Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards
It's hard to believe next week about this time we will be done with our first preseason game, get a true evaluation on these guys under the lights in their first game situations. We're looking forward to that to get a chance to see them play and sort of see how some of these position battles continue to work out.
Q: Will you be rotating a lot of linebackers during the preseason games?
A: Yeah, we're going to look at guys and we want to see them against their quality starters rather than late in the game. That's what coach is talking about sometimes – you get some guys in there with the third unit and it's not a true evaluation of what they are going to see on Sunday. So from that aspect of it, that's why you see us moving a lot of guys around on the depth chart trying to get those matchups to see how they match up against some of the guys that are more experienced as far as what they are trying to do offensively.
Q: Is Anthony Barr as a defensive end going to be a possibility moving forward?
A: We did that all last year; we did it. He did it some in some games and that's one of the things that he has. He is a good pass rusher but it should also help him as we're blitzing off the outside edge from that aspect of it. But yes, that is a possibility as we progress through the rest of training camp and into the preseason, so we will just continue to on with that evaluation and keep working him with those things. But I think it's good for him whether he's a defensive end rushing outside or whether he's a linebacker coming off the outside edge.
Q: Gerald Hodges has been lining up at middle linebacker. Is there a timetable for when the starter will be announced at that position?
A: I think we've still got to continue through this process. That's what we've done consistently throughout the time we've been here. Coach Zimmer does a good job of recognizing a kid's skillset, what he brings to the table and then trying to get the best guys on the field by situation. So from that aspect of it, Gerald [Hodges] played some of the backer last year in sub [packages] and he's been doing a good job and focused in here at training camp. He's played both the Sam and the Will at the outside position, so we just moved him inside, give him a chance to compete there to get on the field at that position.
Q: Did Scott Crichton suffer an injury?
A: Yesterday. Coach [Zimmer] will probably fill you in on all the injuries. We're not really allowed to talk on the injuries, but yeah he's got a nagging injury right now and Coach, I'm sure, will address that in his press conference.
Q: What do you see from Captain Munnerlyn this year?
A: A lot more consistent, a lot more understanding about what we're trying to do leverage-wise and coverage and just how important it is to communicate underneath with the linebacker to make sure we get the correct pass-offs, being able to stay inside and play the run more physical. You can see those things as we're going through training camp and he's really trying to pay attention to those details that we've asked him to throughout the offseason, so from that aspect of it we're just looking for him to be consistent in those aspects of it. I think when he goes outside at corner, understanding the techniques as far as our press techniques and our cloud techniques that we're asking him to do. I think he feels a lot more comfortable and doesn't have to think about so many things as far as splits of receivers and releases and those kind of things just because he's had so many reps at it within our system.
Q: What's Terence Newman's experience in the slot?
A: I know he's done it in the past with Coach Zimmer, but we've been working him there the last couple days and some reps. Captain [Munnerlyn] had been a little bit injured as far as a nagging injury but we're trying to get our best people on the field, look at the skill sets and just see the different things, because you know like anybody, you go through the course of the season, guys are going to get hurt. So we're just trying to look at the different skillsets that guys bring to the table. [When] we get into a crunch or a situation where we've got to make a rotation, we're able to do that and they've got experience doing it.
Q: What is your comfort level with Terence Newman compared to Captain Munnerlyn in the slot?
A: Right now we're just going through the evaluation process whether he's done some good things when he's been in there. So we will look and see how he keeps going through the training camp and into the preseason and get a look at him some in there and just see how it's going.
Q: Do you plan on approaching this week as a normal game week in the upcoming preseason game against Pittsburgh?
A: It's not as going to be defined as like a game week situation as far as us game planning. We will look at Pittsburgh some, see the things that they do, come in, but our biggest thing is we don't want our guys to be out there worried about matchups and those kind of things. We want to line up and be able to go play fast, not be able to think as much and get the evaluation off of them, keeping it simple and letting them go play. So from that aspect of it, yeah, we're going to look at some of the stuff Pittsburgh does. We have looked at some of the stuff Pittsburgh does, but we're not going to get into really a big hard time game plan of what it is. We really don't do that a lot in the preseason.
Q: By playing Anthony Barr at defensive end is that you just taking advantage of his natural ability to pass rush?
A: Yeah, again by situation, Coach [Zimmer] is always trying to get the best eleven guys on the field and if that comes where we create a package where he's out there as a defensive end just like we did year, that will come to fruition. But for right now, we're just trying to refine his technique. He hadn't really done it a lot in the offseason this past offseason, so we're getting him back into pass rushing, which we did a lot of last year.
