Transcript: Coordinators Addressed the Media on Thursday

Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards

Playing at home again, will be good playing against the Detroit Lions. Working in the division against a tough offensive opponent. This week is going pretty good as far as preparation but we still have a lot to do as we keep inching closer to kickoff.

Q: How much success in the run game is attributed to their offensive line play?

A: I think their offensive line has done a great job of getting movement up front all year. You look at the one thing that has stayed consistent with their offensive line and also with 33 [Kerryon] Johnson being their running back. He’s come in, he really has good vision, can catch, ability to run inside and outside, ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. It will be a true test his weekend to line up and stop the run.

Q: Do you think T.J. Lang is even looking better getting back from injury?

A: I think he looks healthier now. I think he looks like he’s getting back to his form. He really has been good in there. Solid getting movement on the run. He’s been doing a good job in protection. Really across the board, you look at their offensive line from their tackles to their guards. They really do a great job of understanding what they are trying to get accomplished. Getting movement up front, working in unison in their protection. It will be a tough challenge for us this weekend going against their front.

Q: What enables Matthew Stafford to continue to play at a consistent level?

A: That is the thing. He has been consistent throughout our time here. You look at him, really over the last probably three years you really see his mobility in the pocket, him having a good grasp of what they are doing offensively. Understanding situational football, being able to get the ball out of his hands. Understanding protection, what they are doing, how to step up. He’s got great pocket presence. He’s got the arm strength to make all the throws. He is very decisive with what he is going against from week-to-week and where to put the ball. It will definitely be another stiff challenge for us against him. He’s a tough competitor and does a great job, really in the two minutes, really all situational football.

Q: Now that Golden Tate is gone, what do you make of their receivers now?

A: They obviously feel good about their receivers that they have. When you look at them, number 11 [Marvin Jones Jr.], 19 [Kenny Golladay], now 10 [Brandon Powell] and 13 [T.J. Jones] in there. All of those guys have played for them and have been successful for them. Also, the use of their backs in the passing game. They’ve done a good job of using them, utilizing them in the passing game, whether it’s been screens or check downs or just the option routes out of the backfield. Tate is who he is. He is a great run after the catch guy, he does a great job of getting open in certain situations. He had a big part for what they did situationally. We will have our test as far as matching up against their receivers this week. We are just going through game planning against them. We understand what we need to get accomplished in those different situations. We just have to keep working the leverage and the coverage. Then you sit back there and decide. The quarterback can get the ball to any of them. You see all the big plays they’re making down the field with 11 [Jones. Jr.] and 19 [Golladay]. We’ve got our work cut out for us this week.

Q: What are some of the things that make Eric Kendricks so consistent?

A: Number one, starting with him, I think Eric really pays attention to the details. He understand angles, staying inside out on the tackling. He’s got the speed to get to the perimeter and still maintain leverage on backs and receivers when we pass off in coverage. Then again I think it’s also a credit to our front. They do a great job of handling double teams. Allowing him to roam from sideline to sideline. I think it’s a cohesive effort by everybody in the front. Eric does a great job as our middle linebacker, understanding angles, understanding leverage, understanding what teams are trying to do in the run game and the passing game.

Q: What has Anthony Harris done in the past to earn the trust of the coaching staff when there are injuries, he comes in and steps up?

A: I would have to say consistency. Anthony has prepared consistently throughout his whole time here. His number has been called quite a few times during his tenure here. As coaches, you appreciate that because you can trust him to go in and he is going to know the calls. He is going to know the checks. I think our players understand when Anthony is in the game, it is not going to be a drop off as far as the knowledge we are trying to get accomplished. That is a credit to him and his preparation from week-to-week. When his number has been called. He has been able to step up and he’s been able to play. We credit that to him and his preparation and everybody feeling confident in what he brings to the table.

Q: How did Everson Griffen do in his first game back?

A: Everson did a good job. Playing football is not like riding a bicycle where you can just all of a sudden you can hop on and start pedaling. It’s not that easy. He is working through all of those things. I think he’ll tell you getting back into the flow of things is going to just keep getting better with time. I think with what he showed us back in the first ball game and preparation and going through this week will be critical. We just have to keep working at it and I think he will continue to get better.

Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo

We are looking forward to opening our divisional series here on Sunday against the Lions. They do a good job of changing up what they do each week. In terms of their scheme, their front, their coverages. They do a good job of trying to take away what they think you do well. We are going to have to be ready for some unscouted looks. They do a nice job and we need to start the game fast and play a cleaner game detail-wise on Sunday than we did last week.

