Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur
Q: How does a completely new defense affect your game planning?
A: Yeah, they do. They have a lot of new players as compared to last year. I'm sure they've evolved through the offseason and the training camp. There are certain things that we probably didn't see in the preseason games. They're a good defense. They've got good players on every level. We just know any time you play a first game you're going to see some things that you haven't seen and so that's where your rules in protection, your rules in route running you kind of lean on that as you get through your first game.
Q: Sam Bradford mentioned this is only the second time in his career that he hasn't come back from an injury or is learning a new playbook. Can you speak on how more comfortable he has been?
A: I'm not going to compare, I certainly have a long history with Sam and I've really seen him at really every kind of stage at his career, but I'm just going to compare this year to last year. He got off a plane and he got into a crash course to learn our offense, and then I guess 13 days later he was taking snaps and starting. So, just compared to that experience this has got to be a lot more settling for him. Certainly being able to train throughout the year, get used to the players that we have, and then go into the season having a much better understanding of what we are trying to accomplish has to feel good for him. Certainly we've got to go out and do it, but that's a good starting point.
Q: How confident do you feel about creating explosive pass plays?
A: I think what's important is you want to try and create explosive gains and you can do them a bunch of ways. You can run for a long bit of yards, you can throw a short pass and run for it, or in that case we threw a deep ball. I think you have to have an offense that has a combination of ways to do that and each defense presents different obstacles to getting that done, so you just try to do what's best for the opponent that you're facing.
Q: When you studied last year, what was your biggest takeaway and number one thing that you wanted to see improve?
A: I think the biggest thing is we want to be more efficient running the football. It starts with efficiency and then the big runs will come. I think that's where we wanted to improve. We've obviously revamped the offensive line, we brought in a couple new running backs, we feel like we've added some things to our scheme. We've made efforts there. When you throw the ball, being able to protect the passer and there's a lot that goes into that. You don't just take a deep drop, block five and try to throw the ball deep. We felt like we tried to create a system where we could protect the passer and yet be able to get the ball down field and score points.
Q: What is your confidence level of the offensive line?
A: We feel good about the guys we intend to start. They've done a really good job of working through our practices we've seen behind the scenes the reason why they are our starting five and we're looking forward to seeing them work together on Monday night.
Q: Does the Alex Boone move say more about Pat Elflein and Nick Easton than Boone himself?
A: Anytime that happens I think you look at the people. It's just a matter if we felt that was the best thing for us, for our team. We certainly appreciate what Alex did for us a year ago and wish him the best.
Q: You have some young depth on the line. What is your feeling about them?
A: Yeah, and we're confident in them as well. You put the 53-man roster together, you do it with guys that you trust on the field. If a guy's on the roster, more specifically if a guy is active, we trust that they're going to go in there and do a good job.
Q: Do you have an idea about how you're going to distribute the carries?
A: Well, that speaks to strategy a little bit so we'll kind of hold that back. We've got three running backs that we feel can play on first, second, and third down. They're all good situational backs, whether it's short yardage and goal line and any of the backs that are going to be active can certainly excute in our two minute situation. So, that's comforting as a play caller, so we just have to see how the game goes. We have a plan, it's just not necessary for me to talk about that.
Q: What are some of the things Laquon Treadwell is better at this year than last?
A: I think his total game. Last year he displayed in the games that he played that he can block, he's physical. I think he has a better awareness of what this game is all about. In the game the coverage is tight and you've got to beat bump and run and try to wiggle your way free and catch the ball in a tight area. I think he's got an appreciation for that and I think generally speaking, just all the elements of playing receiver I've seen significant improvements in his game.
Q: How about his route running?
A: That's a significant part of playing wideout. And that speaks to getting open. I think he's not the fastest receiver we have, so it's important for him to really maneuver the line of scrimmage well and create separation at either the front end or back end.
Q: How much of the skill set is different in the offensive line than last year?
A: I don't know. I guess if you look at the center and the guard specifically they're kind of shorter, more active guys so they move around. But we were just looking for the guys that we thought were the best five and that's so of how we put them in there. The two new tackles that we have are good pass protectors, as well as run blockers. We were just trying to find the best five guys out there and let them go scrap.
