EAGAN, Minn. — Mike Zimmer provided one of his best quotes of the 2020 season on Wednesday morning in a videoconference with the Twin Cities media.
The Vikings Head Coach was asked about his young cornerbacks group, a topic that is inquired about almost every time he speaks with local reporters.
Zimmer provided a solid one-liner about that group's progression.
"Right now we're still in kindergarten," Zimmer said, "but we're trying to get to a Master's program here quickly."
The Vikings are playing a host of young players in the secondary this season. Jeff Gladney, Cam Dantzler and Harrison Hand are rookies, while Kris Boyd is a second-year player.
Mike Hughes and Holton Hill are third-year players. Others such as Mark Fields II, Chris Jones and Marcus Sayles, who is on the practice squad, have minimal NFL experience.
But even with some mistakes so far in 2020, Zimmer said he's also seen progress, too.
"They've all made improvements, each one of them in different areas," Zimmer said. "I know Gladney had some bad plays this week, but he had some good plays, as well.
"Those are the kinds of things you're looking for," Zimmer added. "These good plays where they, really what I'm looking for out of these guys is not so much 'paint-by-the-numbers.' It's a little bit more, 'Oh, I can kind of anticipate what they might be doing here based off the split or the motion or the receiver that's in there.' "
Zimmer was also asked if he has to be protective of his young corners with his defensive calls.
That led to an unprompted word search, as reporters chimed in to help Zimmer, who couldn't quite put his finger on how to answer that.
"I guess the best way to say it is that I'm … what's the word I'm looking for?" Zimmer said. "You always have that in the back of your mind of when to be aggressive and when not. I wouldn't say 'protective' … I'd say more … I can't think of the word now. Help me out."
"Not cautious," Zimmer said. "I'm going to pick my spots, how's that? That wasn't what I was looking for, but you get the idea."
"No, not the word I was looking for either. I've got to get out the Webster's [Dictionary] here," Zimmer quipped.
Jones is currently the Vikings eldest cornerback to 25 years old. He has played in just 14 career games, all with Arizona.
Here are three other topics Zimmer discussed Wednesday:
1. A talented rookie on the other side
Much how Zimmer's young cornerbacks have had some ups and downs in 2020, he's seen the same from Detroit's Jeff Okudah, too.
The Lions rookie cornerback was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. He has made five starts so far, with an interception, two tackles for loss and two passes defensed.
"I think what you see is the athleticism from these young guys, more so than the learning curve of things," Zimmer said when asked about Okudah. "He's a tough, competitive kid. All these young guys go through, especially without the OTAs and – basically – training camp and things like that, they all go through certain phases.
"It's just how quickly each one of them can adapt to the way penalties are called in the NFL, the [skill and] speed of the receivers, things like that," Zimmer added.
Okudah and Gladney (31st overall pick) were the first and last of six total first-round cornerbacks in the 2020 NFL Draft.
2. Standing pat at the trade deadline
The NFL trade deadline came and went Tuesday afternoon, as the Vikings chose to stand pat and not make any moves with any other teams.
Minnesota traded defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to Baltimore two weeks ago, but Zimmer said Wednesday that nothing else seemingly developed.
"Yeah, I mean, we like our guys," Zimmer said. "We've got a bunch of good guys on this team, and we just need to continue to get better and play better."
Zimmer also noted the lack of trades around the league, which could have been affected by COVID-19 protocols. NFL players have to test negative for six days before they are allowed in a new team's building.
"I don't think there was much movement at all at the trade deadline, was there?" Zimmer said.
3. Need some home cooking
The Vikings have been among the league's best home teams in recent seasons, as the Purple faithful have packed U.S. Bank Stadium to create an energetic and raucous atmosphere.
But with no fans in the stands through three home games — and no fans allowed for Sunday's game against the Lions — the Vikings are 0-3 at home so far in 2002.
Zimmer was asked how important it was for the Vikings to get a win in their home building.
"Yeah, it is. I talked to the team about that this week," Zimmer said. "It's unfortunate that we don't have our fans there, and last time we played in the stadium, it was completely dead.
"So we need to bring our own energy, we need to bring our own excitement, we need to play like the fans are there," Zimmer added. "And hopefully they can do it through osmosis or something, but we need to go out and play well and play physical. Play smart and get a win."
The Vikings are among four teams — along with the Lions, Falcons and Jets — who do not have a home victory so far in 2020.