*Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards *
Q: Now that you're going up against a mobile quarterback in Colin Kaepernick, how does that affect how many guys you send after him?
A: We've been conscientious of that and working it all week. He's definitely a guy that can make a lot of plays with his feet, whether he is scrambling to throw or scrambling to run. He buys time in the pocket. Guys adjust their routes down the field, so we've made an emphasis of that this week as we're working through our different packages that we're running against him. We've definitely been conscientious of it and guys have been working with their rush lanes and those kind of things.
Q: Your focus this offseason has been keeping guys in the pocket, is this a good test for you?
A: There's no doubt about it. He's probably one of the elite guys as far as moving around in the pocket, being able to keep the play alive. He's made a lot of plays – like in the preseason and last year – with his feet, especially in the third down areas and those kind of things. So from that aspect of it, yes, we are definitely conscientious of him.
Q: What is the biggest thing you've done to work on it after having trouble with mobile quarterbacks escaping the pocket and extending the plays?
A: I think the biggest that we've done is we worked in our different packages on it, we talked about the rush lanes, and we're just working through our plan as far as what we're going to do game planning-wise through the course of the week. Guys have been made conscientious of it and that's one of the things like you said we've got to definitely be conscious of.
Q: Are you able to learn much from the 49ers offense from the preseason?
A: I know they had a change in the coordinator and who is calling the plays and those kind of things, but yeah, we've done our due diligence of seeing what they've done in the preseason and seeing what they've done not only last year, but years past. We've kind of worked a lot of different aspects from what they're doing offensively and what we suspect they'll do offensively.
Q: How do you see your group right now and do you think they're ready?
A: I think they're dialed in. This is the first game week that we've really concentrated on only one opponent and I think they're dialed in to what it is we're trying to do in the different packages. From that aspect of it, I think we've just got to continue on and finish strong through the week and then we've got to transfer our practice to the game and I think that's what we're looking for them to do.
Q: How did Robert Blanton do in the preseason?
A: I thought Robert did some good things. I think he was conscientious of the things that we were trying to ask him to get better at. I think he worked well through what we asked him to do and he competed and that's the biggest thing. We want competition at each position whether it's Week 1, whether it's Week 2, whether it's Week 16. He came in prepared, ready to go, it was a lot easier transition for him coming from last year to this year because he had knowledge of what it is we were trying to get accomplished. The things that we asked him to get better at, I think he worked hard to get better at.
Q: Is there one area that he specifically improved on?
A: Yeah, Robert's a very smart guy, he's very conscientious of what we're trying to do schematically. He understands what offenses are trying to do to us, he does a good job of communicating the different splits of receivers and what we're trying to get done. Those are the things that he brings to the table whether it's in a run or in a pass, things that we ask him to work on, you can tell that he's worked on it throughout the offseason. It's transferred into training camp. Looking forward to keep getting better as we keep working down the road.
Q: How do Eric Kendricks and Gerald Hodges differ in what they bring to the table?
A: Eric is a very mobile guy, he's made a lot of plays in coverage and those kind of things. Gerald has been the same way. He's good in space, can cover in space, very physical with his hands, being able to get on and off blocks. Both of those guys, they're different in styles, they're different in stature, bring a little bit different to the table as far as what type of Mike linebackers is in there in the different situations.
Q: What sort of things do you do to cover a speedy down-the-field guy like Torrey Smith?
A: Like every week, I'm going to get up here and say the same thing. Every scheme creates a new matchup problem, so we know he can get out, he can run, he can stretch the field pretty good. So there's things that we do technique-wise, those guys preparing for us going into this week that we'll definitely have to be conscious of.
Q: Does practicing against a guy like Mike Wallace prepare you for speedy receivers like Torrey Smith?
A: There is no doubt about it. Our receivers – they're a competitive group, they do a good job of coming to work every day. Mike and the rest of the receiving group has really helped us, you can tell. We have to go out there and compete every day against that caliber of talent. So from that aspect of it, we've had to do that every day which is good for us.
Q: What makes Anquan Boldin difficult to cover?
A: Well, he's an excellent route runner, he's very aggressive, he's willing to go block, he's a complete receiver. We tell our guys we've seen him on tape. He's been consistent throughout his career at doing those things, very astute at being able to get in and out of the cut, and get open and with the quarterback buying time, next thing you know, you've got to keep your eyes on him because he'll re-work the route. So from that aspect of it, he's been very successful at it and we've got to be very conscious of him especially in the slot.
Q: Do you think your secondary matches up well with their receiving corps?
A: We're going to see. We feel good about the guys we've got working in the secondary. Like anything else, any given day, you've got to go out there and you've got to compete. That's why we try and go out there and compete each and every day because that's what it's going to be Sunday.
Q: Is this as long of a preseason as you've ever been through?
A: No, actually I've had the privilege of doing five games in preseason probably about six times in my career. It's been a long one, but I've been through a couple of them, so from that aspect of it I was kind of used to it, but it's still five games and extra days in camp. I know guys that haven't been through it, it's a new experience for them.
Q: Are the younger guys really itching to get out there?
A: Yeah, no doubt about it. And you know it's going to transfer from going in the preseason game speed to going to regular season, so just getting them up to speed about what that transition is going to be like. It'll be a new experience for them.
Q: How do you describe that transition to guys like Eric Kendricks and Trae Waynes when they have never experienced it before?
