Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards
Another tough offense we’re facing this week. Another rookie quarterback in Sam Darnold. They’re doing a great job of using his skillset and making sure he is getting rid of the ball. He does a great job of understanding what they’re doing offensively and what teams are trying to do against him. We have our work cut out for us this week. We definitely have to go in with that mentality to do a good job as far as leverage and the routes but the most important thing we have to make sure we do a good job of is stopping the run.
Q: Is there an unknown aspect of what their response will be when the pocket breaks down for a rookie quarterback with less film?
A: Yeah, that is one concern but I’ll tell you what, you look at his body of work through the preseason and the six games we’ve had thus far this season. He does a great job of staying alive in the pocket and he also does a good job of locating receivers down the field and understanding what people are doing coverage-wise. That is definitely going to be a test for us. He understands when people pressure him, how to buy time in the pocket and all of those types of deals. We will have our work cut out for us against them this weekend.
Q: How have they been so effective keeping teams off balance?
A: I’ll tell you what, they do a unique job of – they do a great job of taking the same person, different personnel groupings but running their offense out of those different personnel groupings. Which creates some matchup deals against various teams. We have to stay on top of that. Every week has been a little bit different so we have got to do a good job of understanding that the different packages we are in, the different matchups that they create by receiver location and those types of deals. We have to do a good job of paying attention to the detail of what we are doing this weekend against them.
Q: What has made their running game so effective?
A: Number one that I think up front their offensive line is a big, physical group. Their two running backs are pretty good after contact. We’ve got to do a good job of limiting the damage once, sometimes they get to the second level and we have to do a good job of building a picket fence on them up front as far as allowing them to get to the second level untouched. They do an excellent job on bounce out plays, making corners have to make tackles and crack, crack, replace. Their receivers do a good job of blocking. We’ve got our work cut out for us to limit their running game.
Q: For a rookie corner to do as much as Mike Hughes did, what do you think of his overall body of work even though it was cut short?
A: I thought it was impressive for him to come in as a rookie, play numerous positions, pay attention to the details of what we were asking him to do. Then be able to go out and transfer that to the game and to the practice field. So, he is kind of unique in that he came in and did that probably as good as anybody we’ve had with the multiple positions and different techniques and fundamentals we asked him to play. It’s unfortunate that he got hurt, but the way that he’s built, we look forward to come out of this, rehab and just approach it the same way. Control the things that he can control and continue to get better at the fundamentals and techniques. I think he got some valuable experience before he ended up getting injured. We hate to see him go but at the end of the day we understand that is a tall task for him and he came in and approached it with a good mindset.
Q: How is the depth and versatility of your safety group helped layer your defense this year?
A: It really helped us. Different packages that we use with different guys as far as matchups from week to week and what teams are giving us. It’s been a big part of what we’ve done here in the first couple of weeks and we’ve been able to adjust it out and play well within those personnel groupings.
Q: Have you seen Jayron Kearse or Anthony Harris grow in their roles in the defense and be able to trust them in those roles?
A: No doubt about it. Anthony started quite a few games for us here over the course of his tenure here and has done a good job. I think about the big play he made last week. You go back to last year, the big play he made against the Rams. Arizona the year before, out there on third. It’s not like him not to be able to come in. Then adding George [Iloka] to the mix who has a good skillset allows us to do some things underneath, whether he is back, whether he is pressuring, all of those types of deals. That helps us out matchup-wise as we prepare the different packages from week to week.
Q: What makes big nickels so effective?
A: Not to give away anything, but I just think it allows us and execute with a bigger matchup on a receiver. When you start looking at it, whether it is a receiver or tight end, both of those guys have big height, have good speed and good cover skills. For us, that’s a bonus and whatever package we feel like is the best matchup, they will allow us to be able to do it.
Q: When you have some of those safeties that can move around, what effect does that have on the way you can use Harrison Smith?
A: Harry is definitely multi-skilled. His skillset, whether it’s back in coverage, whether it is up around the line of scrimmage, whether it’s blitzing, it adds to his ability to be able to use him in those different situations, especially when you’re talking about disguises and coverages and those types of deals. It’s a blessing for us to have someone of his skillset and his paying attention on defense, he is a consummate pro. Whatever we ask him for week to week, he goes out and gets it executed.