Q: Did their ability to move factor in?
A: That certainly helps. I think it's important for every position on the field to be able to move and it's not any different for linemen.
Q: Tony Dungy says the hardest position to play is cornerback. What do you think is the hardest position?
A: I think it's quarterback. There is so much that goes into it, not to mention what's natural about the player himself. But certainly, everyone talks about how they're on an island and there's restrictions for how much you can put your hands on receivers. When you're in a one-on-one situation far away from the ball, I think that's critical and that's probably what Coach Dungy is speaking to.
Q: Is Blake Bell ready to contribute this week?
A: Yeah, he's a fast learner. We've been impressed with what he's been able to do. Now that we don't have a full offense that we're teaching conceptually we're kind of zeroing in on what we intend to do this week. He'll be ready.
Q: How many plays do you have when going into a typical game?
A: Again, that speaks to scheme so I won't talk about it. We have enough plays for each situation depending on how many, typically you have anywhere from, just in a situational setting, you have 13 to maybe 20 third downs. You want to have enough so that you can kind of and the ebb and the flow of game rolls through, you can get to what you need.
Q: Is Pat Elflein going to be making the play calls?
A: Well, he's going to be playing center and that's a significant part of what he does, for sure. The center and the quarterback typically are the ones that direct us, so that's how we do it.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards
Looking forward to opening up this Monday night, at home in front of our home crowd. Hopefully it'll be a competitive advantage for us. We're really excited about the opportunity to go and compete on Monday night.
Q: What challenges do you see in facing Alvin Kamara?
A: He can do a little bit of everything for them, in the passing game or the running game. They've got a good system where they get the most out of the skill sets of their players. They're moving guys around a lot. It'll be interesting to see coming into our game use him as.
Q: Do you think they will use him in the slot?
A: Yeah, there's a possibility, no doubt about it. They've got a couple of guys that have played in the slot for them, we'll see as it goes. He does a lot with personnel groupings and moving guys around. We''ll have to kind of see, you could see it through the preseason, all of last year. That offense has always done a great job of creating mismatches and stuff inside. We'll have to stay in tune to it, wherever they line him up and how they use him.
Q: How much will the loss of Willie Snead impact their offense?
A: He was definitely a good receiver for them last year, had a lot of production. You could tell [Drew] Brees was very comfortable with him and the way that they used him. Im sure they'll miss him but they have a lot of weapons over there. Tedd Ginn, they picked him up this offseason, he'll be a viable weapon for them in there. The other guys have all been back. Whether it's been [Brandon] Coleman and Tommylee Lewis, those guys. They've all got experience in that offense. We'll see how they try to use him as we go.
Q: How has Tramaine Brock looked thus far?
A: He's coming along. We're trying to get as much installed with him as quickly as possible. He is practicing, he has been working his way into the system. He's doing a job thus far.
Q: How do you try to exploit them having a rookie starting at left tackle?
A: I don't want to get into schematics or what we're trying to do this week. He's got some experience playing through the preseason, you could see him against the Chargers. Other than that, he really didn't hahve a lot of extensive playing time. Schematically, situational football, those kind of things, we'll get a chance to see him and hopefully be able to attack what it is they're trying to do. Offensively, they do an excellent job trying to get the ball out quick. With Drew [Brees], he does an excellent job of reading defenses. He's been around the league for a long time, he knows how to take advantage of those mismatches. He does a good job of getting the ball out quick. We'll see situationally how it goes through the course of the game.
Q: When going against a veteran quarterback like Drew Brees, how do you approach that with your young corners?
A: Sort of the same thing we've been working on throughout this offseason. As coach has said, we've got to get better at pass defense. We've got to challenge each and every route. We've got to do that with proper leverage, we've got to be disciplined in our technique, disciplined in our fundamentals, disciplined with our eyes. Because you can have a guy covered and he's got the ability to make all the throws and try to stick it in there. We've really got to pay attention to the details of what it is we're doing throughout the situations in a game.
Q: Do you want to see them be more aggressive on the ball?
