*Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards *
It good to be back from Mankato. We got some good work while we were there, good work against Cincinnati the last couple days, but it's good to be back home and sort of getting into the routine of our schedule here and guys getting acclimated to being back. We are excited. We've got some things we've got to definitely get cleaned up from the game and work last week, and we're just looking forward to keep continuing to progress down the road.
Q: What have you seen from Jayron Kearse. Coach Mike Zimmer said he was kind of most impressed with him among the young safeties during the game, and yesterday, he seemed to be getting a lot of work with the 2nd team defense. What have you been seeing from him as he continues to progress?
A: I think the one thing that we see is him consistently getting better and understanding what it is we're trying to do concept-wise, understanding alignments, understanding the reads, whether it's a vision spot or whatever we're doing as far as coverage, where to fit on the run and all those types of things. He seems to come out here, and he corrects his mistakes from the day before and has really been in tune to what we're trying to get accomplished from that position.
Q: As a player trying to increase their role, how important is that, to maybe only make a mistake once and learn from it right away?
A: Well, it's critical for us, because it boils down to trust within our room, and I think that boils down from player to player, from coach to player across the board. Being able to recognize things, because let's face it, during the course of the game, you're going to have to make adjustments and be able adjust and be able to recall and recognize formations, down and distance and be in tune with all those different things. So, it's critical for us from a trust factor and just continue to improve in those areas. That's big for us as a unit.
Q What have you seen from Xavier Rhodes in his ability to track and catch the ball this offseason?
A: He has caught the ball better this year. We've seen him make some plays that he hasn't made in the past, but I think his familiarity with what's going on schematically and what's going on at his position, technique and fundamental-wise, he's able to really turn it loose and go play a little bit more rather than having to think so much to react. I think his reaction time has been better. (There are) still things that we've got to get improved on, but where he's at right now, it's good to see that he has retained a lot of that information.
Q: With training camp under your belt and one preseason game, how do you evaluate the progress the defense has made? Obviously, you had a good season last year, but you want to be even better this year.
A: Yeah, we're definitely coming out of that game (evaluating). Every day is an evaluation. Every day is a competition. We've still got a lot of things that we can improve on, we can clean up technique and fundamental-wise – things that, schematically, we can help guys in position and those type of deals. So, there is still a lot of work to be done. This week, we're looking to improve on some of the things coming out of last week that we saw we needed to improve on and make sure guys understand exactly what we're expecting.* *
Q: With a preseason game under your belt, kind of summarize some of the areas you think you have to be better at.
A: Well again, I think we identified those areas in the offseason, whether it's been two-minute, whether it has been a red zone, all those types of deals, and we put an emphasis on those things. Guys understand what it is we're trying to do schematically, what we're trying to do fundamentally, to aid in those areas. I think Coach (Mike Zimmer) does a great job of situational practicing during the course of the week, from week-to-week and day-to-day, and I think our guys understand those situations. So, when we get into a game, they can recall a situation and be able to line up and play comfortably in that situation.
Q: Early on in the game, it seemed like the defense would kind of do the same thing they did last year, where the opponent would march down the field, but when they get to the red zone, the defense really shuts the offense down and holds them to a field goal, which in this case was a missed one. What's the reasoning for that?
A: I guarantee you it's not planned. Things happen during the course of the game, whether we had misfits, whether we weren't playing certain plays a certain way. Anytime you go into a game, especially the early part of the game, there are things you have to adjust to, things that you haven't seen, but I think Coach (Mike Zimmer) said it yesterday, there was one play that they ran that we ended up giving up a big run on. We get down in the red zone, it's the exact same play and we reacted differently to it. So, I think it's a combination of things. I think it's about them recognizing it, coming downhill and playing. I think it's guys getting on and off blocks, as far as technique, fundamentals and those types of deals. From that aspect of it, we look to improve from where we started. We saw the mistakes and saw what we need to do and hopefully we can get better this week as we prepare for this game.
Q: Do the players play with more urgency when they're in the red zone?
A: No, I don't think it has anything to do with playing with more urgency. That's an emphasis for us, the red zone. That's a certain thing we put a lot of emphasis on, but we also put a lot of emphasis on stopping the run and what we're doing in press technique and planning off technique, all those different things. So, they all add up. It isn't just getting down in the red zone and getting them stopped.
