Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo
It was good to end the preseason on a positive note even though it's only the fourth preseason game we always want to go out and win the football game. It was good to see our young guys go out there and play hard, hopefully that will carry over to Sunday's game. We got San Francisco. Offensively we need to start fast, be efficient with the football, be great in red zone and on third down, and obviously run the football with efficiency. We definitely have a big-time challenge on our hands. These guys do a great job, have a great scheme, they're well coached, disciplined, and they really have a lot of team speed on defense.
Q: How challenging are the 49ers with their size on the defensive line?
A: Yeah, a lot of size. Not only size, but speed up front as well. We're going to have to do a great job of staying square on those guys and getting some penetration and I think we'll do that.
Q: Are you prepared being the offensive coordinator with some of the criticism you may receive?
A: Yeah, sure. If you're worrying about that then you're in the wrong profession. I'm confident enough in myself and more so confident in the assistant coaches that are helping me and the players we have that are playing on our football team. I think anytime you have the comfort level of a really, really good coaching staff that's going to help you out and backed by really good players, I think that gives you a lot of confidence as a play caller. We're looking forward to going out and preforming. It's like anything, I go to the doctor's office and I don't think I can do his job, but there's everybody out there that thinks they can do mine and it's just kind of the nature of the beast.
Q: Do you expect to put Dalvin Cook on a play count?
A: We're not sure yet. We're going to see how it goes. There's nothing that he has told us that says he can't carry the load and if there's something that comes up or he needs a blow or needs to come out of the football game then we'll handle that situation. Luckily as you know we have a fine stable of backs on our football team that we're really comfortable with. If that does arise where he needs a break we're confident in all the guys that we're able to put in the football game.
Q: Treadwell got a lot of snaps but not a lot of targets, do you anticipate a lot more targets for him?
A: You never know. You never know. Games are funny like that because you go into games thinking that a certain player is going to get the football and then they come out and maybe they're playing you in a little bit different coverage than you thought and the ball gets back in the second or third progression or down to the back more often than you anticipate. Really it's just depending on how the 49ers view us and how they're going to take away the things they view we do well. It's hard to go into a game saying, "Hey, this guy is going to get eight catches or six catches or so many targets" because you just never know how the other team is going to play. Who knows you go into a game planning on running it and you may fall behind and have to throw it a little bit more and vice versa. You may get a lead and end up running the football more. You always go in with a plan for both, but you never know how it's going to end up.
Q: Is your philosophy to spread the ball around?
A: Absolutely. That's part of the deal. You want guys, a lot of guys touching the football. Because obviously they can't focus in on a certain area of the field where it's always the "X" in a three-by-one or it's always the "Z" in a two-by-two or whatever, the "Y". You want to keep the defense off balance in terms of moving guys around having different personnel groupings, there's no doubt.
Q: Do you think preseason chemistry between a quarterback and his receivers has any bearing on regular season?
A: Sure. I think especially when you have a new quarterback and new wideouts. I think that's huge. I think you go to other places where certain quarterbacks have been there 10, 11, 12 years wherever and they've been in the same system or only been in two systems in their career. Well, I don't think it's as important. I think it's always important, but I don't think it's as important. But it was important for us early on to get Kirk [Cousins] a little bit more reps than early on in OTAs and training camp than maybe he would next year. I'm just throwing something out there, say it's a 12 play period maybe we give eight of the 12 to try to get him caught up and on page with not only the offensive line but all the wideouts and people he's throwing to. I think that we tried to incorporate that as much as we could to make him as comfortable as we could make him.
Q: What went into keeping five backs on the roster?
A: First off, I think we have two legitimately starting running backs on our football team. Personally, I can't speak for anyone, I don't like to see really good players leave if they want to be back or you have a chance to keep them. I understand I'm a coach. I don't get into the business side, the money thing I don't understand that stuff and really don't want to understand it, but at the same time if we have a really good football player here that wants to be here and is a great character guy, and a great teammate, and a great player, and brings a lot of things to the locker room and the field, I think you want as many of those guys as you can get.
Q: What's going to be the biggest concern with Brett Jones?
A: Well, I'm going to be honest with you, whoever plays there on Sunday has had a lot of work. Brett's had some work coming into the game and obviously all of our centers have, Danny [Isidora], Eddy [Cornelius Edison]. All of those guys have had a lot of work at the center position, so whoever is in there on Sunday we think is going to do a great job.
Q: Do you and San Francisco have a similar style of utilizing the fullback?