Q: What do you see from some of those other defensive ends?
A: They're continuing progress through training camp and again, they will be out here every day getting evaluation, but now all of a sudden next week at this time we will have an evaluation of them under the lights playing against a tough opponent in Pittsburgh. It's going to be a physical team and so, from that aspect of it, we just want to see them go through that process and we will know more about them as we continue on.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer
Great turnout the other night. Over 10,000 fans I heard and standing room only and what a great atmosphere. It was beautiful weather. We've got the greatest fans in the NFL, so it was a lot of fun.
Q: What led you to bring in an extra long snapper this year?
A: Some of the things and some of the inconsistencies that we had last year with that position needed to be cleared up and we felt like one of two things were going to happen. Either Cullen [Loeffler] was going to keep working like he always does and improve and help us win that way, or we're going to bring in somebody that could beat him out. So right now it's an open competition. They're both, like I said the other day, they're both being true professionals, they're both fine, young men and a pleasure to work with. Basically, when we get through the preseason, then we'll know who the best man is.
Q: Are you going to wait until preseason is over to make a decision?
A: I'd like to see them (in games). In practice, they're both working really hard and it's very, very even. I would like to get to the preseason games, the actual competition there, and see who wins the job.
Q: Did Kevin McDermott's previous relationship with Jeff Locke have anything to do with bringing him in?
A: It had nothing to do with it. I worked Kevin out when he came out of UCLA and I knew he was a very good snapper. He did a great job in San Francisco. He had some injury problems, worked with Baltimore and did a pretty good job there until he was hurt. So at the end of the day, we weren't going to bring anybody in because of that reason.
Q: You're familiar with Cordarrelle Patterson and Marcus Sherels. Does that mean you're giving Stefon Diggs more reps?
A: That's a great question. It's always up to the head coach how many reps these guys get, but I would like to see Stefon in game situations because I think as a punt returner and a kick-off returner, he's got a chance to help us.
Q: Has Stefon Diggs looked good so far in ball security?
A: When he first got here, he struggled catching the punts, whether it was off the jugs or whether it was off the punter's foot, but he's come a long ways. He's worked very, very hard, he's very coachable, watches extra tape, gets extra instruction from us. So, we feel like he's really developed into a much better punt and kick-off catcher and hopefully that will help translate to the field.
Q: Do you ever find yourself liking a guy but keeping him low in the back of your mind because you're guessing he won't make the team?
A: We look at the roster a lot and we obviously as a staff, talk about personnel a lot, as we should. But if a guy, a young man, is working very, very hard and he's trying to make the team on special teams, he's going to get the opportunity to make the team on special teams. Because what we tell these guys is that if there's not a spot here in Minnesota, there might be a spot somewhere else because they're all getting looked at, and every preseason rep is critiqued by every team in the league. So, if they work hard for me, and I've told them I'm going to give them an opportunity, I will give them an opportunity.
Q: How often does it happen, where a guy is a good special teams player and you really like him but you can't keep him because of his numbers?
A: Every year. Every year. There's probably one or two every year, and you kind of pick and choose your battles and work real hard to keep one guy over another guy. But at the end of the day, there's only 53 guys that are going to make the team and it's difficult for back-end of the roster guys. There's four or five guys you really want to keep, you might be able to keep only three of them. But it happens every year.
Q: Is there anyone that has surprised you or stood out to you so far?
A: I guess no surprises because the new guys that came in, it's a clean slate. Brian Peters has come in from the CFL and he's done a nice job. MyCole Pruitt has done a nice job as a young rookie, Danielle Hunter has done a nice job, Stefon Diggs, we've talked about him. So I'm really excited about this team and about the roster make-up. I think we've got guys that are fitting our vision, Coach Zimmer's vision of tough, passionate, smart young football players and I know it's early yet, but I'm getting pretty excited. I'm glad we're going to go play a game in about six days.
Q: Has it ever happened where you want a guy on special teams but Coach Zimmer wants him on defense?
A: Well, yeah, and that's kind of the balance that you have to have. That's what Mark was asking, whether the guy makes the team or not, or whether the guy like an Anthony Barr last year is a perfect example. Anthony was starting on our punt-return unit for the first few games, but because he was a little banged up and he was a young guy, we overloaded him because he was a three-down linebacker. We took him off everything and tried to take some of that off his plate. That's always the head coach's call but we communicate very well together with all of that, and he helps us out because he [Coach Zimmer] knows the importance of special teams.
