Transcript: Coordinators Addressed the Media on Thursday

Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards

Coming home, glad to be back home to play this last game against Chicago. A lot riding on it, it’s a divisional game so it’ll be a tough contest. We’ll look for it to be loud when we’re out there on defense. Hopefully we can go out and execute what we’re working on this week.

Q: What about playing in U.S. Bank Stadium makes this defense better?

A: There’s no doubt that our fans and the support and the noise, and all the things that they do to help us out on third down [help us]. But also our players, the concentration and focus that they put forth, understanding the situation, understanding the matches and the coverages, understanding the protections that we’re going to get in in those situations. I think the culmination of all of it together has really helped out.

Q: How much of a weapon is Mitch Trubisky’s mobility?

A: It says a lot, he really got out on us a couple times on third down earlier in the game in Chicago. Also, first and second down. He can find a seam, he’s gotten a lot more comfortable with what they do schematically and with how they’re using their different personnel, so we’ve got to be very disciplined in our rush lanes and hopefully get out and execute the game plan.

Q: What types of challenges does it present when a running back can go vertical like Tarik Cohen can?

A: It’s a tough match, especially in certain coverages that you’re in. You look around the league, it seems like every week we’re facing a back with that type of skill set. You look at us last week with 25 [Lions running back Theo Riddick], it’s pretty much that everybody has a guy that can really go take the top off as a tough match for a linebacker. It’s one thing that we’ve been working on throughout the course of the week and that we’ve been working on throughout the course of the year, and we’ve just got to be smart and make sure that we can maintain our leverage and not give up the big play.

Q: What has led to the change where teams are now willing to take running backs vertical?

A: I think it’s a culmination of things. I think it it’s a culmination of more teams using the RPOs, more teams getting in different personnel groupings and using the skill set of that player, whether he’s out removed as a receiver or that he’s a scat back out of the backfield, or whether he’s a big screen guy. I think it adds a little more versatility to them offensively, and we just have to prepare each week and see what they’re doing as far as where they’re placing him and what plays they’re running with him.

Q: How have you seen teams increase their focus on Linval Joseph over his time here?

A: Quite a bit. I think Linval is a tremendous player for us inside, and what he brings to the game, I think people are aware that when you single block him it’s going to be a tough day. They realize a lot of the times that they have to double him. For us, that allows our linebackers who play at the second level to be a little bit freer as they come across, but he’s going to give you a hard day’s work every day that he’s out there. He pays attention to the detail. He’s more than your typical nose with the push that he gets in the pocket and being able to understand block recognition, his effort to the football on screens. He brings a lot to us defensively.

Q: Even if he hasn’t been able to hit the quarterback as much this year, do you think Linval still embraces being double teamed and occupying blockers?

A: No question about it. The one thing I can guarantee, when they do double him he’s getting push in the pocket. Any time you can feel as a quarterback that you’re getting pushed at your feet, it can still effect the throw. We don’t talk about sacks all the time around here to just get sacks. It’s about effecting the quarterback, and he does that.

Vikings Interim Offensive Coordinator

Kevin Stefanski

Good afternoon. Quite the challenge this week. I could rattle off all of the statistics with this unit that we are about to face this Sunday. They are impressive across the board from level one to level two to level three. I have a ton of respect for Coach [Vic] Fangio and his staff. I think they do a great job. Reminds me a lot of our defense, honestly, just in how sound they are. Then you look at the personnel and it’s, again, from every level the defense, they have some playmakers and some really good players. We are going to have our work cut out for us. Going back to last week briefly, great team win on the road. Wasn’t the start we wanted but it was the finish we wanted so I was proud of the guys in how they bounced back.

Q: How do you balance going back and watching the tape from the game at Chicago but not being the same play caller?

A: It’s useful. It’s the same defense versus the same offense. The players are the same and certainly having been part of the staff I was a part of the game plan that put it together. So I think it’s useful to go back and look at it. The nice part is we can see who we were, we can see what they were doing in that particular game. It’s part of any process looking back at the first time you played them.

Q: How do you balance still wanting to run the ball more with their run defense?

A: They have a very good run defense and a very good pass defense. So I think you have to go into it and put a plan together that you feel is going to have the most success, whether that is running the ball or throwing the ball, but certainly have our work cut out for us.

Q: How do you balance being able to stick with it trying to make third down and long manageable if you’re not able to run the ball?

A: It’s a give-and-take. We don’t ever want to go into a game and just throw it every down. You need to try to be unpredictable. You have to try to be versatile. Certainly, this challenge is out there in front of us because this is a great defense, again against the run and the pass. We are just going to try to be us. That is going to include running the ball and passing the ball.

Q: Did you feel more comfortable as a play caller having a game under your belt in Detroit?

