Transcript: Edwards, Stefanski and Maalouf Addressed the Media on Wednesday

Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards

Okay, it’s good to be back. Got back to work yesterday or practice after coming off that last ballgame. Guys were in tune. We got good work yesterday and just look to continue to get better today.

Q: What’s your impression of Jayron Kearse this year?

A: I think he’s done a good job. Anytime he’s been around close down near the box, he’s done a great job as far as his reads, as far as runs, play actions and all those types of deals that we ask him to do. He’s done a good job when we go into that package and even in our sub-package when he’s back at safety, he’s come down, dropped down, he’s done a good job.

Q: Do you expect some linebackers to play a hybrid role as a safety compared to a safety playing a hybrid linebacker role?

A: Yeah, I mean from package to package, we ask guys to do certain things as far as adjustments. What’s happened over the last couple years for us is we’ve just faced so many three-wide formations from the offense. What we try to do is look at the skill set of players that we’ve got and put them in the most advantageous position to be able to help us out with the matchups from week to week.

Q: How good is it to have the full starting defense intact this week?

A: Yeah, it was good. Linval (Joseph) got work in yesterday. It was good to see him getting back out there in the mix and Shamar (Stephen) has been working the last couple weeks. We’re excited getting those guys back and getting them to work, just look to them to keep getting better throughout the rest of our time here in the preseason.

Q: What do you need to do to get back to the level you played at two years ago?

A: Well, I think Coach (Zimmer) hit on it the other day. When you look at us last year, we gave up a lot of big plays, especially early in the part of the season. We need to focus on those things, focus on the technique and fundamentals. It’s not so much just focusing on the ranking, it’s about coming out here every day getting better, knowing the situations, knowing the things we’re trying to get accomplished in those situations and then going out and executing when it comes to game time.

Q: How have you seen Ifeadi Odenigbo grow as a pass rusher?

A: Ifeadi’s done a good job throughout camp. He did a good job this offseason. From where he started and where he is now, it’s like night and day. We just look for him to keep continuing moving around, inside, outside, those types of deals as far as pass rush. We just look for him to keep continuing to improve and be able to transition those things to the game and be able to see his effectiveness in the pass rush.

Q: What has he been doing more now as opposed to when he came in?

A: I think when he first came in, because of the position difference, I think he was doing a lot more thinking. You know, we had him inside there at defensive tackle when he first started. Then we moved him back outside to the defensive end and now I think he’s kind of relaxed being able to have that position flex to move from inside to outside, outside to inside in situational defenses that we put him in. I think that’s the biggest thing is his experience in it, understanding what it is technique and fundamental-wise that we’re looking to get out of what we’re asking him to do. He’s really just improved. You can see him out here working his butt off. He works as hard as anybody throughout the offseason and throughout training camp, so we’re just looking for him to continue to be consistent, come out here and work. That’s the big thing.

Q: When you take a defensive end and move him inside, what does he need to do to show you he can handle the interior linemen?

A: The big thing, everything happens faster because those guards are right there on you so the realization of understanding the different protections, the different jump sets by a guard, the different things that they’re trying to do. It’s just going to happen that much quicker than when you’re out there at defensive end. That transition of understanding number one what we’re trying to get accomplished technique and fundamental from an inside push, two what they’re going to do offensively to try to attack us is a combination of those things.

Q: What have you seen from Hercules Mata’afa in terms of improvement over the past few weeks?

A: We think he’s really done a good job throughout the offseason and carrying over into training camp. He’s done a lot with first and second down, playing the three-technique against the run, those kind of things, which was a question mark. I think he’s done a heck of a job there, but the big thing we just want to see him continue to progress in is the pass rush inside. He’s got great quickness. He’s going to be fast on the guards real quick, so we’re just look for him to keep improving that inside with his inside pass rush.

Q: Was it encouraging to see Armon Watts get that immediate push up the middle in the game?