Q: It seemed like Jeff Locke was a little inconsistent last year with the punting. Have you seen anything this offseason or training camp that suggests he's taken a step forward?
A: Yeah, he had a great spring; he came back stronger. I think it's the best shape he has been in. I don't mean cardiovascular shape, but he is still a young guy. I was fortunate enough to work with Jeff Feagles many years ago with the Giants and Jeff told me – I think Jeff punted for about eighteen or twenty years, whatever it was – after about year eight or nine Jeff said "you know what? I finally figured this out." So I think it takes longer for a punter than it does a placekicker to get all the different experiences out because there are all different areas of the field that you have to punt from, the different situations, the plus 50, the back-up situations the stuff we work on. He became a more consistent punter this spring and he has done a good job so far in camp. The other night he hit some great punts and then he had some punts that were less than perfect punts I'd call them, so he has improved but he still has a ways to go.
Q: Mike, your dad was on the sideline again today. What dynamic does he bring? Is it just a dad for a visit or is it long-time special teams coach in your ear?
A: I like to work him, make sure he is coming here and he's not going to eat for free. He's going to make sure we are working him. He does a great job obviously; his experience is invaluable to me. Obviously he is my father; he was the best man in my wedding. We are very, very close. Just his experience and his knowledge, I tease him all the time that he's forgotten more football than I know and a lot of times it's true. He helps us with the specialist, we watch tape together and different ideas we swap back and forth. He's a great mentor for me.
Q: What about during the year? Do you just pick up the phone for encouragement?
A: We'll chat every now and then. He understands our schedule. I think the best time, when he was coaching in Detroit and it was my first coordinating job in Kansas City, we would talk for about an hour every Tuesday just swapping ideas. He would have a chance to watch my tape, I would watch his tape and we would swap ideas and talk about different teams and personnel. Even now, he'll get a chance, he's the biggest Vikings fan out there, and so he will watch out games and critique us a little bit and try to help me out.
Q: Have you guys ever been on opposite sidelines during a game?
A: One time, I was the assistant special teams coach of the New York Giants and he was the special teams coordinator for the Lions, and it was in Giants Stadium and I don't want to tell you who won.
Q: You mentioned you were working with Jeff Locke on punting into the wind more this year. Have you been able to harness these windy afternoons to help him out in that regard?
A: Very much so, I think we worked on it hard last year because we knew the situation we were going to be in at TCF. He's working with some different type of drops and different type of leg swings into the wind that's going to help us this year and he has really worked hard on it. We have taken advantage of the windy days we have had, absolutely.
Q: You spoke last year about how Jeff Locke and Blair Walsh went out to TCF and used their charts to figure out the wind and what not. Is there anything they took and you took from the season itself to adjust?
A: I think the game days we took a lot from and they have a better idea of what we are going to go through again this season – September, October, November, December, it's all different. We did send them down once a week when we would play at home, so one day a week they would go down there and kick and punt. I think that experience itself was invaluable to them and we will do that again this year.
Q: Can you talk about Adam Thielen and his contributions to specials teams this year?
A: Yeah, Adam did a great job last year and he has kind of picked up right where he left off. There's a lot of things that Adam needed to work on. Being a rookie, he made a lot of rookie mistakes and he worked hard on those in the spring. We watched a lot of tape one-on-one together to try to correct some of those things and I keep reminding him of that stuff as we go through but he and a number of other guys have really, really worked hard this summer and they're continuing to get better.
Q: You mentioned previously Adam Thielen is a top five player for your special teams. What about his play makes him that?
A: Well, we have a production point system based on punt, punt return, kickoff, kickoff return you get production points for the plays. It's a huge system that we use, we plug it into the computer – that part I don't deal with. But when we grade these guys we make sure that they're rewarded for the things that they do well and obviously knocked down a little bit for the things that they don't do as well and the things they need to work on. What Adam did a great job of last year was that he can run, he's tough, he's smart, he ran our punt team when we need him to run our punt team as a personal protector, which we call the fullback. He just did a great job in all four phases and really helped us win some games last year. And of course the blocked punt was huge.
Q: Was Adam Thielen's good play on special teams more due to those splash plays we saw or was his play more based on consistency?
A: Splash plays and consistency and he did make some mistakes like I mentioned before, but he's come a long way and he's continuing to improve and he's still got a ways to go. I know this training camp is really going to help him.