Q: What have you seen from Shamar Stephen throughout training camp and then in Friday's game?
A: The one thing about Shamar is he's very consistent. He has had to play to 3-technique; he has had to play the nose. He has done a good job of handling that has we've progressed through camp. Like I said, he worked hard all this offseason to get back. He's back, he's trying to improve on things we asked him to improve on with his pass rush and those things, and you can just see the hard work paying off. He has been very consistent for us throughout camp.
Q: Can he be a big help to your run defense?
A: Yeah, we hope so. We can see when he's in there and the different positions that he has been in, he has been very successful for us, helping us out inside.
*Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner *
Q: How do you see the right tackle spot playing out?
A: Both guys are working over there and I think we're getting good production. It's a long process. I think it's very good competition right now. We don't have to make a decision right now, so that's good. You just get a chance to see them playing games and play against good players.
Q: Do you feel like it's settled or leaning one way?
A: I don't think so. I think both guys have had a lot good plays and both guys have had negative plays. We're just trying to become as consistent as we can at that position.
Q: Is there a particular time that you want the offensive line settled?
A: Yeah, I think that's always the case, but that's what we are talking about now between Tony (Sparano), Coach Zimmer and myself. I think it's ultimately when Coach Zimmer decides when he wants to make that decision.
Q: What were your thoughts on the first string offense performance at Cincinnati?
A: It was a lot like when you're going into a regular season game to me. You're getting a feel for them. The first play of the game they were in perfect coverage, we weren't going to get much out of it. We had chances on the next two, but obviously we had a protection breakdown and Teddy (Bridgewater) held onto an up-field throw too long. That's the thing I emphasize to our guys. You've got to start fast in this league. We got three plays in between that, before and after I guess I'd say, and Cincinnati was able to keep the ball and put two really long drives. They didn't get points, but they had really long drives in terms of time and snaps. We got three plays in the first quarter and ultimately we control that. If you three-and-out in a game against a really good offensive team, you limit your opportunities. After that the culmination of the groups in the second and third quarters I think the quarterbacks were 17-of-19 over the second and third quarter. We got done what we wanted to get done and I thought Teddy was sharp in the second drive. We converted third downs, which is key. We protected better in that, but you do have to start fast. Really the evaluation for us and the great thing about going over there and working with Cincinnati is we basically got three games because Wednesday and Thursday for the quarterback were game type situations. He wasn't getting sacked, but it was ones against ones, it was sped up, it was Cincinnati doing things that they're not going to do in preseason. So we got a lot of work against different looks and I liked the way our guys performed in those situations.
Q: What did you see on Teddy Bridgewater's throw to Adam Thielen?
A: I understand what Coach (Zimmer) was saying and I'm certainly not going to disagree with him. I thought Thielen went up and made a good play. I think he's made that same throw in the first game he ever played against Atlanta. It wasn't quite as tight of coverage, but I think obviously the more you play, the more comfortable you are and he turned it loose pretty good. It's a little scary with a safety that close to it, but Adam went up and made a good play.
Q: How can you teach a quarterback to start fast?
A: Well a lot of it is plays and the way it comes up, teams give you a different look. I think we had five or six games where we scored on the first drive of the game, so he has started fast. It's just a mindset to keep working on, so when the game starts you don't miss a play or you take a sack when you a back free in the flat; let it go. Sometimes you start a game and you think I'm going to get big plays big plays and they play you a little different. You really have to take what the defense gives you.
Q: What have you seen from Nick Easton this year compared to last year when he came in late?
A: I think that's the key. When you bring a guy in he's been in another system or two systems because he was with two teams the familiarity of what we're doing, the time we have to give him opportunities (because) we're getting ready for games. So most of his work came on the opponent's squad, so he's had a full offseason. He's always had very good leverage. He's always been able to get on people and move them. I think he has a lot better understanding of our offense.
Q: What do you see as the differences in styles or strengths and weaknesses between TJ Clemmings and Andre Smith?
A: I think with Andre, you have a more experienced player, a guy who has seen a lot of things. He adjusts – or should adjust – quicker to different things the defense give you. With T.J., you still have a very young player, who thinks every day it's something new can come up. He's working hard, and he adjusts to it well, but there is still a lot for him to learn.