A: No doubt about it. You can just see how much since he’s been here he’s grown to what we’re asking him to do and now it’s translating over into the game. You can see it, the transition from practice to the game, to where it’s sort of settled down for him and he’s working the fundamentals and the techniques that we’re working inside. I think that’s the biggest thing for him is just keep being consistent, keep working and those things will continue to improve.

Q: How can preparing for a guy like Kyler Murray help you with mobile quarterbacks in the season?

A: I’ll tell you, this guy can really get out and run and is very efficient in throwing the football. We’ve got to be good in our rush plan this week to make sure he’s not out scrambling a bunch and also do a good job with coverage underneath. We always say, pass rush and coverage go hand in hand so we have to do a great job in both departments right there to keep him bottled up.

Q: What have you seen from Bené Benwikere?

A: We started him outside and sort of been working him a combination of outside and inside. Last week, he played a lot more inside which he’s done a lot of in the past and we’re just looking for him to keep steadily improving. We know he’s been here a short while and we’ve put a lot on his plate. I’ll tell you, he comes to work every day, he digests, he asks good questions in meetings and just want to see him being consistent throughout what we’re asking him to do from practice to practice.

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski

Good morning. Full speed in our preparations for this third preseason game. I think our guys are looking forward to getting in front of our home crowd again on Saturday afternoon. We get an opportunity to play at noon, which is good for us to go through that experience, the guys will feel what that’s like getting up and getting over there and kicking off. Hopefully we’ll have another good showing for our team.

Q: What have you seen from the backup quarterbacks?

A: I think the guys are working really hard. I think the production from our quarterback position has been good these first two ballgames. I like what they’re doing in terms of getting us in and out of the huddle and running our system. I think Sean (Mannion) had a nice two minute drive there at the end, which was really good to see, especially coming off an interception for a touchdown. Then I think Kyle (Sloter) at the end there was productive and had that group moving up and down the field, which was again good to see. Then Jake Browning, I know he didn’t get in that game last week, but this evaluation includes this practice field as well. But all those guys are working really hard, and we’re just looking to take another step forward this week.

Q: What do you like most about Mike Boone?

A: I think Coach Zimmer hit it yesterday, he’s really worked hard out here, and I appreciate that from that kid. From where he is this moment from back in the spring, the switch didn’t just turn. He’s worked at it. He’s spent some time with Coach [Kennedy] Polamalu, you see him out here in the practice field flying around, and he’s working hard on special teams. Just goes to show you that when you apply yourself and you’re in the meeting room working real hard and out here working hard, good things are going to happen.

Q: How do you determine who on the offense will play a lot on special teams?

A: I think Coach Zimmer puts a huge emphasis on special teams, and it’s the old “the more you can do”. Certainly I’m in charge of the offense, but I’m definitely encouraging those guys to be great on special teams, because that’s a message right from Zim and I think it’s just another example of having the three phases, offense, defense and special teams, doing their part to win a ballgame. We certainly put a ton of emphasis on it in our room, because we know how important it is.

Q: How important was it for Sean Mannion to bounce back from his interception with a touchdown drive?

A: That was huge. I’m not happy that that happened, but I’m happy that it happened in preseason game number two. We can learn from it as an offense, he can learn from it. Then you said it, the kid bounced back and led a perfect drive the next time out. That happens in the course of a ballgame, it happens in the course of practice. You’ll have a bad rep, and you really have to move on, we don’t have time to think about it. I was proud of how Sean bounced back from that.

Q: How do you feel Irv Smith, Jr. might be able to fit that hybrid wide receiver-tight end role?

A: I think Irv, like a lot of our guys, has some versatility. It’s so important to us to be able to line you up around the formation. Irv is one guy of many, and really I’d include all those tight ends in that room, they’re going to have to be split out wide, do some work from the backfield, and do some work from the line of scrimmage. Irv specifically made a few plays in that ballgame in the pass game, and it’s just going to be a constant emphasis for him to keep getting better in the run game, pass game and pass protection.

