MANKATO, Minn. — Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has spent most of his life trying to make life difficult for opposing offenses, whether it's dialing up a blitz or disguising a coverage.
But one of the biggest areas Zimmer and the Vikings have focused on this offseason is giving opposing defenses headaches.
Zimmer met with the media Saturday and expanded on what the offense has honed in on in recent months, explaining that Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur and his crew have worked to build the offense around the talent in the huddle.
"Well, the biggest thing offensively I think the coaches have done a nice job in trying to implement things to take advantage of the skill set of the players that we have now," Zimmer said. "Taking advantage of (Stefon) Diggs, taking advantage of (Kyle) Rudolph, and some of the things they do.
"Working real hard with (Latavius) Murray, at least playbook-wise with Murray, and then again with (Dalvin) Cook," Zimmer said. "Understanding what Sam (Bradford) can do as far as some of the communication things, checks on the line of scrimmage, checking from a bad play to a good play, seeing the different types of pressures and being able to change protections. I really like what we're doing protection wise, Pat has really mixed it up well. That makes it difficult on the defense."
The Vikings ranked 23rd in points for per game (20.3) in 2016 and were 28th in yards per game (315.1).
Here are three other topics Zimmer addressed in Saturday's media session:
1. Barr's outstanding camp
Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr was the first draft pick the Vikings made after Zimmer arrived in 2014.
Barr, the No. 9 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, has made two Pro Bowls in three seasons.
Zimmer said Saturday that the former UCLA standout could be primed for even bigger things this season.
"He's been tremendous. I look for him to have a big year. I am constantly trying to figure out ways to use him more and more and more," Zimmer said. "His effort has been outstanding, he's very conscientious about making sure he runs to the football all of the time.
"He's working very hard on getting off the blocks, just working very hard on his coverage and his pressures," Zimmer added. "Really he has had a phenomenal spring and camp so far."
2. Evaluating the quarterbacks
Saturday night's practice won't be the only evaluation of the Vikings backup quarterbacks, but Zimmer said he's interested to see how Anthony Harris and Case Keenum respond under the lights and in front a big crowd.
"Not so much for Sam (Bradford), but for the other guys making the right decisions, taking care of the football," Zimmer said. "I would anticipate Taylor (Heinicke) running a little bit more because that's what he does, but hopefully standing there and making correct throws."
Zimmer noted he's chatted with both quarterbacks about making smart choices and giving the offense a chance to get in the end zone.
"What I try to do is talk to them about scenarios in the game where we make the right decisions, whatever it is," Zimmer said. "I've done it with Sam quite a few times. I think one of them was we were trying to get a chuck down the field, and I talked to him about maybe moving outside of the pocket some so he can buy a little bit more time for those guys to get down.
"I think there was one time where we threw the ball late in the middle, kind of a scramble, and I mentioned we don't want to do that. Things like that," Zimmer added.
3. Spying on special teams
The night practice will also give Zimmer a chance to get a closer look at the pair of special teams battle taking place.
Kai Forbath and Marshall Koehn are battling for the kicker job while Ryan Quigley and Taylor Symmank are aiming for the punter job.
Zimmer said he's intrigued to see them under the spotlight instead of working off to the side by themselves during practice, even if neither battle will be decided tonight.
"They will split a little bit of time tonight, both of them. This is really a long process," Zimmer said. "It will be good to see them when we get the lights on, but again, these preseason games are going to be important as well. We play some pretty good people in those games, so it will be good.
"When the lights come on … tonight will be a big part of it," Zimmer added. "When the lights come on, how will they handle themselves? When they're out there by themselves and they have crowd watching them."