Q: What were your impressions of Geroge Iloka getting more of an opportunity last game?
A: We thought he did a good job. Things transferred from practice to what we saw out there on Sunday. We just look to keep building on that and keep using his skillset as we go along. Just see from week to week matchup-wise what we think is the best thing to do moving forward.
Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo
It’s good to see everybody, I appreciate everyone coming out. Obviously a great team win for us on Sunday, and it was good for us to get back at home and get back on the right track. Obviously we have a tough challenge this week in New York, these guys are really good on defense. It’s a much different style of defense that we’re playing this week compared to last week. They’re really, really stout up front, they’re going to be difficult to move, and we’re going to have to stay on our blocks and really secure the first level. These guys are powerful, big men that can really hold the line of scrimmage, so we got to do a great job at the first level and then work our way up. The other thing these guys do a great job of, I have a lot of respect for Coach Bowles and his staff, have for a long time, gone up against him a bunch, and he has a great sub-pressure package that we’re obviously going to have to do a great job identifying and seeing who is who out there.
Q: What have you learned about Latavius Murray beyond just him as a running back? How does his personality reflect his success in the NFL?
A: I have the unique perspective on that, because I was in Oakland when we drafted Latavius. He was obviously a really good player in college, and then had the foot injury and pretty much redshirted his rookie year. The first sign that Latavius was going to be a really good pro, even though he wasn’t playing, he treated every day like he was a starter, even in Oakland back as a rookie. You can tell, guys that usually have that mindset as a rookie have a tendency to find a way to find a niche in this league and carve a way out for themselves. Obviously here, much more mature player, just because he’s older and has played a lot of football. He ran really, really hard last week. We’re thrilled he’s here.
Q: How effective have your tight ends been with their ability to max protect and open things up in the run game?
A: They did a good job. I thought last week was maybe our best week in terms of their blocking in the run game. Those guys buy in, and it’s a tough matchup a lot of weeks for those guys. Not just for our guys, for any tight end in the NFL. When you have to block a defensive end and sustain it, that is not an easy job. I give a lot of credit to our guys for sticking their face in there and fighting and straining, and I thought they did the best job that they did all season. Todd [Downing] does a great job with those guys, and the thing about it is what I think has been underrated all season, the job that they’re doing in pass protection as well. Not only just staying in when they’re asked to stay in, but we’re chipping, we have different ways of chipping certain people for that week. They’ve done a great job with that as well.
Q: What strengths of Murray are you able to capitalize on when he’s getting a large amount of carries per game?
A: Latavius will wear people down. Even when he gets stopped at the line of scrimmage or the point of contact is at a yard or two, there’s always that surge going in our favor. He’s a big guy, and he’s going to fall forward a lot. Number one is just his size and his strength, what he brings to the table and what a downhill runner he is. The thing about Latavius, there’s two things that I don’t think people give him enough credit for, really three things. Number one, his ability to run the mid zone play as well, and being able to get outside and make that first guy miss. Number two, his hands. I think he has much better hands then people give him credit for. The other thing that Latavius understands and another reason why he’s been able to carve a niche for himself in this league for so long is he really understands pass protection. To me, he’s a complete back.
Q: What makes a running back good at pass protection?
A: First off you have to know what you’re looking at. You have to understand the different fronts. Is it a three down front, is it a four down front, is it a spinner front, where’s the rotations? Two-high shell or a middle shell? Is the nickel pressed? Is the nickel off? Do they bring the nickel from off this week? Where is the free safety? Is there a chance for a side adjust, where we’re going to have to read the Mike [linebacker]. I just mentioned about ten things there that they have to see in about ten seconds, and the quarterback has to see in about half the amount of time. That’s what makes running backs good in protection, it’s identification. For the most part, you’re not in this league if you’re not a tough guy. You need to be willing to stick your face in there and be physical. It’s hard to play running back and not be a tough guy. That’s the part in pass protection where the elite guys separate themselves, the identification piece.
Q: How impressed where you with Brian O’Neill this past week in his first start?