Q: Are there instances where you know guys won’t make the roster, but want him on the practice squad so you won’t give them as many reps in the game?

A: I think each situation is probably unique in that regard. I will just tell you that we’ve got such good work here versus our defense, so the evaluation of these guys is ongoing. It occurs out here at walk thru, it occurs in the meeting rooms. This week is good because we get to see our young guys and what type of information that they can retain. The evaluation is all encompassing, including practices and games.

Q: Are you getting a good idea of the personality your offensive line as a whole possesses?

A: That’s a dangerous question, the personality of those guys. That’s a unique bunch, but I think number one, that group has to reflect our mentality as a team and Coach Zimmer’s mentality, and I think it does. That’s a tough group when you talk from top to bottom in that room. Personalities, pretty unique in there. I don’t know if I would survive a full season in that offensive line meeting room. They’re pretty tough, but those guys, I like the way they get out here and practice and I like the way they battle.

Q: What has Josh Kline added to the mix this year?

A: A veteran presence, a guy who’s won football games, won a world championship. He’s really working hard, I think you see his skill set matches what we’re trying to get done, but certainly fits in real well with that group.

Q: Does the offensive line have something to prove as far as the results of previous years?

A: I don’t think so. I think year to year in this business, things change so much, and all of our focus is on this year. We don’t spend a lot of time talking about the previous year or years. It’s just hard for us to succeed by doing that. So we have blinders on, and I think those guys, certainly our sole focus is what we have to do in 2019.

Q: How has it been collaborating with Gary Kubiak during the game?

A: I think it’s been really good. I think Coach Zimmer does a real nice job in practice of putting us in game situations where it becomes a “call it” period. For instance, it’s the end of practice and Coach (Zimmer) will say, “Okay, the ball is on the minus-35, you have two timeouts,” or whatever. Sometimes it’s a four-minute situation. We’ve been thrust into “call it” periods throughout practice. We’ve gotten a lot of good work in regards to the last two games. It’s exactly what we thought it would be with the group that we have. It’s really good communication, which is important, because as I’ve said before it’s not a one-man show. This offense really is on the production of some really good players and some really good coaches.

Q: What have you seen from the guys vying for backup receiver spots?

A: It’s a really good group. It’s a good competition, that’s what we wanted when we brought some of these guys in here. We have some younger guys, some older guys, some bigger guys and some smaller guys, it’s our job to put these guys in position and find the right mix for it. But I can promise you this, they’re working really hard.

Q: What can a receiver sweep do for an offense over the course of a game?

A: I think you saw on those plays, they’re ways to attack the perimeter. In terms of making yourself difficult to defend you want to use all 53 and one-third yards of the field, so we always walk into that meeting room on Monday or Tuesday as you put the game plan together, and you say, “How can I get on the perimeter?” Sometimes that’s wide zone, sometimes that’s a pin-and-pull series with the toss series. Then other times it’s the jet sweep or it’s an around or a special. I think it’s really just making sure that we’re using the whole field.

Q: How would you rate the depth of the young guys on the offense?

A: I think we have a lot of young guys that are getting a ton of good reps, and it remains to be seen whether that group is helping us on Sunday of Week 1. But where we are right now, I think we got a lot of guys at different positions as you look at the lines. Its great competition, and I think the competition is only going to bring out the best in all of the guys.

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf

We’ve just been pleased about all the reps that the guys have been getting. They’ve been working hard this preseason. We continue to keep getting as many guys reps at different spots as possible, specialists to returners and making sure that we have all our basis covered and mix and match as many different people as possible. I think that’s the most important thing is that we get the right people that are doing the right things for us to help us win. That’s the most important thing. I was pleased with the last game. I think there’s some things that we can definitely clean up. There is every single game. Our coverage units I think need to tighten up a little bit more and just fundamentally be more sound in the coverage phases. It’s been good getting different returners back there and we’ll continue to do that and kind of see who fits what situation and where we’re at in the game.

