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Transcript: Coordinators Addressed the Media Thursday

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner

Q: In your experience is it uncommon to have six wide receivers active for a game?

A: The situations that I've been in, at times we've had six, usually it's five. The numbers, to me, depend on your personnel, not only your personnel but the special teams contributions and then how your defense is put together.

Q: Is the Rams defense similar to what you see in the Vikings during practices?

A: No. They're totally different. They're very good like our defense is, but then I think the comparison stops there. It's like I say, each week it's a new challenge, it's a new group and this team does some things that are very unique to the Rams and they're very good at the things they do.

Q: Can you pinpoint a reason as to why you've been unable to capitalize with touchdowns on your redzone possessions?

A: This biggest thing that's happened to us in the redzone is we've not run the ball, really, I break it down different ways – our issues have come between the 10 [yard line] and the five [yard line], we've tried to run the ball in there and through a stretch of four or five possessions in there, we had situations that kept us from running the ball, whether it was someone getting beat, it was a mental error, whether it was a miscommunication. We need to run the ball down in there, we need to run the ball better, and I'm not talking about average per attempt because when you're down inside the 10, your average per attempt is not going to be good. Your goal line, obviously, takes away from your average per attempt. What you're trying to do is stay on schedule, create a situation where you can get inside the five and have the ability to run the ball or throw the ball. There was a stretch there where we've struggled and it's more about us than I think about what the defense was doing.

Q: As a play caller how do you try to change up tendencies?

A: People get too caught up in tendencies, in my opinion. We attack looks, if we have a look that's good, which we've had, then we want to run the best play for that circumstance. Then it comes down to execution. Execution is way, way heavier in my thinking than tendencies.

Q: Have you been able to use Shaun Hill as a resource to prepare for St. Louis?

A: To me those things are overrated. They know Shaun's here, we know Shaun is here. Anything that he might be able to tell us, if it's a code word, a check or something, it's too easy to have an alternative check. We obviously have a variety of ways we go about doing different things and different checks we get to against different looks and they do the same thing. I don't think it's an advantage. I think it may be comforting to Teddy [Bridgewater] a little bit to talk about a certain player - a corner or a safety, but I think we always have relied on and what gives you the best ability to understand a team is what you see on tape.

Q: How difficult is the Rams pass rush scheme for running backs to pick up?

A: To me, again, they've got an excellent scheme but the whole key to their scheme is the personnel. They create individual matchups, one-on-one matchups and they're really good and they're really hard to block. We have to handle it as a group. We have to handle it with the line, with the backs, with the quarterback, with the receivers, everyone has to be on the same page so we execute what we're trying to get done.

Q: Is Gregg Williams one of the more aggressive defensive coordinators in the league?

A: Jeff Fisher and Gregg Williams, that's the way they've coached and prepared their team for the last 25 years, so yeah. They have an attitude where they're not going to sit back, they're going to try to create. That's where the similarity comes with our defense, you really see it in our defense on 3rd down. With them, I think you see it in any down and distance.

Q: What is it about What Coach Zimmer and you as a staff do that allows guys to avoid penalties?

A: I think it's guys buying into what we're teaching. A lot of the penalties you get offensively are holding penalties. I think Jeff [Davidson] does a great job of teaching these guys how to block, how to use their technique and not have to depend on holding. The other part of it is just a matter of concentration and executing and to me, it's doing the same things over and over and over again so you get good at them. To me, we unfortunately had a couple of false starts that took us out of a couple of drives last week and that's been the first we've had on the road, with the crowd noise. I think our guys have done a great job handling that and you have to be able to do that and then we've been very good with limiting penalties at home. 

Q: Stefon Diggs seems to play with swagger, do you like to see that out of your receivers?

A: I like to see it out of all players, you want to see guys go play. I don't refer to it as swagger, I think it's an intensity and it's guys who love to play. I think it shows up in different guys in different ways. Diggs just happens to be out there in the middle of the field and people tend to follow the ball.

Q: Late in the Bears game, the two final drives, what stood out to you about Teddy Bridgewater and the offensive line's performance on those drives?

A: The biggest thing is when you get in those situations, as Teddy said yesterday, relying on your preparation. We spent a lot of time throughout the entire offseason, during training camp then during the season working on the two-minute situations. That game was actually - we get the ball with four minutes so you have a little more time. We had what could have been a disastrous sack on the first play and then you've got to make a play and we made a big play on a 19-yard run that gave us a chance. The first ball he completed to [Stefon] Diggs, we actually threw in the two-minute at the end of the half and he was blanketed by the corner. Sometimes it's a matter of how you execute the play and going out and making a play. We've been able to do that in a number of games since Teddy has been the quarterback and he's got a lot of confidence in those situations. The key to it is making the play. We had drives in the first half where we had opportunities to make plays and we had a breakdown in protection, we didn't read the play properly, there's three or four plays like that or we would have had a lot more success in the first half.

Q: What does it say about Stefon Diggs where he can come away with a big play at the end of the game after being shut down early in the game?

