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Transcript: Coordinators Addressed the Media on Tuesday

Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards

Just finished up our first practice this morning, getting ready for the second this afternoon. Guys are continuing to work hard as we get ready for this last preseason game going into Buffalo. Really looking forward to seeing a lot of the young guys go out and compete this week and finish strong here throughout the preseason.

Q: How did Shamar Stephen look to you when he first got out there in the preseason?

A: We thought he did a nice job. You can tell, they tried to trap him a couple of times inside and he really did a nice job of reading his keys and being able to squeeze it off and not let them get north and south on us. He really got some good push in the pocket in the first and second down passes when he was in there. He did a great job there, so he looked like he came out and was ready to go.

Q: What do you like most about the leap Jayron Kearse has made?

A: I think this is the most comfortable, and I think last week was probably one of the better games that he had. You could see him making a lot of plays throughout the course of the game when he was in there taking reps. Just his command when he’s out there, the communications. I think him feeling comfortable and the guys feeling comfortable with him, and let’s face it, he comes to compete and loves to compete. You can just tell it every time he steps on the field.

Q: Do you feel that Jayron Kearse identifies the offensive plays faster?

A: I think that that goes hand in hand with now all of a sudden he’s not thinking about not only what you got to do, but what the other team is trying to do to us. As guys keep progressing throughout the system, that’s one thing that comes for them. It’s a lot easier to react because now they’re not thinking as much as far as the assignment they have to do.

Q: What do you think about the contributors behind Mackensie Alexander at the slot spot?

A: We’ve got a lot of guys that we’ve repped inside, and really have alternated different guys in there. We feel pretty good about the work that they’ve done so far, and it’ll be just as critical this week going out and have another consistent performance inside in the slot. But we look forward to keep progressing with those guys. Just as we get into next week and the game preparation, we know pretty much the skill set of a lot of those guys that we worked in there and how we’ll use them moving forward.

Q: How eager are you to get Mike Hughes back?

A: We look forward to him getting back. We just took him off PUP as you know yesterday, so we look forward to him getting back into the flow of being able to contribute.

Q: Can you explain the value of making the right decisions for practice squad guys and what it’s done for the team in the past?

A: I think Rick [Spielman] and his staff do a great job of recognizing the skill set of what we require positionally, especially defensively. Sort of like the developmental qualities that those players have, whether it’s length, whether it’s size, whether it’s speed, for what we’re going to ask them to do. Our coaches do a good job of working with those guys throughout the year on the practice squad. You can just name them, there’s a lot of guys that have made big jumps here just over the last couple of years that we’ve been here, coming from the practice squad and then becoming contributors for us on defense.

Q: How tough are those decisions?

A: They’re really tough. Any time you’re working with players through as long of a period as we are, you want to see those guys develop. But we’re limited to the numbers that we can have, so our goal is that if you’re not going to be here on our roster, hopefully somebody else will be able to see you progress and be able to pick you up.

Q: What is your level of concern with the depth at cornerback?

A: I think our philosophy is, and I think Coach Zimmer has said this, we’ve always taken it as keep developing the guys that you got here. Keep developing the guys that we’re practicing with, and it’s always the next man up. So that’s kind of the way we approach it, and we just look for these young guys to keep continuing to grow and progress through this week and as we go up into the season.

Q: How are the young cornerbacks performing?

A: They’ve done a good job thus far. They’ve really transitioned from college into a lot of the fundamentals and techniques that we’re doing. We’re just looking for them to consistently do that from day to day and from week to week and be able to take it from a practice field out to the game.

Q: Why do you think this team had so much success in developing guys in the secondary?

A: I think you got to give credit, number one, to our scouting department, again of recognizing the skills set of those players. And then our coaches when they get in here, our players that have been here, everybody coming together and collaborating to increase their knowledge of what we’re asking them to do, whether it’s from a schematic standpoint, whether it’s from a technique, fundamental [standpoint]. And it’s the culture that we have here. Our older guys and experience guys, they see the potential in these guys and reach out and try to help them also. I think it’s a combination of all those things working together.

Q: Is it also a matter of patience with the coaching staff?

A: Patience is a strong word, and that’s something I know we definitely have to work through. I think it’s their willingness to come to work hard every day and know that they’re going to get coached hard every day. I think it’s a culmination of both of those things working hand in hand, and you can just see them getting better hopefully from day to day and from game to game.

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski

Good morning, good workout this morning with these guys out here and we have another opportunity with the other guys that are going to come out here, some of the younger players. Get another good workout in and then get on an airplane to head to Buffalo. Great opportunity for our players to get one more shot in front of the lights and show what they’re made of.

Q: What are you looking for in this week’s game?