A: Well, I think it depends on the scheme that you're running. I don't know San Francisco's offensive scheme. I haven't watched them on tape since coach Shanahan's been there. I've viewed them from afar. I followed Coach Shanahan in Cleveland as the offensive coordinator, so I saw some of their tape. They do a really nice job utilizing the fullback where to me I like fullbacks like Hammer [C.J. Ham] that can do a lot of different jobs. That you can move around to different spots. I'm not saying the fullback in San Francisco can't do that because I haven't seen him on tape. I don't even know who that is to be quite honest with you. I'm worrying about the other side of the ball. But just from out scheme I like a lot of guys that can do a lot of jobs.
Q: Do you fit the scheme to players or the players to scheme?
A: Yeah, I think you adjust to the players you have. I think that's coaching. I think you need to have enough bolts in gun offensively to adapt to the type of players on your team. The last team I was on the last two years we didn't even carry a fullback, so we carried an extra tight end. You adjust and you do what you do. Like I said, you have enough bolts in your gun where you can adjust to the personnel that you have. That to me is coaching. If you're just trying to put a guy in a spot where he has not very much chance for success that's just not doing the right thing.
Q: Brett Jones has only been here for a limited amount of time. How has he done picking up the offense and learning everything before Week 1?
A: We're very lucky. First off, he's a tremendously smart guy. He's a really smart guy. I think his test scores were out of the roof. We're lucky that he's a very bright person, number one, he learns quickly. Number two being at the Giants I think a lot of the running game terminology for him being with Coach Shurmur was the same, so when you combine those two things. He had to come in a learn some of our protection schemes and that but he's picked that up quickly. Obviously, if he has to play Sunday we're confident he's going to do a great job.
A: I'd have to look at the stats to be quite honest with you to see how many times we did it. I know we did it in practice some in the move-the-ball periods. I'll be honest with you, I'd have to go back. I have the numbers on my desk I just don't have them memorized. I mean I have them on my desk. You want to run the ball successfully on third down I think it sets the defense off balance a little bit, but at the same time you've got to adjust to what the defense is giving you. If they're all up there in exotic, odd overloads and those things you're not sure what kind of look you're going to get then I think it's really hard to run the football. Whereas if you're playing more of a Tampa-two, vanilla type defense that's going to give you the base four-down and six-man box and occasional seven-man box that makes it a lot more easier on the football on third downs. It all depends on who you're playing.
Q: How did your different coaching experiences prepare you for this?
A: it's different from the last job I had because I'm responsible for the offense. Obviously, I've done this job before, so it's not foreign to me. It's been a lot, I don't want to say smoother, but it's been kind of been you kind of know how you want things to look and how you want things structured and the second go-round is a lot easier than the first.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards
First home game this weekend, we're glad to be home. We got a very tough opponent offensively who really does a lot of good things matchup wise, a good balance of run and pass. They're very efficient on third down and in the red zone, so we got our work cut out for us. We're looking to keep working through it to meet the challenge on Sunday.
Q: Is San Francisco one of the few teams in the league that effectively uses a fullback in their offense?
A: Yes, there's no doubt about it. He [San Francisco fullback Kyle Juszczyk] can be the only back in the backfield, you can see him out at the number one receiver, the number two receiver, see him in motion, on a shift. He's got a lot of different jobs and does very well at all of them. He's good at blocking, he's good at receiving, and he's good at block protections, so he is a new dimension for them. It should be good, with us having to work all those shifts and motions [in practice]. It makes you work and kind of makes you think to the adjustments.
Q: Do you believe that use of the fullback is coming back, or does it just depend on finding the right guy to play the position?
A: I think it's going to vary from team to team schematically with what it is that they want to do. Like I said, they're one of the few team that has a fullback, like us, that you can move and do all those types of deals with. It's going to vary from team to team, and offensively the thing about it is that you just don't have a lot of fullbacks coming out of college anymore. I'm sure that makes it hard for offenses to find that type of player.
Q: In your time in the league, have you seen other positions fluctuate in popularity the way the fullback position has?
A: Yeah, when you go back to the run and shoot, all of a sudden you have all defensive backs on the field and one linebacker. Then all of a sudden the trend goes to people reducing it and trying to run the football. It just goes with the trend and philosophy of what you play from week to week. As we go through the season there's going to be different teams that like to run the ball out of regular ace personnel groups more so than the king grouping. It's just a variance from what you're getting from week to week offensively.
Q: Are you planning to move defensive linemen around to create favorable matchups with Mike McGlinchey, San Francisco's rookie offensive tackle?
A: I guess we'll have to wait until Sunday to kind of figure that one out. That's one that of course you know their personnel and how things match up, but schematically we look at the skill set of our players and try to put them in the most advantages places to be successful. All I can say is that going into a game and looking at each situation, we're trying to get them in those situations.