A: I don't think anyone shut anyone down. I think sometimes plays come up differently and opportunities – the play, they singled him up and they were actually doubling Mike Wallace on the touchdown play and he's singled up, he ran a great route and the guy got in a bad position. Teddy, to me, I saw where some people said the receivers bailed Teddy out. Teddy, that was as good of play that he's had this year because they're in a four-man rush and you can get hurried up, we had the tight end in for extra protection. He actually looked to Wallace, he looked to CJ [Charles Johnson], then he came back to Diggs and to me, he made a hell of throw because he brought Diggsy back inside and gave him a chance to take off and run with it. To me, that play, I know Diggs made a good play, but it was great protection, it was great poise and presence by Teddy and then it was a heck of a route. Once they're spread out and playing man and trying to double the slot receiver, if the one guy doesn't make a tackle you've got a lot of room to run.


Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards

Good to be back home for a home game this week in front of our home fans. Our guys are excited coming off another win within the division, so we're tuned in this week facing another tough opponent in St. Louis, who have really done a nice job offensively and I know you've talked about their defense. It'll be a big challenge for us this week as we progress through the week. Questions?

Q: How does their offense look differently with a new quarterback and running back compared to last year when you played them in Week One?

A: I think that's primarily it. Plus they have a new offensive coordinator, so schematically it's a little bit different. But make no bones about it, they do a good job in the run game, which I'm sure you guys have seen and the passing game, they do a good job of getting the ball out and those kind of things. So we've got to do a good job as far as what we're trying to get accomplished this week as we work through this week.

Q: What are the things they are doing with Tavon Austin on offense?

A: They're doing a lot of different things. They're moving him around from anywhere – from in the backfield, he's out at a slot receiver, he's out at the X, so they're moving him around quite a bit just like we normally see from week-to-week where teams have a receiver that they want to give special attention to. They move him around before we can know exactly where he's going to be all the time.

Q: How is Terence Newman staying up to speed at his age?

A: I think he does a great job and has done a good job throughout his career of taking care of himself off the field as far as paying attention to the details and those kind of things. We talk about him being a true pro as far as the meeting room and all of those things,  but outside of the building as far as taking care of his body, eating right, sleeping right, he's paying attention to all of the details that allow him to be successful at this point in time in his career.

Q: As a defensive coordinator do you like Harrison Smith's hard hitting mentality?

A: No doubt. Across the board, that's one thing that we want. We want that physical toughness shown at every position. As guys rally to the football, they're getting there with a purpose. That's one things we try to preach and teach all the time. Our guys really do a nice job of doing that.

Q: Is there any concern of him getting hurt when he plays with that mentality?

A: I think guys are smart enough to know their bodies and the situations that they get in. I think you've got to go out there and you've got to play as hard as you can each Sunday. I think our guys do that and that's the biggest thing. You can't go out there worried about injuries or any of those things. You can get hurt walking across the street. I think our guys are smart, I think they play with a physical toughness and they get to the football with a purpose.

Q: Is there a certain thing the players can do to protect themselves when they come up for a hard hit?

A: I think the one thing that we try to teach is the approach, the angle and the finish. Those are the things that we try to work on in individual [drills] that try to transfer over into a team segment. So that's something that we work all the time, so it's not something where there's just reckless abandonment.

Q: What kind of stress does Todd Gurley pose on a defense and what do you have to do as a defense to stop him?

A: He is an explosive runner, he's got excellent vision. For a young guy to come in and have the vision – when he hits the line of scrimmage, he hits it at full speed and he's got the acceleration once he gets to the second level to go the distance. There's a lot of good backs in this league – he's exceptional for a young guy to come in and have the vision and the ability to make those kind of breaks, but every week it seems like we're facing a tough running back. Everybody has got them, you just have some guys that are ahead of others and for him at his young age to come in and have success that he's had right away, it's definitely something that we've got to make sure we're handling as far as schematically, where guys are, where they're fitting, where they stand in their gaps, block protection, getting on and off blocks and making plays, so that's been a big emphasis for us all week.

Q: What are your thoughts on the progression of Danielle Hunter?

A: He's done a good job. We've added more to his plate as we've progressed, as he's gotten more comfortable schematically and technique and fundamentals of the things that we're asking him to do. I think Coach [Andre] Patterson has done an excellent job of bringing him along, being able to tell what he can handle, what he can't handle. And he's just gotten better each week. As we keep progressing through the season, I think he'll continue to get better, understand the rush angles, understand those things that are a lot different than probably what he was accustomed to before and understand what we're trying to do schematically to use his skillset.

Q: Is there any concern that some players might not be able to play this week on defense?

A: We're just going to work through the course of the week and see how things go. With injuries you never know, but we're just going to keep working through the weeks, the guys that we've got available to work each day and get them prepared to go this weekend.


Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer

Going to be a lot of sleepless nights this week, St. Louis Rams, very good special teams unit. They do a lot of tricky, gadgety-type of stuff with all of their phases. Punt, they've got different formations, they run fakes, their punter can throw the ball – he's about 6'6" and he can see the whole field. Kickoff, they'll run a surprise onside, kickoff return, they've run reverses, so we have our work cut off for us coming off of two great road wins and now we've got to go home in front of our great fans and go get a win.