Q: You guys saw Seattle twice last year. I know Thursday is a preseason game, but can it be a benchmark to gauge progress from the first teamers from last year?
A: I wouldn't compare it to last year, because of what you said; it's a preseason game, and to me, it's a lot different. It's a chance for us to go on the road, have to deal with the crowd noise, have to deal with the environment and play against a very good defense. All this stuff we're doing – whether it's practicing with Cincinnati, playing them, going and playing Seattle – it's getting us ready for the regular season. So, that's what we're using it for.
Q: What did you see from Joel Stave in his first game that you liked?
A: I think when things come up the way we expect it to and he has a clean pocket, he obviously showed he can stand back and throw the ball and be effective. Right now, when it comes up different, or it gets speeded up, he has some technical things, footwork things, he has got to get better at so he can continue to be accurate.
Q: The media and fans are all going to look at the way last season ended, of course, with the Seahawks game. Do you think players think about that at all?
A: I don't know. I can't answer you, how the players think, but you say it – and I know it's a cliché – it's real for us. Every time you go play, it's a whole different deal, and every week is a whole different deal. So, our guys are going from one style of defense right now and in four days, playing a totally different style of defense. So, It's a great experience for everybody, but more importantly for our young players, because that's the way the league is. You play on Sunday, and everyone says, 'You played so good. How come you struggled in the next Sunday?' Well, you're playing a different a different team, you're playing a whole different style of defense and players have to learn how to make those kind of adjustments. You asked about T.J. (Clemmings), I think a year ago when he had his tougher moments, it was those type of things. You go from playing San Diego that plays one defense, to playing Denver who plays a whole different defense. The calls are different, the protections different, you're gap protections are different and you have to master it and handle it in a week of preparation.
Q: How is David Morgan progressing so far? It looked like he had a really nice backside block on a screen to Jerick McKinnon.
A: That's what we call a 'luck out' where I'm from. McKinnon, that should have been a safety, and the good thing he did, is he stayed after his guy; we didn't stop on the play. But that, nine out of ten times, is going to be a safety, and Jerick just made a really good run. To talk about David Morgan, I think he's growing and getting better. The great thing about being in Cincinnati, the first practice against Cincinnati, he really struggled, and it was a game environment. His eyes were big, and it was new to him. Obviously, the next day, he practiced better, and he played well in the game. So, as a coach, that's what you're looking for, and we always say, 'When you get in the game, was it too big for him?' Well, that Wednesday practice, it was real big for him, and then Thursday, not as bad and then the game, he handled it very well.
Q: Speaking of rookies, how do you feel like Laquon Treadwell faired in those practices and then in the game?
A: I thought he did good. The thing that's impressive about Laquon is we had the Saturday night practice in the stadium, it got speeded up, and it was the closest to game action you can get. And then obviously in the game, and in both those situations, he stepped up and made plays. He had got a lot of work to do, but he is a big target; and I think the quarterbacks like throwing to him.
Q: How do you think Matt Kalil played?
A: I thought he played good. The best thing is he had two really good practices down there against them and I think he's had a very good camp.
*Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer *
Hope everyone had a good weekend and ready for week two of the preseason. I know we're excited about the next opportunity. We did some good things the other night but obviously at the end of the day if you give up a punt return or a kickoff return for a touchdown then you lose the special teams battle. So that's the way we're looking at it. Again, we did some good things, we've got to build on those. But we have to eliminate the big plays from our opponents. Going forward that's what we have to do and that's been our focus so far this week.
Q: What went wrong on the punt return for a touchdown?
A: Well first of all, Jeff [Locke], who had been punting well – he actually really, really punted well the other night. I was very happy with that, other than that punt, 61-yard punt, 4.5 hang time, a lot of people think that's a great punt – it's really not. You're outkicking your coverage, you're putting our coverage in a situation where we got to cover further than we normally do. Then secondly, we had a lot of guys free to the ball. We had five missed tackles, we just can't have that. We talk about tackling all the time. Four of those five were offensive players so obviously we've been emphasizing tackling with our offensive players cause they don't do it very often. We got to keep doing that going forward because that was a totally unacceptable play. We had literally five people had their hands on him, two people had him wrapped up and he still got out of it. It was a great individual effort by the [Alex] Erickson kid. He did a good job.