A: I thought Brian did well. I honestly went back and watched the game, I watched the game probably three or four times by the time I move on. I watched the game and went back and specifically watched him on every play. There were some plays that I know he wishes he could have back, but there were more times he won than lost. I think any time that you are in your first game, there’s a difference, and I don’t care if you’re a tackle, a quarterback, there’s a difference in knowing all week you’re going to be the guy and all of a sudden just being thrown in when somebody gets hurt. You have no chance to be anxious or to think about, “Oh my gosh, I have to block this guy this week.” As a young player, those thoughts go through your mind as a young player. I thought he handled that situation really, really well. We’re looking for him to grow. The thing about Brian too is he’s tough. He wants to finish guys off, and whenever you have that mentality as an offensive lineman you got a really good shot.
Q: As a play caller, when you’re in a situation where you’re hoping to have Dalvin Cook and he’s ultimately not able to go, how does that change the way you call a game?
A: You adjust. We’re very fortunate on this team that we have other guys that can make plays. I’ve been on teams before where you have one of your legit guys go down, and all of a sudden it’s tough sledding. We’re fortunate that we have enough guys at other spots, at the tight end positon, the running back position and at the receiver position obviously that can make plays for us. I’ll be honest with you, it’s not easy, and Tuesdays, you have to be really careful about the volume of plays that you’re putting in for one person. It’s not just Dalvin, it could be anybody that’s in that situation. You get too caught up in the piece, well then he’s up, you got to get the ball to him in practice – there’s a whole laundry list of things that go in to what you just brought up. You make it work, and there’s ways in your offense to get certain guys to the football that you just carry every week. You just roll with those, but at the same time I feel bad for Dalvin because he wants to be out there. But at the same time you don’t want to put any player in harms way.
Q: What have you seen from the Jets defense and their ability to create turnovers?
A: They’re a very opportunistic defense and the reason they are is because usually they’re always in the right spot. They’re really fundamentally sound. Coach Bowles, who I’ve known for a long time, does a great job with those guys – a really good job with those guys. They’re beat up a little in the secondary, but those guys are still playing well and the thing he does is he mixes up coverages on you. He mixes up fronts on you. That can really take away, I wouldn’t say take away, but really makes the way you run the football at times can make it an uphill battle. We kind of have a thought of how they’re going to take away some of the things we do and we’ll do the best we can to counter it. Obviously, I have a lot of respect for those guys in New York.
Q: Do you see similarities with the defensive packages between Coach Zimmer’s and with New York’s?
A: Yeah. There are similarities more so in technique than there is in scheme because like I said, Coach Bowles is a good coach and what good coaches do is they formulate their schemes after what their players do well and so he does that. Obviously, there is similarities in the way they play certain coverages, certain techniques of their corners, certain leverages of their corners – that type of thing. I mean it’s a whole different team than obviously what he had in Arizona in certain spots. Obviously, he’s fit his scheme with his personnel.
Q: Are fumble concerns a higher priority this weekend going against a defense like this?
A: Turnovers, yeah. Turnovers are always a concern for us going into every game. Obviously more so against certain teams like the Jets. Like I said, we just have to play our game and get the ball out especially early, whether the storm on the road because they’ve won two in a row. They’re really excited about their young quarterback, which they should be. They’re feeling pretty good right now, as they should be. We’re going to have a tough environment to go into, so we’re going to have to calm storm early, protect up front, obviously, run the football, but yeah, there’s no doubt that comes into play. They’ve had some turnovers where the guys are just in the right spot – like a ball’s tipped and because the guy’s playing the coverage and he’s in the right spot he’s there to make the play. It’s just a product of them being opportunistic and being well coached.
Q: Did you get into looking at and talking to rookie quarterbacks at the Combine before you knew Kirk Cousins was your guy?
A: I watched him. I watched him because you always want to watch those guys. At some point this profession is so transient, for players and coaches, at some point more than likely you’re going to cross paths with a lot of these guys. Whether it’s free agency, a trade, you’re coaching there, they come here, whatever. You want to get to know who that guy is and what he’s about and those things. Was it as an extensive process as we did with Kirk [Cousins] or we did in Philly with Carson Wentz or I did in Oakland with Derek Carr? Not even close. Not even close. If you told me what’s Sam Darnold’s strengths, weaknesses, which I’m not going to mention up here what I wrote down in my evaluation I could tell you what I saw. I think he’s going to be a heck of a player.