Q: What do you see from the Lions secondary that can make them dangerous?

A: I think number one is they get up in your face. All of those guys. They’re not afraid to go three across, two across and get up in your face right away. They do a great job of using their hands within five yards and try to disrupt your timing in the passing game. Obviously the longer the quarterback has to hold on to the ball, the worse things don’t go so good. We are going to have to do a great job of helping our guys and maybe some shifts and bunches and those things. Our guys are going to have to be just as violent as they are at the line of scrimmage.

Q: What have you seen from Deroit’s run front?

A: Stats are what they are. They can be deceiving at times. They’ve given up a few really long runs. Then you watch the rest of the tape and it’s two yards, three yards, five yards, zero yards. They’ve given up a few explosives in the run game which I think kind of throw those stats off a little bit. If you look at their overall body of work, taking away those few plays, they’re a lot better than 31st in the league in rush defense.

Q: Do you think the acquisition of Damon Harrison is intended to shore that up?

A: I am sure. He is a heck of a player. Obviously, being in Philadelphia the last two years and him in New York, he is a load there in the middle to move. For as big as he is, he is a darn good athlete. We are going to have to do a good job of trying to move him and getting to the second level.

Q: How influential has Pat Elflein been in the run game?

A: Very. Very. Especially when you are running your inside zone. Any runs. We always just talk about getting the play started. Getting the play started and when you’re running inside, Pat does a good job of denting the line of scrimmage at the point of attack to where you can get the play started and I think you’ve seen our amount of negative runs decrease since he’s come back. Obviously, our backs are doing a heck of a job running the football as well.

Q: What are the keys to Pat Elflein getting the play started so well?

A: I think he’s really quick with his hands. He gets the ball out to the quarterback very, very quickly. He has a great first step. He’s quick. The other thing is he knows what is going on. He understands, he can diagnose fronts very quickly. He understands safety rotation, understands the alignment in the front where there could be a stunt up front. He does a great job of recognition and understanding what the possibilities of what is coming at him.

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer

Real quick on our performance this past Sunday, as I told our team and our staff, it wasn’t good enough to win. I don’t think we played well enough to win. We didn’t have a lot of opportunities, like we did the week before, to help our team win. With the limited opportunities we had we didn’t play well enough. I was a little disappointed in that. We have to come back strong this week. Good meetings, good practice yesterday, good meetings this morning, ready for a good walk through, practice, etcetera today and on into Friday and into the weekend. Detroit poses a challenge because they’re a divisional game. They know this is important. Coming into our place, they’ve won the last few years here. Our guys are very aware of that. We’ve made them very aware of that. We need to play at a very high level in every phase, all six phases, including field goal. Last year they blocked a couple in my opinion, illegal shots on our center. We need to do a better job of protecting. We can’t rely on the officials seeing that. That is tough call for them. We are going to do a great job in protection and do a great job making our kicks and playing well in all six phases. That is our goal this week and that’s been the focus so far this week. We will continue to be so.

Q: What makes Matt Prater so effective?

A: Matt has ice in his veins. He does a great job in any situation. He is a very, very good field goal kicker. He gets it off quick. He gets it off with great elevation. He’s got big time leg strength. He can make any kick as he showed us over the last few years. A lot of respect for Matt. He is a nice young man. He is a good guy. Good family man now that he has grown up a little bit. I am real proud of his progress. But obviously I don’t want him to have a very good game on Sunday but he’s done a nice job for them.

Q: How do you feel your returners did with Holton Hill playing more defense?

A: We just had the one opportunity. We didn’t block the gunners at all unfortunately. The one punt return Marcus [Sherels] had and the other one was a fair catch at the end of the game. Kickoff return, I don’t think we blocked it very well. I don’t think it was Marcus’ fault per se. He did a good job of setting the return. We had a little bit of a seam close up quickly on us on the bounce left on the second return. I thought we had a real nice play going there. We got knocked back into the returner’s lap and had nowhere to go. We had two bad blocks at the point of attack and you just can’t have that against a good team like New Orleans. Our focus this week is finishing blocks, playing penalty free. We had a penalty on kickoff return which is unacceptable, especially for our guys. Going forward penalty free, ball possession. Let’s stay on our blocks and let’s take advantage of any kicks we might be able to return this weekend.

Q: Do you think you’re going to rotate anybody in with kick returns after Roc Thomas’ injury?