A: From my perspective, certainly the second go-round was easier than the first go-round just in terms of knowing what to expect. I give our players a ton of credit, last week and bouncing back. Was not the start we wanted, not the start we envisioned. A lot of times you talk about starting fast and you hope it happens and in that case it didn’t. But really the guys bounced back which was important and that is part of who we are is being resilient and that is going to be important this week, too.

Q: How important was it for you to get Kyle Rudolph reintegrated in the offense?

A: I hope we don’t have to reintegrate him, honestly. I think he’s always been there and always been part of it. That game plan and this game, it’s really a week-to-week, it’s a series-to-series basis, it’s a play-to-play basis. Certainly, when you throw to a guy nine times and he has nine catches, that is a dependable player. I appreciate Kyle, the player. I appreciate Kyle, the person. He adds a dimension to our offense, certainly.

Q: Do you allow yourself to think about essentially playing the same team two weeks in a row?

A: Totally out of sight, out of mind. We have a great challenge in front of us with this defense. Across the board, they’re really, really, really good. We get to play them in our building in front of our fans. It’s a great challenge in front of us. I think the guys are up for it.  

Q: What do you see with Dalvin Cook and what makes him so elusive?

A: He is a special talent. God gifted him with some unique physical tools. I think you’d start probably with his feet are pretty impressive. I remember seeing him in his first practice out there and just seeing how his feet moved. There’s only a few guys who look like that. He’s a physically gifted kid. I give him a ton of credit coming off the injury, just worked his tail off in the training room and just worked so hard with Coach [Kennedy] Polamalu in the run game, in the pass game, in protection. The kid is working really hard. You are seeing the benefits of that on game day.

Q: How difficult is it for a young back to quickly become a quick pass protector as Dalvin Cook has?

A: It’s hard. Having coached the position just for a year, you spend a lot of time talking about protections. You spend a lot of time detailing the protection techniques. It’s no difference with Coach Polamalu and those guys. It’s not easy. It comes more natural maybe to some guys but you can’t be shy of contact and certainly Dalvin is not one of those type of guys. He goes in there and when he applies his technique, he is pretty darn good.

Q: Do you see defenses approaching Dalvin Cook differently as of late?

A: I don’t think so. I think defenses are well aware of his skillset. I’m sure they’re in their meeting room and talking about how they need to contain 33 then it’s our job to find ways to get him the ball in space and use him in the run game, use him in the pass game. His skillset is unique like you mentioned. He really is a special player when the ball is in his hand.

Q: What is the key for receivers and a quarterback getting on the same page in terms of scrambling and making plays off schedule?

A: We talk a lot about it and we drill it. There are principles, I’ll call them, of a scramble drill. You coach off of those techniques. Then the game is very rarely played in that framework. You ask the quarterback to make a play in late in the down off schedule and you hope to make a good play and not a bad play. A lot goes into that with the players around him working with him. Some are really, really good at it. You see it across the league. That is something we continue to work on because this game is very rarely played take five steps, hitch and throw. It is played in that environment often.

Q: Would you prefer Kirk Cousins throws out of bounds instead of trying to force a play?

A: I think for sure when you are avoiding a sack and when you are avoiding a negative play, absolutely would coach to throwing the ball out of bounds. You also want to let the guy use his ability to try to make a play, like we are talking about, off schedule. There is a fine line there but certainly, when there is the opportunity to get rid of the ball and know when the play is over and know when to get back to the huddle and try again.

Q: Was the 3rd-and-17 to Adam Thielen built off of the previous shot to Stefon Diggs the play before?

A: I’m not sure. It was a play that we needed, certainly. When you have good players and you have a quarterback that can see it, you are comfortable calling those and trusting that our guys are going to make a play. We really needed that play and I’m happy Adam was over there. But to your point to about how he [Darius Slay] played it, I’m not sure if that was in response to a previous play. I’m not sure.

Q: Was that an example of keeping the same look but doing something different as Kirk Cousins talks about?

A: I would say globally when you’re talking about an offense, yes. You wat to show the defense something they’ve seen before and do the opposite. Make yourself hard to defend. You know a defender when he sees a certain formation or he sees a certain motion or he sees a certain personnel group, they are going through the checklist of what they may see out of it. a good offense tries to be unpredictable and maybe not do the same thing all the time.

Q: What was it like to call plays in front of your dad and did he give you any advice?

A: No advice. I don’t know what he was going to help me with. It was exciting having my family there. It was cool, kind of a unique thing. Once that was over we moved on because we have quite a challenge this week.

Q: What is the biggest challenge Khalil Mack offers when you try to game plan around him?

A: He is a great player. He is a great combination of size, athleticism, power, effort. Just turn the tape on. He is an impressive player. He certainly is someone that we have to account for in a bunch of different ways. That is why we are out here working and implementing that plan.

Q: Have you always had an even keel demeanor or does that come with experience and being in the league for a while?

A: I don’t know. I know this, I am just trying to be myself. If that is how they perceive it, that is how they perceive it. I am just trying to be the same guy every day for them. Again, give them a game plan, give them plays that they can play fast and have success with.