Q: How do you see in Stefon Diggs’ mental knowledge of the game help his ability to be successful?
A: I think his ability to line up in a lot of different spots. If you saw our call sheets and the amount of personnel groupings, the amounts of formations we have, shifts and motions, and those things I think it’s more than a lot of people. I’m not saying we do everything right, because we don’t. We try to. But I think his ability to line up inside, outside, run the first level, your route, the slant for example, and then Green Bay take the post over the top and be able to track the football and catch it with his finger tips and those things. I think the variety of routes he can run and the ability for him to line up anywhere that we need him to line up at makes him who is.
Q: How resilient have the offensive line group been with what they’ve been through from losing Tony Sparano before training camp, guys being injured, and shuffling around to new spots?
A: Yeah, those guys are a really resilient group. Obviously, there’s not a day that goes by that we don’t think about Tony, that Tony’s name comes up. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Tony, probably not an hour that goes by. Those guys are a resilient group and they’ve done the best that they can in handling that situation and it hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t been easy, but those guys are doing a good job.
Q: Why are bunch formations in the red zone a good situation to put your personnel in?
A: Against Arizona they played a little bit more two-high zone than we had seen out of a lot teams. We liked some of our two-high zone beaters out of that and then obviously, running the football out a bunch has been okay for us. It really just dictates the week. It really dictates the week and on who you’re playing. There’s some weeks that bunch formations are good. There are some weeks that there are other ways, so it just kind of dictates on the opponent you’re playing.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer
First off, two things about the Arizona game. Number one, I thought our guys played our most complete game last Sunday. I was real proud of the way they played. Felt like we won the field position battle. We made all of our kicks. Played hard, played with enthusiasm and passion that we’ve been talking about all year long. Really, three weeks in a row we have gotten better and better. We just have to continue that trend. The second thing about that game is I want to address the loss of Mike Hughes for the year. That is very difficult for our football team, for our locker room, for me personally because I saw him so grow so much as a returner, as a gunner, as a football player, as a young man since the spring. He is a fine young man. He is a great addition to our football team. That one hurt. That one hurt a lot. Like most losses do when a kid gets hurt. That one hits home because he had done so many things for us on special teams. He was just continuing to get better. Tip of the iceberg type thing but next man up scenario like we normally talk about when a young man gets hurt and we have to keep moving forward.
Q: How comfortable are you having Holton Hill pick up in those situations where Mike Hughes left off now than more so when he started to become a returner?
A: Holton is going to have to fill in. He will have to play more gunner. He will be playing on kickoff and kickoff return, maybe as the returner this week. Punt returner he is still a work in progress. I don’t know how comfortable I am putting him back there as the returner yet. But he is working hard at it. It doesn’t come natural to him as it does to some guys so he is going to have to continue to work at it. He is another young man that has had a great attitude. His work ethic is outstanding. He is a great locker room young man. He is better than I thought he would be than when he first got here. He just continues to impress me by the way he plays the game.
Q: Do you know who you are going to put backs for kicks this week?
A: Kind of figure out as you go, depending how much guys are playing offense or defense. Being short at corner, maybe it’s Marcus [Sherels] or maybe it’s Holton or Aldrick [Robinson] is getting reps there as well. He will get more reps today in practice. It is kind of a work in progress and see who is available and the most rested.
Q: Where do you think Mike Hughes has grown the most as a specialist?
A: I think as a punt returner. He didn’t get a lot of reps. Kickoff returner we knew how dangerous he was. He had the real nice one against Green Bay. We just haven’t returned a lot of kicks this year. Haven’t had that opportunity. He got better at gunner. The cool thing about Mike is that he relished the opportunity to get better. He was very, very coachable. He studied tape. It was important to him. Everything was kind of new to him and I think he just kind of embraced the roles he had for us on special teams. He just continued to improve.
Q: How rare is it for a first round pick to contribute that much on special teams but also on defense?