A: Yes, we are going to have to. As soon as he went down, we put Marcus back there. Marcus is always a great option because he’ll know what to do. He’s always prepared. Holton Hill can always be an option depending on Xavier [Rhodes]. We could put Mike Boone back there. He’s been catching kicks as well. We have a bunch of guys, Brandon Zylstra, we are having a bunch of guys be prepared. Depending on injuries, depending on their usage on offense and defense that will determine who we put on those phases.

Q: Have you ever had this much of a rotation because of the injuries?

A: When I got here, Percy [Harvin] was the guy. When he was being used heavily on offense, I couldn’t use him as much. I think he only had 16 returns that first year I was here but he was still very effective. Cordarrelle [Patterson] wasn’t used as much so obviously, we used him on every rep when he was a healthy guy. I think with the injuries and the way guys are being used on offense and defense, it’s been a little bit of a challenge. That is what I do. I think that is what we do on special teams. We have to get all of those young guys ready.

Q: What do you have to do to get Marcus Sherels going?

A: Finish blocks. Get the gunners blocked, first of all. Get him going, finish the blocks at the point of attack. He had a nice game against the Jets. Last week like I said, he just had the one opportunity. I tell our guys all the time, you play a team like New Orleans, you play a team like Detroit, they have good offenses. They are not going to punt the ball a lot. You have to take advantage of every opportunity. You might have two or three returns total in that ball game. We have to make it work on those two or three returns. We have to get the gunners blocked. We have to finish blocks legally down field. We have to do a great job at the line of scrimmage. We have to pressure the punter when we do run pressures. Hopefully he hits a line drive kick to us and that has been our success over the years is pressuring guys to kick line drive kicks and Marcus taking advantage of those types of kicks.

Q: You talked about illegal shots to your center. Do you send those into the league? How do you approach that going into this game?

A: I think we just have to remind the officials to look for it, that’s what they do. They’ve [Detroit] already been called for it this year, it’s kind of their M.O., that’s what they do. It’s not going to be called every time, so I’m not going to rely on the officials making that difficult call, that’s a hard call for make for those guys. We got to do a better job protecting, there’s no excuses. I’m not making excuses for last year at all. We have to do a better job of protecting, and understand that that’s what they’re going to do. We need to do a better job of protecting our center, protecting our launch point and making sure we get the ball up in the air with good timing. It’s timing and elevation for the kicker, and we got to make those kicks.

Q: How can you go about protecting the center if that is how they’re going to do things?

A: It’s about technique. It’s the same technique, we were teaching the same technique last year, we just did a poor job at it, to be honest with you. We did a poor job in protection and we hit a little bit lower of a kick on the first one. That’s on us, it doesn’t matter what they do, it’s got to be about us and it’s got to be about us protecting that launch point. Make no excuses, let’s go out and do our job.

Q: With a veteran kicker now, what would be a good percentage that you would be satisfied with?

A: 100 percent.

Q: A realistic percentage?

A: 98.9 percent. No, I think it depends on the distance. Like you say, he’s a veteran kicker, he’s number two all-time in accuracy, so Dan [Bailey] is a very good kicker. The more the kicker, snapper and holder work together, the better they’re going to be, the more successful they’re going to be, the more consistent they’re going to be. Anything inside of 50, I think Dan is going to make. Anything outside of 50, if you’re over 60, 70 percent, I know those are lofty expectations but Dan is a good enough kicker of make those types of kicks, and that’s what we expect from him.

Q: Do you approach working with a veteran kicker differently than you would with a young kicker?

A: Absolutely. What I do with a veteran kicker, I think he’s been through a lot. He’s been through every situation, so I kind of draw on his experience, and when we talk about certain situations we talk about the different situations that he’s been in in his career. When you take a younger kicker, you kind of have to practice those situations in practice and in the preseason type of games to prepare him for what he might kick in in a regular-season game. Dan’s been there, been there, done that, so to speak. So when we talk about a hurry-up field goal at the end of a half, or certain situations where you’re coming in after a time out, how do you approach that. I kind of pick his brain and learn from him on what makes him tick, so I’m better able to coach and prepare him on game day.

Q: He had never missed an extra point when he was playing in Dallas indoors, and he obviously missed on last week against the Saints. Was there anything different that you saw on that kick? It’s a very rare situation for him to find himself in.