A: When you say more aggressive, the biggest thing for us is the consistency. We want to make sure that we challenge each and every throw. When you say aggressive on the ball, yes. We try to be aggressive all the time. We want to challenge every route that you're matched on. So, that's a big emphasis for us this week.
Q: Do you think that was some of the issues you had in the preseason?
A: I think it was a combination of a lot of things in the preseason. We didn't gameplan anybody, we didn't prepare for a specific receiver. We didn't prepare for a specific situation as far as what we're going to call. There was a lot of things that went into it. Right now, we're in the process of game planning this week and the situations and the matchups and the different things we're going to try and get accomplished on Monday.
Q: How do you try and get through to a young guy like Mackensie Alexander after that taunting penalty against Miami?
A: I think the biggest thing is you confront it, you attack it, you get him to understand the ramifications of their decisions and how they can control their reactions and how it affects everybody else. From that aspect of it, I think he felt really bad for what he did and he understands that we can't have that. We just can't do anything that will hurt out team.
Q: When you're making the decision whether or not Xavier will shadow a receiver, how much does that affect everybody else?
A: It just depends on what the matchups are that week. If we are shadowing, what are the matchups on the other side. It's a culmination as we go through the week and we game plan what matchups on different people, different concepts that different teams are running, How they're using their personnel. Just to be careful to make sure we're all on the same page.
Q: Does having a young corner on the opposite side change how much you are willing to do that?
A: I think it just depends from week-to-week what the matchup is and what we decide going in to the game plan is the best way for us to take advantage of the matchups.
Q: Tony Dungy said cornerback is the hardest position in football, what are your thoughts on that?
A: It's a hard position out there on that runway. You're one-on-one. Two things that can happen that are bad for you as a defensive corner whereas the offense you can get pass interference or they can catch the ball on you. From that aspect of it, it's a hard job. We always try to teach here, we get our guys to understand it's a team concept. Yeah, you have one-on-one individual battles but pass coverage and pass rush goes together. So, hopefully we can challenge each route out there. If we're on top of the routes, good leverage on the routes, then hopefully the pass rush will be to get the ball out and be able to affect the passer. Quarterback is definitely a tough position in this game just from all of the things you see defensively from week-to-week. [Drew] Brees is probably going to be a first ballot hall of famer so he's got a lot of experience. A lot of things schematically, understands what they're trying to get accomplished. So, we've got out work cut out to get him stopped this week.
Q: Do you think offenses and quarterbacks are expecting pass interference sometimes?
A: I think it just depends on a system. Like I said, it's tough being out there at corner knowing that two of things, you can get pass interference or they complete the ball on you and you lose leverage and you're not disciplined in your fundamentals and your technique. The big thing is you can go up and try to challenge each ball but there are things you have to work through fundamentally and technique wise for us speaking specifically for us systematically what we're expecting to get out of the positon.
Q: When you have a young defense like the Saints do, do you try and keep your game plan a bit simpler?
A: I think that depends on, even though they may be young, what they've become accustomed to working in the offseason, if they feel comfortable where they're at. Each situation is a little bit different. I think some guys that come from different programs have more experiences in different systems. It's all individually based on their experience that the guys have coming in. How comfortable you feel with what they've grasped as far as coming out of training camp. As far as going through the OTAs and all those things. Each situation is a little bit different there.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer
Obviously a very exciting time of the year, start of the season, Monday night in our stadium, our awesome stadium with our awesome fans. It's exciting time, obviously. Obviously, a great opponent. A very, very difficult opponent. We've had a few extra days to work this week so we're getting excited and ready to roll.
Q: How close was the competition at kicker?
A: It was really, really close. If Marshall [Koehn] doesn't miss that PAT, it's going to be a very difficult decision the next day. That kind of sealed it for him, unfortunately. Didn't hit it well, it was a good snap, good hold, great protection. It was too bad for him, he's a good kid, worked hard. I think he made Kai [Forbath] a better kicker, you can ask Kai for yourself. Talking to Kai, that competition really helped him perform at a higher level than he may have performed just by himself. It was a good summer for those guys.
Q: How about at punter?
