EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings are preparing on a short week to face a tough NFC opponent on the road.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer pointed out Tuesday that the Rams have the 2017 Coach of the Year (Head Coach Sean McVay), Offensive Player of the Year (RB Todd Gurley) and Defensive Player of the Year (DT Aaron Donald) and stressed that they’re a “very, very good” team.
Zimmer was asked about the Rams offense, which last season ranked No. 1 overall in points per game (29.9), and he first pointed to their trio of receivers: Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods.
“They’ve got great receivers – Cooks is a dynamic receiver, Kupp is really good, Woods is, he looks fast and even better than a year ago,” Zimmer said. “Obviously Gurley is a hard-running back with great speed to get to the perimeter. Their offensive line does a nice job.
“I thought [quarterback Jared] Goff took a jump from his first year to his second year, but I think he’s taken another big jump in his third year,” Zimmer continued. “He’s moving well in the pocket, he seems under control of their no-huddle offense, the things they do, getting the right plays. It’ll be a good test for us.”
When asked about the Rams having one of the lowest three-and-out percentages in the league, Zimmer explained some of the success.
“Yeah, they have quite a few third-and-1s, that’s part of it,” Zimmer said. “Secondly, Kupp is really good on third down, and they get a lot of chances where they can isolate Cooks or Woods on the back side, get them in 1-on-1, and they’re accurate.”
Added Zimmer: “They do a really, really good job on third downs. I just watched all the third downs again for the second time this morning. Third time, actually.”
Here are four other topics Zimmer addressed during his podium session with Twin Cities media members:
1. Adding Suh to the mix
Minnesota’s offense faced a talented Los Angeles defensive line last season at U.S. Bank Stadium, but the Rams during the offseason another piece to an already stout front in defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
The Vikings are not unfamiliar with Suh, who played for the division-rival Lions from 2010-14.
“Their front guys – obviously Donald and Suh, and [DE Michael] Brockers – they’re keep-going-up-the-field guys. Suh is explosive and powerful to get to the spot on the quarterback, and then Donald is a quick, side-to-side and then use power to get to [him],” Zimmer said. “But yeah, it makes it difficult. And their linebackers are fast, they’ve got two good safeties.”
Both of the Rams starting corners who were signed in free agency, Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, were injured during Sunday’s game against the Chargers and were listed as non-participants on Monday’s injury report.
“Depending on the situation at corner, their [starting] corners are really good, but then if they don’t play, [Sam] Shields is a good player and [Nickell Robey-Coleman] is another good player,” Zimmer said.
2. Notes from previous matchup
After the Vikings defeated the Rams 24-7 last season, how much can be taken from that game tape to prepare for the Thursday Night Football matchup?
Zimmer said that game is included in cut-ups the Vikings have on teams they’re playing.
“You go back and look and, really, it’s see what they try to do to us more so than what we try to do to them. They took the ball right down the field and scored on the first drive against us last year, and then we were able to do some better things after that,” Zimmer said. “When you’re playing a team that can run the football, throw the football like they can, have big plays, they’ve got all these different receivers that are big-play guys, it always makes it really, really challenging.”
3. Continuing focus on ball security
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins committed three fumbles against the Bills on Sunday, two of which were recovered by the Rams.
Zimmer assured media members that emphasis on preventing fumbles is a regular focus in practice.
“It’s securing the football with two hands. The first one last week, he was trying to come up in the pocket and a guy caught him from behind, the ball was out here a little bit [and] he punched it. So just tucking it in,” Zimmer said. “We’re working on it all the time, and not just with him, with all the quarterbacks, but obviously he’s holding the ball the most, so we try to do that a lot with him.”
4. Approach to Thursday Night Football
The Vikings and Rams will face off just four days after each team’s third game.
Minnesota, however, will be the team making the trek and crossing over two time zones.
Zimmer was asked about playing through the situation.
“Yeah, it’s a problem,” Zimmer quipped. “We haven’t had a home game on a short week since I’ve been here in five years. It is what it is. We go out and play the schedule however they do it. I know the statistics about going to the West Coast on a short week and all of that.
“Part of the reason we are going out, we did a study on preparing for a game on a short week, all of those things. That is why we are going out tonight after practice,” Zimmer added.
The Vikings hosted Dallas on a Thursday night game in 2016, but it was a week after Minnesota visited Detroit on Thanksgiving.