A: Yeah, you’re right. He shouldn’t ever miss a PAT. I think he just wrapped his foot a little bit and maybe tried to rush it. I was baffled, I was totally surprised he missed that, and I think he was too. He expects more from himself, but the good thing for him is that he’s a pro. We hit 20, 22 kicks yesterday indoors. We went in and got some work and he was 21 of 22, and the only one he missed was a mayday situation, a hurry up situation where I didn’t give him time to give his steps. Then we did another one and he drilled a 48-yarder down the middle. He’s ready, he’s ready to go, and we’ll have another good day today and get him ready for Sunday.

Q: Is it safe to say that because U.S. Bank Stadium is indoors, it’s essentially the same environment that he was in in Dallas?

A: I think the turf might be a little bit different, and the sightlines might be different because of the stadium, but there’s no wind, obviously, and the temperature is the same. He’s got to make those kicks, especially. Outdoors I would expect him to make a PAT, because it’s not that far. I don’t like it when people say chip shot, because there’s no chip shot field goal, no matter what. If it’s from the 1-yard line, a 19-yard field goal, to me I don’t like the word chip shot because there’s still a snap, a hold, a kick, protection, everything is involved, the rush, etcetera. All those type of things are involved, so we go out and approach each kick like they’re all the same. Left hash, right hash, middle, doesn’t matter. Go out and get your sight line, get good elevation, good timing and put the ball through. That’s his job.

Q: What do you remember about Eric Kendricks making tackles on special teams?

A: To be honest with you he played a little bit early and then he became so valuable on defense. I was told by the boss not to use him because when you have a young player like that he’s so focused on being the starting MIKE backer and playing every down, nickel, and any sub package we had, and of course base coverage or base defense. He’s going to be very focused on defense and you didn’t want to distract him a whole lot from playing special teams. It’s hard for a rookie to play all those reps on defense or offense and then play special teams as well. So we kind of took him off. The great thing about Eric is he’s never missed a special teams meeting, he’s on the second punt team, he can be on kickoff if we need him in a pinch – playoff game he was ready to go on all that stuff. A guy like him he’s a pro and I love how he approaches it and works hard and does a great job for us and because of that he leads by example for the younger players that the longer he’s here the more young players he affects with his attitude, his effort, and attention to detail.

Q: Did you have him much during the early part of the season?

A: Preseason he did. He was ready to play it all until he became the starter and I thought he did a great job. He’s a great athlete. I mean he’s a football player. I mean he loves the game, plays with high effort, plays with a great attitude. He’s also a got God given ability, he’s got a lot of that and he uses it the right way. He’s very intelligent every year he’s gotten smarter and smarter and smarter. He’s a great guy to have in your locker room, great guy to have in your meeting room, great guy to have on your football team.

Q: Is there any advances in technology to help you analyze special teams?

A: The statistical analysis that our guys do a good job with that in terms of kickers and punters, snappers, and returners. Now it’s when to bring the ball out on kickoff, kickoff return – is it really a good idea to bring it from five deep or take the touch back? I mean all those things are evolving and changing. We stay on top of all that stuff, all the statistics mainly. In terms of the technology part of it I think the more data that comes out the more I learn from it, especially in the offseason. We’re a team that doesn’t use the head. We’ve talked about that before – keep the head out of the game in terms of tackling and blocking and taking on blocks. To me that’s very important to keep our guys healthy, like Roc Thomas had a real nice tackle last week, but he put his head down at the last second. The first thing I told him “That was a nice job, you were in position to make a nice play, but keep your head up.” Number one it could be called for penalty and I’m not worried about that as much as I am about him staying healthy and tackling correctly and doing the right things and making sure we keep kickoff, kickoff return in the game but most importantly keep our guys healthy because that’s very important to me and that’s how we teach it.

Q: Is being aggressive taking kicks out have a risk and reward?

A: I think it depends on the returner. I think when you have a guy like Cordarrelle [Patterson] that can break one, I mean he did against Chicago a couple weeks ago, he’s always a danger to break one. Other teams that have these big time returners are still taking it out of the end zone and there is a risk-reward. You might get one to the 45 but you’re going to get four or five tackles inside the 20. Our mentality here is that we’re going to be more on the conservative side let’s take the the field position. We’ve got a really good offense, we’ve got a great quarterback let’s put the ball at the 25 and lets go. Where in years past we weren’t as strong on offense we were trying to make a big play with our return game so I think it depends on the team you have, it depends on the returner you have, depends on who you’re playing, who your opponent is, how well they cover, how great the kicker is – if he line drives one five deep or does he put it at a 4.3 hang time five deep? That all comes into play.

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