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer

Obviously, we’ve won two games in a row. We’re playing pretty well, hopefully we’re hitting our stride on special teams. We got a big challenge this weekend. Obviously, Tarik Cohen is a phenomenal punt returner, Pro Bowl returner. He is the best, at least in our conference. He’s done a great job this year. If you guys are worried about me sleeping Saturday night that’s why I won’t be. He’s very, very good. Across the board I think they play hard on special teams, they’re well coached, so it’s going to be a good game for us.

Q: Were you hoping to see Chad Beebe get a chance to return?

A: Yeah, I’d like to. Hopefully he can get there and do something for us. If he can’t then Brandon [Zylstra] will do it, Craig James has done it he did it in the preseason, Holton Hill can do it, Adam Thielen is always an emergency backup for us. We have enough guys that can do it. Obviously we’re going to miss Marcus [Sherels] and what he brings to the table. 

Q: On the one Brandon Zylstra had where the guy had the interference, would you have liked him to have waved for a fair catch there?

A: It wouldn’t have mattered either way for the penalty, but probably. He said he looked up and thought we had a chance. It’s just his youth and enthusiasm, which you got to be a little courageous in order to be a punt returner anyway and I think he’s got both of those, which is a good thing.

Q: Was that Detroit taking advantage of a new returner?

A: Maybe. I think when they tried to take advantage of the new returner is when they had the punt before that. It was a plus-50 punt and Sam Martin dropped, it’s called a nasty drop, nasty ball. It hits its oblong and it comes up and it’s a very, very difficult spin and Brandon stayed away from that one. That was trying to take advantage of a new returner and they’re smart enough to do that. I think this one was just bad timing on their gunner’s part.

Q: How do you coach whether to call for a fair catch or trying to make a man miss?

A: I think it’s experience. I think a young guy like Brandon [Zylstra] needs to air on the side of caution because like I told you guys a hundred times, it’s ball possession. It’s the number one thing we do – kickoff return, punt return. We have to get the ball back to the offense in the best field position possible, so when he goes back there he needs to understand that’s first and foremost on his mind. How do I coach it? I think you have to talk about different situations, you practice different situations, and then when they happen in the game you have to coach off that.

Q: Does it make you appreciate having Marcus Sherels back there when you are teaching and working with newer return guys?

A: Yeah, no doubt about it. Absolutely. You have a guy like Marcus back there you don’t even give it a second thought. You’re still coaching Marcus, you’re still getting him lined up correctly, you’re basing your returns off what Marcus’ strengths are. Obviously, it will be a little bit different this week, but I take a lot of pride in prepping guys all year long anyway. You don’t even skip a beat if a guy gets hurt at the L1 on kickoff we got two guys ready to fill his spot if we need to. One at a time, obviously. At the end of the day I think we do a good job of prepping the young guys. The practice squad guys understand when they get elevated, if Craig James gets elevated to the 53-roster and now he’s probably going to play this weekend, I would think. We need to have him ready to play on as many core special teams phases as we can.

Q: Why have the onside kick numbers plummeted so much and would you like to see them go back up?

A: I’d like to see them go up if we’re kicking them and I’d like to see them stay low if we’re on the hands team, to be quite honest. It is an exciting play. I think it’s down from 20 percent to 8 percent or whatever it is. I think part of that is because there is no running start. We’ll continue to evolve and continue to work on the different types of kicks that are going to be successful, some teams already have, we’ve already tried. Whether it’s in practice getting them ready for games. I think you need to have the right type of kick because there is no running start, they already have eight in the box, they’re going to bring up ten in that set up zone, like most teams did anyway on hands team. I think without the running start it makes it much more difficult.

Q: Do you ever think about different gimmicks to make that play more exciting?

A: I think that’s part of being busy, part of my job is to be creative whether it’s a punt fake, field goal fake, a creative way to take advantage of what a team is doing with their hands team, or whatever the case maybe. We try not to go into the game and have the same exact onside kick, the same exact same punt fake, the exact same field goal fake, we try to tweak it and make it hopefully be successful against the opponent that we’re facing. I think that’s what most good teams do and that’s what we try to do every week. That’s part of it. I don’t know if gimmicky is the right word, but you’re trying to put your team in the best position possible to be successful.

Q: What can the league do to change more end game scenarios if the onside kick is too dangerous?

A: I don’t think the onside kick is too dangerous. I think with the emphasis on staying away from the helmet-to-helmet type of hits, with the no running starts, and those type of things. I think our job as coaches is to create situations where we can be successful with the rules that are in place because I think the new kickoff, kickoff return rules have been very beneficial for our game. I think the numbers, I haven’t seen them, but I’ve heard the concussion numbers are way down, so we’re going in the right direction which is a good thing for our players. It’s a good thing for our game. I think the onside kick success rate will go up a little bit as we get more creative with the types of kicks that we use. That’s just my opinion.

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