A: Certainly, you get to see some younger players that maybe haven’t gotten a ton of reps so far in the games. That’s exciting for them and for us in the evaluation process. Then it’s just a matter of going out there and doing the same things that they’ve been doing on the practice field, see if it carries over from the practice field to the game.

Q: Are there specific things you’re looking for from the guys that are battling for roster spots?

A: Specifically, you’re always looking for guys that are assignment sound, playing with great effort, doing what they’re being coached to do out here on the field. Again, it’s taking what we’re doing out here and taking it right to the game field. You don’t want the rep or you don’t want the being under the lights to affect their technique.

Q: How often does this fourth preseason game really change your mind on whether or not a player may make the team?

A: I think over the years you’ve seen guys that have really performed well in this game, which is great. Again, I’ll look at some of the younger players. I’m excited to see them play. I’ve seen it on the practice field. They haven’t maybe gotten a ton of reps in these games, but I’ve seen where guys have really had a great performance. The truth is the whole league is watching these games. It’s not like we’re not looking forward to seeing these guys work. We need to get our work done and we need to have this as part of the evaluation.

Q: After watching the tape, what frustrated you about the first half of the Arizona game?

A: What we talked about is the big thing is the little things. We’re always going to harp on the details and specifically when we’re talking about details, we’re talking about alignments, assignments, techniques. There were way too many breakdowns by multiple positions in those first 25 plays. It was something that we went into that meeting room and we identified it and we’re looking forward to correcting it.

Q: What’s the most growth you’ve seen from Olabisi Johnson?

A: I think Olabisi has performed well in the games and then out here in the practice field. He is a smarter player so we’re asking a lot of him and then when it came time in that New Orleans game or in this last ball game in the second half, there were opportunities to make plays on the ball and make plays after the catch and I think he made those plays. It’s not something that we have to project. We’ve seen him do it.

Q: Now that you’ve been able to see Garrett Bradbury, Pat Elflein and Josh Kline work together in a few games, what are your impressions of the interior of the offensive line?

A: Kind of really what we’ve seen in practice. I think those guys communicate well. They work really hard. They’re physical football players. They’re battling in there in the run game and the pass game. I think it’s a good mix of a group interior-wise. They have the right demeanor certainly that we’re trying to have with our offense.

Q: What’s the value of selecting the right players for the practice squad?

A: Our scout staff works really hard on identifying those guys that we can develop because player development is so big in this league. Certainly, there’s guys on our roster now and over the course of time there’s guys that come from other teams in the course of a season, so we take a lot of pride in developing those young players and it starts with our scouting staff that identifies those guys.

Q: Have you seen the energy that Kyle Sloter is able to bring to the team when he enters the game?

A: I think Kyle certainly is a player where when he comes in the game, you saw it, he produced in that ballgame last week and I think for him, it’s just putting one good day in front of another. The quarterback position, when you step into the huddle, your job is to make those 10 players believe and perform. Certainly, in that second half I was pleased with what the guys did moving the football down the field and ultimately winning the football game for us.

Q: What can you learn about yourself as a play caller in the preseason?

A: So much of it is we’re still in evaluation mode so you don’t want to tip the scales in either direction because you need to see players perform different duties. You can’t go into a game and say I’m going to throw it every time because then you’re doing a disservice to the evaluation of your run game or vice versa. Certainly in the preseason, I’m sure we have tendencies and we’ll take a look at those and make sure that we’re aware of them but what we try not to do is call the game with something in mind that doesn’t have to do with player evaluation or running our system.

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf

First off, I was pleased with how our guys played against Arizona. I think we made some improvements in a lot of the phases. The coverage phases were a little bit better. There’s still a lot of stuff to clean up before we start the season off. I’m excited about Buffalo, playing Buffalo this Thursday. I think it’s going to be great opportunity for our young guys to showcase their abilities and what they can do. Get some things corrected from the last game and continue the evaluation process whether it’s with our coverage players, our return players, our returners, our specialists. It will be another good opportunity for us this Thursday night.

Q: How did the players react when Mike Zimmer said they have to kick it in gear on special teams?

A: It’s definitely a positive for me. I think they understand how important he puts an emphasis on special teams. We all put an important emphasis on special teams, but I think he’s been doing that more so at least since I’ve been here. If you’re going to make this team, the bottom of our roster has to be comprised of special teams players and I think he understand how important that is. That could take us to the next level, hopefully.

Q: How does what you currently have on special teams compare to when you were coming in and what you thought you had?