Q: What have you learned about what George Iloka offers to your defense from watching him the last two weeks?
A: George has come in, he's familiar with our scheme, and he's come in and put his head down and gone to work. We're looking at different jobs that he can do to help us out as we expand our packages and are working through things. He's been a big plus for us, we're glad we got him and just look forward to keep working him as we go through the process.
Q: What did David Parry do in the preseason to earn him a roster spot?
A: I think the one thing that he was, he was consistent with the fundamentals and techniques that we look for out of our nose guards and our three technique. He can play three-technique, and was very good versus the run and can push the pocket versus the pass. He did a lot of good things that way. We really think he can help us out rotation wise as we move forward.
Q: Is Jaleel Johnson still more of a three-technique than a nose guard?
A: We've trained Jaleel a little at both, and we've trained David at both. As you go through the season you can never predict what's going to happen injury wise or anything like that, so we have to prepare any inside guy for both positions.
Q: It seems like every offense is motioning more these days. With as loud as it gets in U.S. Bank Stadium, does that create communication problems for your defense?
A: Well that's one thing that we constantly work on, especially playing at home. We know defensively that we got to be on with our adjustments and those kind of things. That's one thing that we do our due diligence to work through, that's one thing we practice with noise and those kinds of things so those guys can know that we have to do things like signaling and all of those kind of things. From that aspect we've spent quite a bit of time making sure those guys realize how hard that's going to be and everybody has to be on the same page.
Q: Is that communication aspect one of the biggest challenges facing Mike Hughes if he has to start at the nickel position?
A: With any rookie when he comes in I think. He's got a good body of work through the offseason, he's got a good body of work through the preseason to where he's been able to handle it, he's been able to communicate and understand what's going on. But communication is key for everybody on defense, whether you're talking about the front or back end, it's critical. But that's one thing he's been able to grasp and been able to go out and execute from day to day.
Q: How much has Hughes progressed in that nickel role?
A: He's done a good job. With what we've asked him to do in that role, he's done a good job. He's been pretty consistent with it, and the biggest thing is that's what we look for: taking the technique and the fundamentals. It's a position that he really hadn't played, but he's come out and gone to work every day and been pretty consistent as we've progressed through the offseason and now going into the regular season.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer
Obviously, we are excited about the start of the regular season. We have great fans. We are starting at home. It is going to be loud. It is going to be exciting. Obviously, we are all excited. The whole city, the whole state, all the Vikings fans. My family has been getting on me about the way we are covering punts in the preseason so obviously so we have to improve there. Ultimately, they are the ones I have to answer to. I think the guys are ready. We are excited and ready to roll.
Q: How do you improve on the punt coverage?
A: Playing integrity, get off blocks, things I've been hearing for a long, long time and been trying to preach. I've heard it from other people, "Don't worry about it. Some of those guys are not going to make the team." I don't like that excuse because it's my job to make the young men that are here better and give them an opportunity to make the team. Sometimes it is, they have to do a better job but I have to coach them better. We have to punt the ball better. Ultimately that is what we are going to look for on Sunday is we are going to put all that together. Punt the ball better, coach better and cover better.
Q: How big of an asset was Holton Hill during that last preseason game?
A: I have been a big Holton fan since he got here on all of the special teams units. I told him, I was teasing, that he didn't tell me the truth that he first got here because I asked for a raise of hands if you have any return ability and he didn't raise his hand. I found out by accident and I saw some high school tape of him returning the ball. I was like, "What, are you crazy? You are a good returner." So we started using him. He really doesn't know all the ins and outs, not even close yet. But he did a great job against Tennessee. Proud of the way ran the ball. He runs hard, he's tough. Ball security is not where we need it to be yet, but he is getting better.
Q: Was Holton Hill's 53-yard return in the second half just raw ability?
A: He has pretty good vision which helped him and they overplayed it and our guys really blocked it up very, very well. Our young guys did a great job on that play. He hit that seam and he was one broken tackle away from a really big play. It could have been a touchdown. The guys on the sideline were teasing him that he didn't have the breakaway speed but I think he has pretty good speed as well.
Q: How did you end up seeing high school film of Holton Hill?
A: Somebody told me it was in one of the articles one of you guys wrote or something. Somebody wrote an article and they say, "Hey, you need to check this guy out." I think George Edwards and I were talking about it. You [Matthew Coller] wrote it? Thank you very much. You helped me a lot. I didn't know and he didn't tell me. I think Coach Edwards and I were talking about it. He said, "Hey, you need to check that tape out." I did and I'm like, "Oh boy, we have got something here." I know it was high school but some of the things he was doing with the ball in his hands was rare. Rare ability.