A: You can just tell even with the guys that are here as we're practicing, the focus in on more specific detailed things that we're going to do game plan-wise. It makes it a little bit easier than say like the preseason and you're preparing everybody for all of those situations if you know what I mean. We can narrow down specifically what area or what part of the game that we're working in whether it's the red zone, whether it's third down and kind of narrow down what it is as far as our install that we're going to carry. As we're going through the preseason, those preseason games a lot of time, we don't work on the opponent that much, so it's not as dialed in and the focus into what they're doing, creating different matchups because you've got so many guys on your team you're trying to work, you're trying to prepare everybody for.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer
Obviously a very exciting time around here, here at Winter Park, our first ball game Monday night, looking forward to it. Five preseason games is a lot, I thought we saw a lot of good things in the preseason, I think we've kept the right guys and we're excited about what the future holds for this season.
Q: Is Marcus Sherels your punt returner?
A: Yes. Yeah, I would think so. Always working Stefon Diggs, he's always ready. Adam Thielen is always ready, but Marcus [Sherels], he's ready to go.* *
Q: Did Marcus Sherels' muffed punt against Tennessee change your decision at all?
A: No, I don't think so, not for me. It's one of those things, I think he lost a little bit of focus, he was playing a bunch of defense. Again, he wouldn't make those excuses and I'm not really making excuses for him. His technique was a little bit off, we've got that corrected this week and he's back to Marcus.
Q: What are some of the challenges when some young guys are elevated to starters due to injuries and how does that impact special teams?
A: Really it's like that every year. One year it might be linebackers, the next year it might be the safeties, next year it might be offensive linemen that were on kickoff return that are elevated to starters. Every year poses its challenges, but that's what I love about this job, it's not easy, not a lot of people like doing it, not a lot of people want to do it, but I enjoy it, I kind of relish that challenge part of it. We've just got to put the right guys in the right spots to help us be successful on Monday night.
Q: How has Trae Waynes been doing in the special team phase of the game?
A: Trae [Waynes] has been great. He's getting better, he's got a great attitude, very intelligent, obviously he's a phenomenal athlete. I'm excited that he's on some of our core teams.
Q: What do the three defensive end backups bring to the table on special teams?
A: When we look at those guys, we look at tight ends, defensive ends that are athletic like those three guys are, and linebackers all kind of lumped together as core guys, or they're our bigger core guys. We've got the safeties, corners and receivers and some of the running back, fullback type guys and then you've got tight end, linebacker, defensive end type guys that they fill those type of roles. They're just outstanding athletes, we've got a bunch of guys that have bought into special teams on this team and I'm excited.
Q: What role does Zach Line play on special teams?
A: He's kind of like that linebacker type guy that we're talking about. He can play on all four core phases. He is also a ball handler, so we can use him at halfback, one of our off returners on the kickoff return team. He can play a lot of roles because he's smart, he's tough and he can run.
Q: When you evaluate Blair Walsh was part of his preseason miscues mental?
A: I think of part of the thing, he was overthinking a lot of stuff. Anytime you have a few misses early in preseason you start over-thinking things and what we've tried to do is try to slow him down a little bit in terms of his approach and obviously the thought process, I don't want him thinking as much because he's a real smart guy. We have got to make sure he's not overthinking things. Same thing with Jeff [Locke], he's a smart guy that sometimes over-thinks things and when they don't think as much and they go out there and do what they've been doing in practice all week they're much more successful.
Q: With Blair Walsh, are those some of the same things you worked with him on when he was coming out of college?
A: Absolutely. Sure, he was rushing things and real long on his last step and trying to not slow him down for the whole operation, but kind of slow his approach down, so he's still leaving at the same time. His time should be the same, but he's not launching himself into the kick there at the end of the approach.
Q: Have you ever had headset issues like they had last night in New England?
A: I'll be honest with you, I've never used a headset in the NFL. I don't want to use them. I talk to one guy besides Ryan Ficken and our players, I talk to the head coach. Every now and then I might remind the quarterback coach, 'hey, we don't need to take a sack here on 3rd down right in the cusp of field goal range, or punting.' Coach Zimmer, I'll find him, I'm pretty good at finding the head coach when he wants to tell me something.
Q: How has Cordarrelle Patterson been throughout the heading into the regular season?
A: Yeah, his head's straight. I think the Dallas return really helped him, I think it helped our whole group. We had one quality return earlier in preseason but Marcus [Sherels] returned it. Cordarrelle [Patterson] finally got an opportunity to return a ball and he did a great job with it. Did exactly what we asked him to do, it was a well-blocked play. We're hoping that that's kind of a precursor of things to come for our kickoff return team this season.
Q: It looks like Jeff Locke has been hitting his stride this preseason how do you evaluate where he's at heading into the regular season?
A: The big thing with Jeff [Locke], he's a very talented young punter. He's getting better and better and better, the thing that I'm going to stress with him throughout the whole year is his consistency, because it's real hard to be consistent in TCF [Bank Stadium] with the winds, but if he hits the ball consistently, he will cut through a lot of those bad-weather type punts. I think he's got a lot of confidence right now and hopefully that continues to build as the season goes on.
Q: Did you see Locke establish consistency in the preseason?
A: Still striving for it. It was there, it was there at certain times he'd hit three or four good punts in a row and then the one against Tennessee he didn't hit very well and then he came back and hit another one that was an outstanding punt. Like anything else with our specialists we're striving for that consistency, that's going to help our team win ball games.