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Presser Points: Zimmer Seeing 'Numbers, Not Faces' in Prepping for Former Team

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer will see some familiar faces on the visitors' sideline at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday.

Among them will be Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis, who is more than just a former boss of Zimmer.

"I love Marvin Lewis," said Zimmer, who served as the Bengals defensive coordinator from 2008-13. "He's an unbelievable person, great guy. Heck of a football coach. He's done tremendous things there in Cincinnati.

This weekend will mark the first time Zimmer has faced his old team in the regular-season. "It happens," he told Twin Cities media members of facing former colleagues and friends.

But Zimmer isn't worried about personal feelings interfering with business.

"This is a game I see numbers, not faces," Zimmer said.

If the Vikings claim their 11th win of the season Sunday, they will effectively clinch the NFC North division.

The Bengals (5-8) have missed the playoffs the past two seasons after appearing in the postseason five consecutive seasons.

"He's had success," Zimmer said of Lewis, who first started with the Bengals in 2003. "I think he's a heck of a coach. He does unbelievable things in the community. I learned a lot for him. I'm happy for him."

Here are four other topics Zimmer covered during his podium session:

1. Importance of roster depth

The Vikings have suffered some significant injuries this season, as have teams across the league.

Asked specifically about the importance of roster depth in the wake of having to fill in players, Zimmer acknowledged the difference it makes.

"Depth is extremely important. Quality depth," Zimmer said. "This time of year you end up getting a lot of injuries. Knock on wood, we've been fairly healthy, and hopefully we continue to stay that way.

"We've had a lot of guys come in," Zimmer added. "I think the longest one, well Case [Keenum] is obviously the longest one, but Rashod Hill has been five weeks. But for the most part it's a game here, game here, two games, something like that."

2. Offensive line and injury updates

Hill has consistently filled in at right tackle for Mike Remmers, who hasn't played since before the bye.

At Carolina last Sunday, Hill ended up sliding to the left side when Riley Reiff suffered an ankle injury.

Hill struggled a bit after the transition, but Zimmer pointed out that he also faced a good rusher in Mario Addison.

"Those guys were good rushers," Zimmer said. "Sometimes you have those games. Their crowd helped a little bit last week. All of that becomes a factor."

When asked about getting players back in the lineup to play Cincinnati, Zimmer said he feels "pretty good" about it.

"I think we'll get a lot of them back. I think we should get [Pat] Elflein back this week. I think we should get [Mike] Remmers back," Zimmer said. "There's a good chance of getting [Riley] Reiff back."

 3. Prepping for the Bengals defense

Zimmer said that not much has changed since he led the Bengals defense.

He said it could actually be a disadvantage that he'll have to consider because "they've heard everything I've ever said in a defensive meeting."

"They probably know me a lot better than I know them," Zimmer said.

Another familiar face he'll be accounting for is defensive tackle Geno Atkins, whom Zimmer coached for three seasons (2010-13). But he pointed out that Cincinnati has a number of talented players on defense in addition to the five-time Pro Bowler.

"Geno is a great player – unbelievable strength, unbelieveable quickness, great kid, smart," Zimmer said. "[Carlos] Dunlap is another heck of a rusher. [Carl] Lawson has [7.5 sacks] He wasn't there when I was there, but Dunlap is a very long, good athlete. That defensive line is excellent.

"[Vontaze] Burfict is a great middle linebacker, comes out of his hips, very instinctive, fast, tough," Zimmer added. "Vinny (Vincent) Rey was there when I was there, both safeties – [George] Iloka and Shawn Williams were there, [Dre] Kirkpatrick. There's a lot of their defensive players that were there when I was there."

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Bengals.

4. A scheming philosophy

Zimmer said there's "really a fine line" when it comes to what he shows teams schematically.

He said that it's typical for teams to hide what they can from opponents, but ultimately it's most important to be a fundamentally sound football team.

"Regardless if it's defense or offense, you have to be able to execute," Zimmer said. "And if you start changing up a lot and can't execute, then it's not good. But, if you can change up and execute and do things right, then it can give you some advantages."

Zimmer said that opposing teams have been scheming against Anthony Barr and the challenge he provides, especially when he's sent in on a blitz.

"Sometimes it's not about getting the sack, it's to keep the quarterback in the pocket. Sometimes he may have a peel blitz on a back or something like that, so they have to be careful with how they rush," Zimmer said. "There's a lot of different factors that go on. Anthony has played very well this year, and I'm hoping that all of our guys play well these last few weeks." 

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