Q: What have you learned about Kaare Vedvik?

A: Very talented guy, very talented guy. He’s a good pro. He’s been taught the right way which is a good thing obviously. I’m very familiar with the guys in Baltimore and how they’ve done stuff. I spent time there as a coach. He’s very aware of his surroundings, his technique, very detailed when it comes to that. Now it’s just a matter of harnessing all that and making that sure it fits, he’s going to fit what we do here.

Q: What stood out to you about his field goal sessions yesterday?

A: His biggest thing we always talk about with field goal, generally speaking, is his tempo to the ball. I think that’s the most important thing. He’s very smooth. Obviously, he didn’t make every single one, but he made a majority of them which is really good. I think him getting the experience with both holders, Matt (Wile) held for him yesterday. We have to get him reps with (Chad) Beebe at some point as well. I’m very pleased with what we saw there.

Q: When do you want to pin down specialist roles?

A: I think just like Coach (Mike Zimmer) said, in an ideal world we want to do it as soon as possible but we want to make the right choice, the right decision. That’s the most important thing. If it goes into Week 4, it goes into Week 4. As long as we make the correct decision, that’s really what matters for us. Now, just like you guys have been seeing throughout camp, we’ve been repping a bunch of different guys at a bunch of different spots. They’ve actually gotten more work together than most teams would this time of year which is a positive for us.

Q: What’s it like for you working through that decision and working with them?

A: I’ve enjoyed it. That’s part of my job. It’s not the first time I’ve been involved with new specialists. Last year when I was in Miami we had a new kicker, a kicking competition there. At the end of the day, it sorts itself out.

Q: How unique is this situation?

A: I’d say it’s pretty unique, because you have four talented guys. I think it’s a good problem to have. Very rarely do you come across four guys that are very good at their craft. So I think that’s been the most enjoyable part really is watching talented guys perform their craft.

Q: With Kaare Vedvik being good at multiple areas, that makes it unique too, right?

A: He’s could be good at everything. I think the key for Kaare’s success is that we narrow down what fits us and what he’s really good at, and then that’s where he gets his reps. It’s so hard to ask one guy to do everything. It is. I mean, even going from a pregame routine, the pregame isn’t long enough for somebody to do everything. But if we can carve out the right roles for him, I think he’s help us.

Q: How much does hang time affect your evaluation in punting and punt coverage units?

A: I think that has a big thing to do with it, a big aspect. The good thing is that both guys give us good hang time. It’s just a matter of getting the reps. I think we’ve only punted six times this preseason, so that makes it a little bit hard. But everybody has gotten punt reps. Matt (Wile) has gotten punt reps and Kaare (Vedvik) has gotten punt reps. The good thing is we got them both exposure, but hang time is definitely a huge factor in it. If you take away the hang time, then you have to become more of a directional team. We can do that, too, both guys are talented enough to do that. So we got good options.

Q: Do you have to reel Kaare Vedvik in to make sure he doesn’t out-kick the coverage?

A: Yeah, I think that’s a good question. I don’t think you have to reel him in as far as his hang time goes. I thing you have to reel him in as far as his excitement goes. He wants to take every rep, and so does Matt (Wile). They want to take all the reps. Dan (Bailey) wants to take all the reps. I think they want to keep working throughout the day. Reeling them back is more so during practice and even during warmups when they want to keep kicking and they want to keep attempting 60-yard field goals and stuff. You can’t do that. We just got to stick to a good routine and go from there.

Q: Have you noticed a concerted effort by kickoff teams to kick shorter to test their coverage?

A: Absolutely. I think that’s a good thing, how else are you going to test out who you have? You can make a play and all the fundamentals that we work on during training camp, they have to apply them on game day. Most coaches do that, most opposing coaches do that. Sometimes we do that, sometimes we want to see if we can kick it through the back of the end zone. We’ve had a good mix of that, which is good.

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