A: I think it is very rare. Personality wise, I think understanding how important he is to the football team. Walking in, I wouldn’t say a lot of our guys in the past just kind of shunned special teams when they became offense or defense starters. I think we have an incredible locker room like I’ve mentioned before in these type of press conferences but Mike was unique for a young player that understood the importance of it. I think having the veteran guys in there, the Harrison Smiths, the Adam Thielens, the Marcus Sherels, those veteran guys who have been around the game a long time. Having them in the locker room kind of leading the way now that the new waves of leaders are Anthony Harris and Eric Wilsons and those types of guys that I am very fortunate to work with on a day in and day out basis. Having those guys set the tone for the rest of the locker room has been huge.
Q: With potential winds at MetLife Stadium, do you think harder about taking longer field goal kicks?
A: It depends on pre-game. It normally does in any outdoor stadium, we are going to get there, and I always get there about three hours before the game, walk around the field a little bit, see what the winds are doing. Obviously if they are gusting or moving around a little bit, it is going to change as the game goes on. But I think pre-game and when we go out right before the third quarter that usually is when you determine how far those field goals will be and what I recommend to the head coach.
Q: How are the winds at MetLife Stadium?
A: I am relying on Dan Bailey more because he has gone in there every year like he did when he was with the Cowboys to go play the Giants. I relied on him a little bit this week. He has gone back and studied all of his kicks at MetLife Stadium. He has talked to the punter. He has talked to the returners a little bit and will continue to do so. I think really game day is going to be figuring out the winds, figuring out the sun for that matter, where the sun is going to be because I think I’ve only coached one game in that new stadium. When I was with the Giants, we had the old Giants Stadium so I am dating myself. That is where our offices used to be in that nice old Giants Stadium. Never got cold in there either. The entire winter, I don’t think there was any heat in the building. But that is a beautiful new stadium they have there. I think the only game we’ve played there is a night game to be honest with you so I don’t know if the sun would be a factor. You can see it on tape and stuff like that but it is different. Every week the sun changes a little bit, see where it is going to be.
Q: What role has Matt Wile played in the growing consistency of the special teams units?
A: Matt has gained a little bit more confidence I thought. I think he had five punts the other day; three were outstanding, the other two were okay. One we got away with that we pinned down at the five and they had a penalty, so I think they started the drive at the three. Any time after a kickoff or punt that you can have the opponent start their drive inside the ten yard line, I think there was three of those and five overall inside the 20 [yard line] if I’m not mistaken, maybe four, but Matt helped our defense, our kickoff team helped our defense. Really that kind of set the stage for the whole game. We started fast, we played fast the whole game. That’s our message to our team this week. We got to continue to do those type of things to help our defense, and then on the flip side we had an explosive punt return of plus-43 that set up that touchdown, I think our last touchdown there in the third quarter. There’s a lot of good things that happened on field position that we need to continue to build on.
Q: Have you noticed any change with Kevin McDermott in the weeks since his finger injury?
A: I think the grip is a little bit different. His velocity may not be as normal, [but] it’s not much slower. He’s done a good job. I think he had one PAT snap at the end of the game after that last touchdown we scored in the third quarter, the PAT snap was a little bit off and Matt [Wile] did a great job of getting it down, Dan [Bailey] stayed with it and drilled it right down the middle. It’s kind of a work in progress, but he’s a pro. He’s trying everything, we’re hoping that he continues to heal up so that he can take the little brace that he’s got off there. It’s not effecting him, he’s a true pro.
Q: How far away is McDermott from getting that brace taken off his finger?
A: I think sooner than later. I don’t know the exact time table. I know we’ve talked about different things, but if I talk about injuries I’ll get in trouble, even that injury. That’s a gruesome one. The pictures were pretty cool, by the way. I don’t know if you guys have seen those, the HIPAA laws probably prevent that, but they are pretty cool, just to let you know.
Q: Have you seen anything like that happen on the football field?
