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Transcript: Coordinators Addressed the Media on Thursday

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanksi

Good morning. Okay, big week. Big challenge this week going on the road to Arrowhead Stadium. Really good football team, so we’ve got to have a great week of preparation and we’re in the midst of that now. Briefly going back to last week, I thought it was a great team effort to go get a W on a short week. Looking forward to the challenge this week.

Q: What have you thought about the month Kirk Cousins put together to win NFC Offensive Player of the Month?

A: I think it’s a great individual honor, but I think even Kirk (Cousins) would tell you, it reflects on your teammates. Somebody has to catch those balls. Somebody is protecting for him. I know he would tell you that. Proud of him and I think he earned that, but that’s really as much as it is an individual honor, I think the rest of the offensive players can take pride in that achievement. 

Q: With the team in general, what do you credit the shift in offensive success over the last four games to?

A: I think we’ve looked at it and pulled it apart and it’s maybe not as simple an answer as we all would like. I think each game calls for a different gameplan. Each quarter of the season reflects different opponents and different schemes and different things like that. I don’t know that there’s one good answer to why we had success the last four weeks like that. 

Q: With the offensive line, was it just a matter of time to improve?

A: Again, it’s so hard to make a broad stroke comment. I would just tell you that with any offensive line, the more reps and plays and games you get to play together, and we had a couple guys in and out of the lineup so the communication that has to occur between those guys, I think we’re just getting to a place where those five guys up front are playing as one, which is really what you need. 

Q: Mike Zimmer talked about how much the Chiefs defense is blitzing so much lately. Is that a shift in identity, or is that something they’re changing week-to-week?

A: I think it’s kind of like the previous question. I think it’s week-to-week. I think it depends on what’s called for in that game. Certainly, when you turn on the tape, it gets your attention and you have to be ready for it and prepared for it. I think it’s an impressive scheme. I have a ton of respect for their coaches and I think they have really good players. 

Q: Are you concerned about Stefon Diggs’ fumbles this season?

A: I think we’ve addressed anything that we’re falling short on offensively, individually, collectively. I think what was nice about this last week, we have eight games under our belt, we could address things like that. So certainly, Stefon (Diggs) knows that that’s something that can’t happen and I think it just goes back to a technique, an awareness. I will tell you, we’ve addressed it so we’ve identified it and he’s well on his way to correcting it. 

Q: Have you seen a substantial growth with Garrett Bradbury throughout the first half of the season?

A: I have. I think he’s a young player, I don’t if they’re rookies anymore, but he’s a young player that is getting better each week because he’s seeing something different each week. As you well know, week in and week out in the NFL, there’s going to be some guys lining up cross from you up front that are really good football players. It’s run the gamut of players, different sizes and styles that he’s seen. I think it’s just a matter of, we talked a little bit earlier about reps, and learning from each one of those reps. 

Q: What has made Kirk Cousins successful against the blitz?

A: That’s the truth. In the blitz game, there’s a risk-reward to it from the defensive standpoint. We as coaches and players have to understand that there are big plays to be had when a team blitzes. The ball sometimes has to come out because you’re not picked up or you are picked up and they’re getting great pressure and the ball has to come out. He understands that and I think he’s done nice of when the opportunities present themselves to go get the ball out of his hand, put it in the hand of a ball carrier that can go do something with it. 

Q: What is the technique behind a right-handed quarterback being able to roll to his left and make quality throws?

A: I’d say a lot of it, you’ll hear quarterbacks and quarterback coaches talk about getting their hips around so there’s a fluidity to how they can get their hips around to face their target which is harder for a righty than it is a lefty. I think Kirk (Cousins) has been blessed with a natural ability to make plays on the run on both sides. I think he’s shown that over the course of his college career, pro career, so certainly we’re not limited in which way we move him. 

Q: When it comes to responding to blitzes, how much of that is on a skill to recognize what is happening and adjust to it?

A: I think we talk a lot with the wide receivers and the tight ends that they can’t turn their brain off and not understanding what’s going on as a whole when it comes to the defense. When a defense is brining all out pressure, or any pressure really, there has to be a mindset to speeding up what they’re doing. You have a depth on your route. Well versus press, sometimes that depth may be two yards short of your depth. We understand that. You may be getting knocked around. Same thing with pressure, we may need you a little bit quicker here so you may adjust your route and not going from a 10-yard route to a two-yard route, but understanding that the ball is going to have to come out here. 

Q: When Adam Thielen returns from injury, what will that do for Stefon Diggs? Will he find more space?

A: Potentially. I think it’s nice having some skill players across the board at each position. Certainly those two guys everybody knows are two special football players. It allows you to balance the field out when they’re on either side and I can imagine for defenses, you could try to take one away or you could try to take both away, but that’s where we have to have depth and we do. We have depth at each of our positions and trust in each of those positions to go make a play when teams want to take those guys away.

Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards

Just finished our walk thru here, getting prepared for one of the most explosive offenses we’ve played. They’re number one in a lot of categories, when you looking at them throwing the ball down there field, explosive plays, play action explosive plays, run after the catch. We’ve got to do a good job in preparation and understanding the situations and what we’re trying to do against them to defend them.

Q: With all the quality skill players that Kansas City has, where do you start?

A: That’s a good question. I mean, you look at each position and they’ve got speed at each position. You look at the running back, (LeSean) McCoy, he’s great coming out, (Damian) Williams is great coming out of the backfield. You look at the tight end, (Travis) Kelce, he’s the leading receiver right now. And all four of the receivers that they’ve got, they’re using. You can start at the top and go down. Start with (Sammy) Watkins and (Tyreek) Hill and (Demarcus) Robinson and (Mecole) Hardman, all of those guys have great speed and do a great job of locating the ball down the field, so we’ve got to do a great job this week of being able to number one, pressure the quarterback and be disciplined in our rush lanes, those kind of things, but also on the back end, leveraging those things down the field. Then when they throw short passes, their ability to run after the catch is also key. They’re number one in the league with that, so we’ve got to do a great job of tackling and leveraging in the open field. 

Q: How has Andy Reid transitioned his offense to the modern NFL over the years?

A: He has adjusted. You can see it, and a lot of respect to him, because what he’s done is taken the skill set of the players that he’s got and put them in a position to use them to the best of their skill set. He’s adjusted some concepts within the framework of what he does West Coast-wise, but their number one in the league right now as far as number of RPOs that show up in a game. That tells you that he has adjusted to the skill set of the quarterback and being able to throw the ball to the perimeter and those things off of quick reads. 

Q: How do you view not knowing who will be playing at quarterback for Kansas City when you’re planning how to rush them?

A: Well our big thing is that we have to have a rush plan for both guys and understand what they’re trying to do schematically also with that. He (Andy Reid) has adjusted, depending on who is the quarterback, but the skill set of both quarterbacks are a little bit different. But offensively you can see a lot of the similar concepts they’re using, so we got to do a good job of defending both quarterbacks and at the end of the day have a game plan as far as a rush plan for both, and also the concepts that they’re using in the passing game. 

Q: How much overlap have you seen between what Chicago and Kansas City are been doing?

A: There are some similarities, especially when you start talking about the RPOs. They got as many shifts and motions as Chicago does, if not more, so we’ll have to make sure we understand what they’re trying to do and the advantage that they try to gain with all the shifts and motions and understand that we’re going to have to adjust to them and be able to be on top of them communication-wise. We’ll have our work cut out from that aspect of it all. 

Q: What is your gauge on how ready Holton Hill is to contribute?

A: Yesterday was (his) first day of practice. We’ll just see as it goes through the course of the week. 

Q: Does the speed of the Kansas City skill core present a unique challenge?

A: No question about it. These guys, you look at all of them, it’s like a track team. They’re all under 4.4 and can really run. When they get the ball in their hands after the catch they can really explode and run, so again, we have to do a great job with leverage and coverage, and hopefully can force them to get the ball our sooner than he wants to. 

Q: Does that change your approach when you’re designing the defensive game plan?

A: It just depends on the concepts that we’ve got to defend. Certain coverages and certain matchups you do have concerns about, but you also have to implement things that we know fit the skill set of our players for them to go out and execute. 

Q: What have you thought of the season that Eric Kendricks has put together so far?

A: He’s done really well. You can just tell he has a great grasp of what we’re trying to do and what we’re asking him to do. Defensively, understanding the concepts that we’re doing coverage-wise, in the run fits and all those things. We’re glad we got him and just look for him to continue to grow and continue to get better throughout the course of the year. 

Q: Xavier Rhodes mentioned the frustration that he’s had with his season with penalties, and Coach Zimmer mentioned that he has to play the game differently because of his build. Are there any coaching points that you can give him to help him improve through the second half of the season?

A: I think the one thing we’ve done is gone through and evaluated what is being called. That’s number one, that’s the first thing that’s happened, how are they calling DPI (defensive pass interference), what are they looking for to call, and looking at his skill set, which is to get up and be pressed and be able to get his hands on receivers early and those types of deals. That’s been where we’ve had our focus in trying to help him with the techniques and fundamentals, changing and tweaking things to where it plays to his advantage as far as his coverage skills. 

Q: What have you seen change about how officials are calling defensive pass interference?

A: You know, it just depends. It’s kind of been inconsistent, I think the frustration with everybody right now. But again, we just look at the tapes from week to week to see how they’re calling it, and try to do our best to teach our guys to play within the framework of the rules. 

Q: Is that one of those penalties that you’re willing to take on and forget about, just because of the type of corner that you’re working with?