Q: With the restrictions on practice time, is it hard to teach offensive players to tackle?
A: We have enough time, we have plenty of time to get that done. It is a focus and obviously I didn't do a good enough job with those guys and they didn't do a good enough job of executing it. So going forward we're going to continue our focus on that. Don't have a lot of time on this week because it's a short week. We have plenty of time before San Diego because we have ten days. We just can't have missed tackles like that. Our emphasis has always been - don't wait around for someone else to make the play, you make the play – if you're in position to make the play don't say 'Oh, I'm just gonna leverage it and hopefully someone else shows up.' That's not our philosophy. Obviously we learned the hard way that's not the way to do things. So we're going to make sure that these guys do it the right way and continue to emphasize our fundamentals and techniques when we get in those spots.
Q: Have you seen anything specifically from Jake Ganus that makes him an asset to special teams?
A: Jake's very smart, he's a good tackler and he's one of the ones that didn't miss a tackle, he got bumped off. He's going to put himself in the right spots to make himself successful. He's very inexperienced obviously on special teams but he's worked very hard to get that experience.
Q: Do you think the players think about Seattle and how the season ended last year going into this game?
A: Not at all, not at all. It's a completely new season. I can understand why people would think that but at the end of the day, we've long since moved on. Blair's [Walsh] had a phenomenal camp, he's stronger than he was a year ago. He's kicking off well, he's kicking field goals well. I'm excited about this year.
Q: Were you holding your breath on Walsh's 51-yard FG?
A: No, it was so hot I was holding my breath most of that first half. He didn't hit it great but he hit it well enough, you know what I mean? He didn't try and crush it and sometimes when you try and crush it you pull it left. He just lined up there and did his deal and it went over. Obviously Blair [Walsh] being a perfectionistic, he wanted that to be perfect through the middle of the net but I told him, 'Hey, it was still worth three points.' It was a big three points for us. It was a great situation, Coach Zimmer talks about situational football all the time. They kicked off, they kicked a touchback. We drove down with the three timeouts and then kicked the 51-yarder with four seconds left. You have to do things like that to win football games in the NFL and that was a great, basically training session for our guys and they responded very well.
Q: Was it good for him to get that first kick of the year out of the way?
A: He had already made a PAT. He crushed the first PAT and the next PAT he hit it hard, pulled it a little bit but hit it hard. Then he kicked off very well, so I thought he had a great night.
Q: Are you in wait and see mode with the new touchback rule?
A: Yeah, we experimented with it a little bit the other night. We're going to continue to experiment - the different type of kicks, how deep we want it, how much hang time do we want – going indoors we'll be able to control some of those things. So I'm excited, it's a new strategy. We had some strategy the other night and it really worked in our favor. Our last kickoff, I know he muffed it, but if he picked it up right away we tackle him at the 13-yard line. It was a great kick, outside the numbers, 3-yard line, I think he had a 4.3 hang time. Those are the types of things that Blair [Walsh] can do to help our kickoff team, to help the field position. Again, it's going to be based on who we're playing, the time of the game, the situation of the game.
Q: How big of a difference is that 5 yards?
A: I don't' know the percentages per se but I know there's a big difference. I think every head coach is going to look at it differently. He's a defensive head coach and he knows that 5 yards is a big deal, some other coaches may not. I think it's a big deal. When you play quarterbacks like we have in our division, you play Aaron Rodgers. Just our situation, we started at the 25-yard line at the end of the first half. Shaun did a great job of engineering that 2-minute drill. You give Aaron Rodgers the ball at the 25 as opposed to the 20, 19, 18… I think that's a big difference. Plus when there's 47 seconds left and you kick it and make them return it there's seven, eight, nine seconds that go off the clock. So all those things are factors that we think about and that keeps me up at night. It's going to make it fun for the new rule.
Q: How much did that new rule increase Walsh's reps?
A: We actually started back in the spring and working in the indoor facility and sometimes out here when it wasn't too windy in the spring. Having nine games indoors is really going to benefit us and we'll probably be able to do our techniques and the philosophy that we want to have on Sunday's, we're going to keep working in practice and see where we're at. Keep working during the preseason games and see where we're at.
Q: Did it ramp up his reps on those specific kinds of kicks?
A: Instead of just bombing away? Yes, absolutely, it sure did.