A: No, absolutely not. My wife actually was trading stories with him last week. She came to the hotel and went to mass with us. Kevin’s in mass, he does the readings and all that stuff. My wife got it [her finger] caught when she was a little girl playing whatever chase game they were playing with her brothers, and she got a door slammed on it and she lost part of her pinky. Her dad pulled it out and they went and sewed it back up at the hospital, so Kevin and my wife were trading stories back and forth with each other. I just sat there shaking my head, said, “Good Lord, we got a game tomorrow, let’s go. We got to get focused here.”
Q: Did they ever find the tip of the finger?
A: No, but they looked for it at halftime, unbeknownst to me. At halftime I’m holding my breath hoping we can get Kevin back, even though David [Morgan] did a great job for us. The fellas, the specialists went out and looked for it at halftime. They couldn’t find it. It’s gone forever now, it’s at the L.A. Coliseum.
Q: They were out in the middle of the field looking for it?
A: Yeah, around where the PAT was snapped. Middle of the field, no. I think that they had a good idea of where it was. It’s probably stuck in somebody’s facemask or something.
Q: Who were the ones that were looking for it?
A: The specialists. If they would have asked me, I would have said no. I was good, I was out.
Q: What is the key to getting Matt Wile more consistent?
A: I think with any young punter I mean if you’re three for five and the other two you survive, I think it’s a good start. I think he’s continually getting better. He’s never been the guy for the whole year and I think he has to understand that every practice, every rep, every jugs rep he takes; like today we got him going out here kind of right before practice and he’ll be working with the jugs as a holder, as a punter taking his steps. It’s muscle memory doing the same thing over, over, and over again until it gets to point where he is a consistent punter. You’re hoping for three of five, four of five and then the other one you survive, especially this week. The punt returner for the Jets is Andre Roberts and he’s had a phenomenal year. In fact, his punt return average is three yards better than his kickoff return average, which doesn’t mean he’s a bad kickoff return guy. He’s 21.5 average on 11 returns on punts. He’s got a touchdown, he’s got a 53-yarder, a 43-yarder, plus 78 yard touchdown against Detroit. He’s very, very dangerous so we can’t just drive the ball down the middle of the field and hope for the best. We’ve got to do the things that help our coverage team and we got to do a great job protecting the launch point like we typically preach or always preach and we’ve got to go down and cover. Our gunners have to have a great game and Matt’s got to be solid for us. The more consistent he is the better off we’re going to be and be a weapon for our football team.
Q: How is Dan Bailey doing and how has he bounced back from a couple misses?
A: Dan’s a pro. He came back last week and had a good week for us. He kicked off well for us. He made all his kicks. I think anytime you work with a new snapper and holder you’re going to have some growing pains and that’s why we work so hard in practice to get that relationship better and hopefully those guys are more comfortable with each other. We did some good work yesterday in the wind and we’re going to continue to do some more work today and continue to get better there and improve.
Q: What do you see about the Jets special teams?
A: Besides Andre Roberts who I promise you will not sleep Saturday night because of him. He is so good. He breaks tackles, he can run, makes the first man miss, he’s fast enough to score. Their kicker [Jason] Myers did a great job for them last week, made seven field goals, made the two extra points. I think he was Special Teams Player of the week in the AFC last week, did a great job. They play fast. They’ve got some guys banged up so some of their guys might be some interchangeable parts on their kickoff and punt team. They’re very, very good. They’re punter, he’s got a humongous leg Lachlan Edwards. I remember him after he came out of Houston State a couple years ago. He’s another Aussie punter that’s very effective. When he’s on he’s very, very good as well. Like any team you got your work cut out for you, especially at home. They’re at their place, they’ve won two games in a row, their crowds going to be into it. There’s a little difference between the Jets crowd and the Giants crowd. I found that out first hand when I coached with the Giants. I think those Jets guys are a lot like Philly fans. They’re very, very passionate and get after it, like the Giants fans, but I think the Jets fans are a little bit more vocal. It’s going to be a fun day.
Q: What has been the key to improving coverages?
A: Well, the early struggles in coverage were in preseason to be honest with you. I think since the season started we’ve been pretty good and we want to keep that trend up. We kept the guys that were good and we didn’t keep the guys that weren’t so good. I think that’s usually what it comes down to. Thanks for bringing up those bad plays from preseason like I haven’t lost sleep over that. Thanks, I appreciate that [laughs].