EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –The Vikings have spent the week preparing to face the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. Although the two teams played each other last season, this Giants squad is quite different than the one that Minnesota defeated 49-17 in 2015.
The Giants are equipped with a triple-threat receiving corps with Odell Beckham, Jr., Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepherd, and Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer told Twin Cities media Saturday that they're a talented group that requires intense defensive focus.
"They guys can all run," Zimmer said. "Shepard in the slot is very, very dangerous. They've got a lot of double moves with him. Obviously Beckham has got a lot of double moves, he's quick and great run after the catch. Cruz, too; Cruz made a big catch against New Orleans to win the ball game there at the end. All those guys are really stop-and-start guys, but they all have deep speed."
Here are four other topics Zimmer discussed during his podium session:
Giants skinny at secondary
Both the Vikings and the Giants have had their share of injuries in the early part of 2016, and New York has taken the biggest hit to its secondary units. The Giants have listed safeties Darian Thompson and Nat Berhe as "out" for Monday's matchup, leaving them with only two healthy safeties.
Cornerbacks Eli Apple and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were also on Saturday's injury report, which may more snaps on Monday for cornerback Leon Hall, a 2007 first-round pick by the Bengals who joined the Giants this offseason. Hall played for Cincinnati while Zimmer was the Bengals defensive coordinator (2008-13) and recorded 18 of his 26 career interceptions under Zimmer.
"I'm sure Leon hasn't changed," Zimmer said. "He's a guy that was extremely competitive, very, very smart, very tough. There was so many times where we'd line him up on guys, and he would fight them all day long and play great. Never wanted to miss practice, always had a smile on his face. He's a great kid."
One day at a time
Zimmer said he believes the Vikings have a strong defense made up of a number of talented players, but he won't put the cart before the horse. He confirmed that he subscribes to Bill Parcells' mantra, "Let's not put them in Canton yet," in reference to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"I don't think we have anybody like that yet," Zimmer said. "We have good players that are good team guys. They care about doing things right. They're competitive, they're smart. We definitely have not arrived. I think that it's a long season, [and] we have to continue to play good."
Continuity is key
One thing that Zimmer believes helps the Vikings defense perform well as a unit is the continuity between seasons. Nearly the entire roster from 2015 returned this season, including all of the defensive starters, and a majority have been with the team since Zimmer arrived in 2014.
"The terminology stays the same, the communication stays the same," Zimmer explained. "I think knowing where guys are going to be and understanding where their assignments are and things they do. I think all that stuff is important. From the first day that I came in here, we've always met together as a defense. So they hear the same things over and over for three years, [and] I think it does help."
Know the New York Giants key contributors on offense, defense and special teams heading into Week 4's matchup.
While 11 of the Giants 22 starters are different this season, one key name remains the same: quarterback Eli Manning.
"Well he's very good," Zimmer said. "I mean, the guy has won two Super Bowls. He knows where to go with the ball, he gets it out quick. He's got good footwork. He's always a big challenge to play."
Zimmer said quarterbacks having a quick release is partly mechanics-based and partly contingent on having a good idea what the defense might do after each snap.
"Knowing where you're going to go with the football is important," Zimmer said. "Obviously if you go back there and you drop it, it gives the defenders a little bit more of a chance. [Eli has] a great release, obviously. He's got pretty good stock, comes from pretty good stock. He's good."