A: I think sometimes as you’re going through the course of the game, aggressive penalties, I don’t think we ever have a problem with. But pass interference penalties are big, because they’re such a big chunk of yards. We’re constantly working to make sure that we teach them to understand being disciplined with the eyes, being disciplined with moving your feet and not grabbing the top of the routes, all those types of deals. That’s something that is a constant work in progress and something that we spend an enormous amount of time on, tying to help him (Rhodes) and help all of our corners when it comes to that aspect of the game. 

Q: Because it is such a subjective call, do you look to see what the different tolerances of the individual referee crews are heading into each game?

A: Well we always want to have an alert about what certain units are looking for, but at the end of the day the consistency of how you’re teaching the technique and fundamentals is the main thing and the main focus of what we do, not so much on officials, but how they’re calling it and how we’re teaching it to our players to make sure there aren’t infractions.

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf

Happy Halloween. I want to first say, congrats to Dan (Bailey). He’s done a good job and all three of those guys have done a really good job on the player of the week thing. It’s definitely a group award and we’re getting ready for the Kansas City Chiefs right now. They have a really good crew returning, number 17. He’s explosive. This coach has been doing it for a long time, have a lot of respect for him. They’ve always been very good in the return game. We have our work cut out for us. That’s what we’re practicing the most, is trying to keep those guys contained and that’s where we’re at.

Q: How far has the field goal unit come since everything that they went through this summer?

A: The good thing is, we tried a lot of things out in the summer time. We learned something from every group, every equation that we threw out there. Obviously, we always kept track of Britton (Colquitt) and his situation. We felt really good about Austin (Cutting), where he’s at. I think forming that level of consistency, even having a week to train and kind of get ready for the season with those guys is a credit to them. They’ve done a really good job. 

Q: For Dan Bailey to go through that much in training camp, what does that do to bolster his confidence going into the season?

A: Dan’s (Bailey) a pretty confident guy. That’s one thing that he’s always had. He’s never lacked that. I can’t speak for him. You’d have to ask him what he was thinking mentally, but to me, he’s been nothing but professional. He’s willing to try other options to see what the best combination was. I think he’s in a good place. He’s very even-keeled and that’s kind of what you want in a kicker, somebody who doesn’t get too high on the highs and too low on the lows, have a DBs mentality. You have to go on to the next one if something doesn’t work out and he’s done that. He’s kind of showed it. 

Q: With Mike Hughes stepping into the punt returner role, is that something that you guys envisioned during his recovery?

A: I think we knew it was a possibility. We didn’t know exactly when that would happen based on his recovery. Things that happened with our roster, which is beyond me, I can give suggestions but obviously Coach (Mike Zimmer) and Rick (Spielman) and George (Paton) control all that stuff. It was good to have, I talked about it in the preseason, it’s always good to have a number of guys at return because you never know how that kind of shakes out during the season, what happens. It’s still a big thing. The more guys that we can have catching punts and returning kickoffs, I think that will go into our advantage. 

Q: What does Mike Hughes bring to that spot that you like?

A: He’s a dynamic guy. We haven’t had a lot of reps. We had two punt return reps the last game. I think that’s important too, I think getting reps. We didn’t punt the last game, so I’ll take that. It’s just a matter of comfort. I think he feels comfortable with it because he was practicing that on his own when he was getting ready in the preseason before everything got started and I knew that there was, I mean he’s a talented guy when he catches it. That’s first and foremost, but then what he can do after he catches the ball, hopefully we can find out. 

Q: What’s it like to see two brothers punt at a high level for so long, as Britton and Dustin Colquitt have?

A: Both guys have really been doing it a high level for a long time. It’s kind of neat. There’s a lot of jokes in the meeting room this week. Britton’s (Colquitt) a good pro and Dustin’s (Colquitt) been doing it for a long time at a high level in Kansas City. The weather isn’t necessarily perfect there. When you’re able to do it as long as he’s done it, I think that’s a credit to him. We’ve got our work cut out for us. He’s an excellent punter. He’s a Pro-Bowl guy. He’s an All-Pro guy. We’ve got to find a way to make him uncomfortable. 

Q: You haven’t had a lot of kickoff return reps in games this season. How do you continue to improve that unit?

A: Through practice. That’s really what you have to do. They take pride in everything that we do and I like to think when Sunday comes around, they’re ready for every one. They’re under the assumption that we’re going to get five returns. The most important thing that is Ameer (Abdullah) is smart with when we take the ball out, which I think he has been. When we get the opportunity, hopefully we can have a positive impact on the field position for our offense. That’s what we’re trying to do on every phase, have a positive impact on our offense and defense. 

Q: Is Holton Hill a guy that you want to get in the game in your phases?

A: Yeah, if we can. If that’s an option. I think that’s going to be up to Coach (Mike Zimmer) and Rick (Spielman). I don’t know when that can happen, but he has definitely shown in the preseason when we had him on special teams that he can have a positive effect. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens there.

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