A: I think it’s just you get to know the players a little bit more. We got to fit the pieces of the puzzle. We’re still working that. That’s still a work in progress. I’ve been pleased with when you come in and it’s OTA’s and it’s shorts and helmets or not even helmets in OTA’s, you know, we start training camp and all that stuff, you don’t really get a clear picture until you get the pads on. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with where our guys are at and having played against them in the past, the last two years, you expect certain players to perform. The C.J. Ham guys, those are the guys that you know are dependable. My job is to keep developing these young guys that we drafted or that we got as free agents.

Q: How did you evaluate Kaare Vedvik’s two misses on Saturday?

A: I mean it’s disappointing. It’s unacceptable. He knows that. Hopefully this weekend we’ll get more opportunities. We plan on playing all the guys as much as we possibly can. Again, it’s just depends on the reps. That’s the biggest thing. Prior to this game, we had six total punt reps the first two games and then this one we had a little bit more. I’m never cheering for punt reps, don’t get me wrong, but at the same time it’s just opportunities for us.

Q: What do you see your job is as far as reacting to Kaare Vedvik’s misses and then building him back up?

A: Just finding out what the mistake is, that’s the biggest thing. He understands it. He’s very self-aware which is a huge positive for a young specialist. He’s very self-aware of what he has to get corrected so that’s a positive. I think that’s the biggest thing and then reapplying it, just getting him more reps with our guys. He’s gotten reps with (Chad) Beebe this week, Matt (Wile). We keep working all those guys together and I’m glad that we’ve had the opportunity to do that all throughout training camp, not just in those team periods that sometimes you see. We also build individual periods for those guys and give them a bigger body of work.

Q: How do you not let any sort of confidence issues bleed over into letting those two misses affect him potentially as he’s competing for that punting job?

A: He’s a confident guy. That’s a thing that we liked about him the most. He brings a very professional attitude and a very good outlook on everything. For him, those are just two missed kicks, two opportunities that he regrets. At the same time, I know if he could have those over again, he’d love to have them. Getting him to understand those are important game reps is not hard because he understands it. That’s been a positive too. Like I said, he’s a good pro. He’s a young pro, but he’s been around some really good veterans throughout his young career and he understands what he has to get fixed.

Q: Who will kick on Thursday?

A: Right now we’re scheduled to have both of them. It just depends on the reps, that’s going to be the biggest thing. So both of them are going to have the opportunity, both of them will go through pregame, and we’ll get them ready.

Q: Will their workload be split by half or by attempt?

A: Usually it depends. Usually it’s by half. It depends on if we have six field goal attempts the first half, then we’ll definitely make the change. Or if we have six or seven the first quarter, we’ll try to get the other guy some reps, get him equal reps. But we know what Dan (Bailey) can do. He’s got a very good body of work that he’s had, and I think it’s important to get Kaare (Vedvik) some reps and Dan. The season is coming pretty quickly, so they both have to be ready.

Q: Have you ever seen this much instability on special teams this close to the season?

A: I don’t think its instability. If you look around at what’s going on around the league, there’s a lot of teams that are very unaware of who their kicker is going to be, or unsure. I think we use all this time just to evaluate the guys, as Coach Zimmer said last week and like I stated before. We have to use every single week to evaluate. Every single minute that we have with these guys is used to evaluate them and get them as many reps as possible. There’s a lot of teams who are unsure of who their kicker is going to be or who their punter is going to be.

Q: What is it that you want to see out Matt Wile, Dan Bailey and Kaare Vedvik in the next few days?

A: We’re going to have hopefully a good day of practice today. Their tempo to the ball is so important, jus their continuity. We’ve been mixing and matching guys, and we have an idea of what the combinations are or at least have been in the past. I think we’re still in the process of evaluating that, and I know that there’s not a lot of time before the season starts, but I think the good thing is that they have gotten so many reps that we understand and they understand who they gel with maybe a little bit more. Then the next day they get surprised, because we’re making great corrections and it’s a new day.

Q: What do you like about what C.J. Ham can do on special teams?

A: Great pro, very reliable, good blocker, smart, physical. He checks off all those boxes. He’s a very good person to have with us.

Q: What kind of strides has Olabisi Johnson made in the return game?

A: He’s done a good job. We’ve gotten him a ton of reps in this preseason, both as a returner, punt returner, kickoff returner, and a core player. So I’ve been pleasantly surprised with him and his abilities. He can run, we played him at some gunner, we’ve had him do some PP (personal protector). He’s a very smart guy, always comes and works as far as extra game film and game reps. He’s been really good with that, so hopefully he’ll have a role.

Q: What can you do to bring some of the special teams consistency that you had in Miami here?

A: Those guys weren’t a finished product either. We had a rookie kicker last year, and then Matt Haack was a second-year guy. John Denney was a very good veteran in the room, so the biggest thing that they had to building was just the continuity with the reps together. I think that’s the same here, just keep getting these guys are ton of reps and good things will happen.

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