Q: What makes Tavon Austin so dangerous?

A: Tavon runs bigger than he is. He's not a real big guy, but he runs so hard, he can break tackles, got incredible quickness and very, very good speed, good vision and I know he plays a lot of offense and does a lot of good things for them on that side of the ball, but on special teams he's a big-time punt return threat. 

Q: How would you evaluate your coverage units this year?

A: Blair [Walsh] is kicking off well. I think we're covering kicks well. Probably don't have enough inside the 20 tackles as I would like – a couple have gone out to the 24, 25 and that's okay. We're doing okay and we expect as the season wears on we're going to have hopefully more inside the 20 kicks, but we're playing sound. You have guys going in and out, you have a lot of different guys covering because of the injuries we've had and guys playing on offense and defense a little bit more and we're trying to give those guys a break. But at the end of the day, I think kickoff coverage has been good. Punt coverage has been good as well. We've had a lot of plus-50 punts, which has helped us. Our offense has been driving the ball and we're punting in a situation in field positions that we normally don't punt it. A lot of times in year's past, we've punted from backed up a lot more and you tend to give up more yards that way. But Jeff [Locke] is doing a great job with his situational punting and as the season wears on with the bad weather, we're going to hope he continues that.

Q: When Marcus Sherels returns a punt for a touchdown, do you look at his special teams award as a team award because they blocked it up so well?

A:Yeah, that's a good point. A lot of times, any of these type of awards, they're going to be team awards on special teams. If it's Blair [Walsh], it's because the snap, the hold and the protection were really good. If it's our punter, it's because the coverage and the protection was really good. So any type of award for special teams and I think any of our guys who have won those awards would tell you the same thing – that it's more of a team award than anything else.

Q: What happened on Marcus Sherels return touchdown that allowed him to get freed on the sideline?

A: Danielle Hunter put great pressure on the punter. It wasn't a line drive punt, but it wasn't his best effort because he's got a big-time leg, Pat O'Donnell does. It was a punt that really worked for that return. We felt like we had an opportunity because the way the winds were where he was going to try to punt the ball, that we'd have a good situation where we could return a punt. The blocking was phenomenal as you guys saw. We shut down the gunner on the return side extremely well and finished him. And the big thing – you can block guys, but it's finishing downfield, legal blocks, guys making good decision so we don't get penalties and all of it worked together and they did a great job and we got a TD.

Q: Do you ever marvel at the way Marcus Sherels just sticks through everything that has been handed to him?

A: Yeah, nothing he does ever surprises me, whether it's punt coverage, kickoff coverage. I've got him on kickoff return now as an off returner, as a blocker. He returned a kick last week too – everybody forgets about that – but it was great communication between he and MyCole Pruitt on that shorter kick, stuff that we work on and he executed it very well. And then he had two tackles on kickoff. Nothing that he does surprises me. He's a fine, young man and a great young man to coach. The players love him and I just love the way he plays the game.

Q: Why has it been tough for Cordarrelle Patterson on kickoff returns?

A: We're not blocking well enough to be honest with you. I think our schemes are pretty good. I would like to change a couple of my calls because I'm pretty hard on myself; I'm my own worst critic so to speak. But at the end of the day we need to block better. He needs to set his returns a little better and he's got to hit the seam and then stay with the seam. Every return or every play has had something a little bit minute wrong it, whether it was the blocking or the way we set the return or maybe it was the scheme against that type of coverage. We've got to start putting it together because we need our kickoff return team to get going.

Q: As you guys work through that, do you still want him to return it when it's kicked deep like that?

A: I do because that's the only way we're going to get better and learn and continue to grow and continue to improve on that unit. But again, like we've talked about before, you have to be smart when you do that. Certain situations, you're up by 10 middle of the fourth quarter, take a knee if it's deep rather than put your offense in bad field position. But we've got to do a better job to help our offense in that unit.

Q: Is John Fassel a special teams coordinator most likely to pull off a trick play?

A: Yeah, John does a great job. I worked for John's father [Jim Fassel] with the Giants. He hired me in New York. Jim, I appreciated everything he did for me and then John who is a fine, young man and a fine football coach, but he's not afraid to pull anything off. And I think Coach [Jeff] Fisher is the same way. Coach Fisher was a special teams player, he was a punt returner when he played in the NFL and he loves special teams and he's very, very aggressive and they'll pull out all of the stops to beat us, so we've got to be prepared for all of them.

Q: Are there just a lot of young, inexperienced guys on the kickoff team? Is that maybe why that team isn't where you want it to be?

A: I think the more experienced guys are going to be a little bit better at it, but I 've got to do a better job coaching and they need to do a better job executing on game day.

Q: What do you think of the pressure Danielle Hunter can get rushing the punter?

A: He's the big pass rusher by trait and if I'm a wing on the punt team, I wouldn't want to block him. He did a really nice job against Chicago. I thought he should have blocked three punts to be honest with you. I hope that'll come as his experience gets better, but he did a really nice job of putting a lot of pressure on that punter on Sunday.

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