A: Same thing, I think we probably knew a week earlier than we did with the kickers that we were going to go with Ryan [Quigley]. Taylor's [Symmank] got a big time leg, we're going to ask Ryan to do a bit more directional punting, especially indoors. That's kind of his forte, probably not as strong as Taylor. Taylor's a good, young, strong punter but we've had some big time punts around here before, it's just been inconsistent. So, we're looking for that consistency and we're hoping Ryan can give us that.
Q: Was accuracy what ultimately set Kai Forbath over the top?
A: Probably, because Marshall's outstanding on kickoffs. But, at the end of the day you've got to make your PATs, you've got to make the makeable field goals. I know a lot of people think a 25-yard field goal is a chip shot, there is now chip shots in the league, I've said that before. You've got to be consistent no matter what type of kick, whether it's a PAT or a 19 or 20-yard field goal or a 55-yard field goal. At the end of the day, we felt like Kai hit the ball more consistent, he was going to be the more consistent performer for us. Hopefully he can do that and be a good kickoff guy for us. Which we feel he can.
Q: Did you guys take a look at any of the kickers and punters on the waiver wire?
A: I looked at a bunch of guys. I looked at everybody, before the last cut I looked at everybody that may have been cut or did get cut. I looked at probably eight or nine guys, just to have our list together.
Q: Was that to potentially bring a guy in or just for research?
A: No, not necessarily that. Always doing your due diligence. Our personnel do a great job, they don't' give me every kicker to watch. They just give me the guys they think could either push the guy we have or in their minds maybe better. At the end of the day, it's whatever position, tight ends – we looked at several tight ends before we signed Blake Bell. Because hopefully he'll be playing some special teams for us as we get going here. They give me a list of guys, I kind of rank them and we go from there.
Q: Having competition at those spots, it's probably not something done every year, so how do you go about that?
A: It's always based on roster needs. If we needed an extra receiver then we may have needed to cut one of those guys a little bit earlier, if we needed an extra D-lineman. We were fortunate enough that we stayed healthy enough during training camp that was huge. Any time you have five specialist it makes it a little more taxing on the rest of the roster. But it was great that we had that, I would love to have competition every year. It's just based on what our needs are, what our roster needs are at the end of the day.
Q: Does this change your strategy on kickoff by not having your ideal kickoff guy?
A: One thing Marshall could give you was that he was going to be an automatic touchback guy if he hit it like he should. We feel that Kai [Forbath] can give use those deep, high kicks when we need them, especially indoors. Kai is pretty good with his specialty kicks, his bag of tricks I like to call them – clubs in your golf bag type thing, even though I hate golf. Well I'm just terrible at it. At the end of the day though, Kai, we felt gives us the best chance to win both field goals, PATs and kickoffs this year.
Q: You mentioned Blake Bell, is he going to be ready to go as far as your schemes go?
A: I've spent several hours with him already. After practice yesterday for a while, before practice yesterday as well. He's smart, he's tough – loved him on film, he's a great athlete. He does some experience, I watched a lot of his plays while he was in San Francisco. He did a lot of good things, he's a big guy that can run and you can't coach that part. In terms of schematically we're going teach him what when we can our techniques, our schemes. Right now he'll be a backup and he could be in there Monday night, maybe we won't need him, but at the end of the day he'll be ready.
Q: Jerick McKinnon talked about his kickoff return and wanting to bring the ball out. Is that the mentality?
A: No, I mean we did that with Percy Harvin. We did that with Cordarrelle [Patterson]. We do a good job with our schemes, but more importantly we do a good job with the guys that are out there. I think Jerick [McKinnon] showed that he's a very explosive returner, so we'll continue to be aggressive.
Q: What is it about his skillset that you like?
A: He's a tough guy, so I know he's going to hit the seam where he needs to hit it. He's got great vision. He probably has better vision than most of the other guys that I coach there because he's got that running back mentality. Those guys have a different type vision with all the drill work that they do, with all the running plays that they run between the tackles, outside the tackles, what hole to hit and that sort of thing. I think that's going to be a huge benefit for him.
Q: How did Eric Wilson's play on special teams play into making the roster?
A: I think that was a big part of it. He did a good job on defense and he did a good job on special teams and I think the combination of that and his growth potential both as a linebacker and as a linebacker on teams is going to help him and help us as we go forward.