guys better at doing their job and being on the same page and getting off on the snap count. All of those things,” Zimmer continued. “Really, what we are trying to do as a team a lot is teach them about situational football – how games play out, how we win games at the end, things like that.”
2. Getting guys back on the gridiron
Kyle Rudolph has rehabbed well following postseason ankle surgery.
Zimmer said he’s seen the hard work by Rudolph and that it was “good to see him out there” as a practice participant this week.
Zimmer went on to point out that running back Dalvin Cook also participated in team drills.
“Cook got some reps with the team these past two days, so it’s been good,” Zimmer said. “Our trainers, [Director of Sports Medicine and Head Athletic Trainer] Eric Sugarman is doing a great job along with [Head Strength and Conditioning Coach] Mark Uyeyama with guys in the weight room.”
When asked how he balances “being cautious” while also getting Cook into the mix, Zimmer said that it’s about getting him in a situation of “bodies flying at him a little bit.”
“It’s not so much trying to figure out what he can do right now,” Zimmer said. “It’s more about trying to get him comfortable around 11 or 22 players around him.”
*3. Another step for Danielle *
Danielle Hunter has continued to impress in each of his first three seasons.
So then, what’s the next step?
Zimmer said that Hunter has had a great spring and that the most important thing for the defensive end is to just “cut it loose” and not think quite so much.
“A lot of these young guys, they have a tendency to think so much about what they should do or what they might do,” Zimmer said. “His natural reactions are good enough. He’s worked extremely hard this offseason.”
Zimmer highlighted the matchups between Hunter and tackle Riley Reiff.
When asked if Hunter was thinking too much during the 2017 season, Zimmer responded:
“Yes, I think so. Danielle wants to be perfect all the time, and at that position you can’t always be perfect. Sometimes you just have to be reckless. He’s added a few more things to his rush arsenal, and I think that’s helped him some, too.”
*4. Holton Hill *
Cornerback Holton Hill, whom the Vikings signed as a rookie free agent, has a broad skill set that the Vikings hope to tap into gradually.
It’s one step at a time, though.
Zimmer said Hill is “still learning” the corner spot and that it’s their sole focus right now.
“He has the size and speed and athletic ability to probably play more positions,” Zimmer said. “[But] at this point in time, I think it is just going to be corner.”
Zimmer was later asked again about Hill and reiterated what excites him about the rookie.
“He’s got good size. He’s got good speed. He’s tough. He’ll hit. I thought [he has] a lot of the things that we look for in corners. The stop and start, the breaks, and things like that,” Zimmer said. “Out here, he’s done a really good job with the things he’s been doing. Obviously he’s still learning a lot about technique and that. We obviously can’t press right now, so that’ll be another, ‘See where he’s at once we get to training camp.’ ”