Q: Do you see working Holton Hill in?
A: He could. He is going to be on all four phases. The good thing about an athlete like Holton is on kickoff return for example, which we walked through this morning, he can play on the front line, he could play on that back line where you need to have a guy that has some ball skills back there and he is big and strong enough to block as well.
Q: How difficult of a decision was it to let Ryan Quigley go?
A: It was hard. Ryan did a great job for us last year. He had a great spring. Unfortunately, he really struggled in training camp and in the preseason games. Going into a season where we feel like our punt team has to be a weapon for us, we felt like we had to make a change. Unfortunately for him, he had to leave. I thanked him a lot for what he did for us, for what he did last year. He was a great teammate and a fine young man. Hopefully he will be back in the League someday.
Q: What did you like about Matt Wile?
A: Matt is strong. He has a big leg. I like his personality now that I've gotten to know him the last few days. He is locked in. He is coachable. He is smart. He understands his craft like a lot of these guys do. But he has a big time leg and we hope to put that on display on Sunday. We'll keep working with him as a holder. He has been working hard as a holder. Daniel [Carlson] seems to be comfortable with him. We will get some more work in today and tomorrow and we will get ready for Sunday.
Q: How surprised were you that Pittsburgh let Matt Wile go?
A: I was a little surprised. I mean Jordan Berry is a good punter. They had a good incumbent coming in, but I thought he gave him a great run for his money. I thought it was very, very close. Some people probably said he probably won the job there. Being that he is a younger guy and they felt more comfortable with the veteran. For me, it doesn't matter. If he's the best punter, let's go. We have to go to work with this guy and use his talents.
Q: Did you know much about Matt Wile before this weekend?
A: We studied him before. He's been on our list. Our personnel guys did a great job of identifying him. Once we knew after Week 3 when Ryan was struggling a little bit we started looking at all the punters that might be let go. Matt was obviously one of them. There was probably just a couple guys that we would have brought in to replace Ryan and he was one of them.
Q: Are you still looking at Mike Hughes as the number one kick returner?
A: I think so. Ultimately, that is Coach [Mike] Zimmer's decision. I know Mike is going to be playing some nickel and defense and stuff like that. If he is fresh, I am going to use him as much as I can because he is a rare talent.
Q: The numbers don't tell the whole story. What is the biggest thing you use to evaluate punters?
A: No it doesn't. If a guy is averaging 55 yards-per-punt but his hang time is averaging 4.5, I am not very comfortable with that. If he is averaging 55, 5.0, then we got something. Directional punts are important to us as well because we play nine games a year indoors. At the end of the day, it's net average, it's reducing the opponent's ability or opportunity to return footballs. We do that, we have a good punter. That is what Ryan did so well for us last year. He limited the amount of return yards because he kicked them higher and shorter and outside the numbers. Matt can kick them a little bit longer, little bit higher. If they are outside of the numbers, we have pretty good gunners. We have confidence that they can go down and cover.
Q: Could you see Matt Wile handle kickoffs as well?
A: He has handled kickoffs before. In fact, at Michigan, he did all three at some point. He kicked field goals as well. He did in the preseason games as well, when [Chris] Boswell was hurt in Pittsburgh, I think he played the whole game. Kicked the extra points, kicked off for them. Daniel is our kickoff guy. I think Daniel has a great leg. He is going to continue to get better and improve. I'd rather have the punter focusing on punting and holding and the kicker focusing on kicking field goals, PATs and kicking off for us.
Q: What is your level of overall concern going into this season compared to past years?
A: If you are asking if I am going to sleep well on Saturday, no. Typically, I don't sleep well on Saturday nights anyways before, especially going into the home opener. I am excited about our team. We have a great locker room. We have a great group of veterans combined with a lot of talented young rookies. Rick [Spielman] has done a great job of building this football team. Coach [Zimmer] lets us use the guys we need to use on special teams to help us be successful. I am really excited about the season. You know me, I am going to dwell on the positives anyways. We are going to learn from the negatives and move on. We are going to be a positive football team and play with high energy and we are going to get after it.
Q: Do you mean that about the special teams or overall team?
A: Yes, that is what I am talking about. I am excited about the opportunity Sunday. San Francisco is really good. They're well coached. They've got good returners, they've got good specialists. We've got our work cut out for us. It's a level of energy, level of intensity we need to bring on Sunday as well as the physicality and doing our job and doing our jobs at a high level. That is what is going to help us win.