Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards
In the second week of camp, guys are really working hard, looking for everybody to be consistent, keep continuing with the installs. We are starting to get more into a lot more situational stuff now. The attention to detail becomes that much more imperative for them, but the guys are doing a good job and we’re looking forward to getting back out here today.
Q: What have you learned so far about the lesser experienced players on the interior of the defensive line?
A: I mean the biggest thing we are trying to emphasize with those guys is being consistent from day in and day out. We got some plays where they are really good technique and fundamental-wise and then some plays where they are not as good technique-wise. The big thing is we talked to all our guys about being accountable and it starts with the technique and fundamentals of what we are doing. That is a big thing we are trying to push those guys ahead for.
Q: You’ve rotated Jaleel Johnson at nose tackle and three-technique, why do you like him better at that position behind Linval Joseph?
A: We kind of do both with all of our tackles because certain adjustments are going to force them to have to play both positions anyway. During training camp, we want to make sure they get enough work at the technique at the position playing both positions that way when we get going during the season, something happens where we have to roll people in there due to injuries or whatever, we have that work and they can lean back on it once we get going during the season.
Q: Where do you think Mackensie Alexander progressed the most last year and what do you think led to that?
A: I think a big part of it was that Mackensie (Alexander) has grown up a whole lot since his time here. I think the increased reps and those kinds of things have helped him. He has more experience now at the position. He understands not only his job, but how his job affects everybody around him communication-wise, technique-wise and fundamental-wise. Down the stretch last year, he played pretty good for us and he’s come out here and done a good job thus far as we started camp. You can tell he has a better feel for it. It’s not the first time he’s been through it so he can lean back on some of that experience and now line up and go play and not do so much thinking.
Q: Do you think not having Terence Newman in front of Mackensie Alexander as a player last year gave him a sense of more urgency to pick up the position faster?
A: I think that’s part of it because he had to go do it every day. He got more experience, job on task, you know what I’m saying. He was able to go out there and get those reps, a lot more reps, and then when he got to the game it was more him than somebody being in front of him or him splitting time with somebody. We just look for him to continue being consistent and keep working hard. I mean, he’s competing very well right now, so we are just looking for that to continue on as we keep progressing.
Q: How do you feel about the depth of the line and how tough will it be coming down to those final roster spots?
A: It’s a good group. I mean we haven’t had Linval (Joseph) or Shamar (Stephen) out there yet, but it’s been critical reps for those young guys to get in there and get those reps. We know it’s going to be a competitive situation going through, but that’s what we want throughout our defense at every position. We are looking forward to it and looking forward to those guys coming out here and consistently getting better from day to day.
Q: Who is the fastest player on defense?
A: I don’t know. All I care about is when we make the call, they line up and they execute the call and do it to the ability we can go win that snap. We’re fortunate, we got some athletic, fast guys on defense and who’s the fastest? I don’t know. We got some pretty good speed in the secondary and good speed underneath the linebackers, so we’re pleased with what we got.
Q: What are your impressions the first few weeks of Xavier Rhodes?
A: I’m going to tell you, he has really come in and embraced and attacked what we have done from a technique standpoint so far in camp. We are just looking for him to be consistent. Take that hard hat and go to work every day. He has done a good job of that thus far, and that way he will be consistent when it gets to the game and it should rub off because that is what he is doing from day to day. Where he is at right now and what he is doing, we are just looking for him to be consistent throughout.
Q: What part of the technique do you think becomes more comfortable once corners get into the third and fourth year? Specifically Mackensie Alexander
A: I think we’re a big pattern match as far as the coverages that we run, understanding the concepts that offenses are trying to attack us with, whether they line up in clusters or line up in stacks, all those different mechanisms that offenses use from week to week. I think being in that situation more now, he’s a lot more comfortable with those things and not so much just worried about his assignment but what he can do to help us as a whole.
Q: What have you seen in improvements from Jaleel Johnson from year to year?
A: I think Jaleel (Johnson) is a very aggressive player for us. The big thing we are try to get emphasized to him right now, I know Coach (Andre) Patterson is emphasizing, we’re all emphasizing it, is being consistent, do your job and then, boom, let’s get off the block and go make a play. I think he has the ability. He has shown the ability to do that. We are just trying to get him to do that, not just in a game, but to do it every day at practice and understand exactly what we are asking him to do within the scheme of things.
Q: Have you seen Hercules Mata'afa improve upon that as well?
A: There is no doubt Hercules (Mata’afa) improved a bunch, just his familiarity with what we are trying to do from a technique standpoint, from different calls or different positions he has to play. He is fighting his butt off right now. He is doing a good job. We are just really trying to encourage those guys. We have to have that on a consistent basis so we know what we are getting from play in and play out.
Q: How do you adapt to an increase in play-action in the league as a defense?
A: The biggest thing is we are spending a lot more time working it. We realize that that is the situation around the league right now with the play-actions. Our guys are doing a good job of understanding that we still have to be aggressive against the run but have to get back underneath in coverage. They are working on it daily, so that is good experience from us as we head into the season.
Q: Does it help to be practicing against this offense?
A: No question about it, it helps a lot. The more you practice something, the more comfortable they are going to become with it and that is a big plus for us.
Vikings Quarterback Kirk Cousins
I think it has been a great first week, week plus of training camp. I can see already some of the chemistry we’re building with some of the younger players, and I even felt like with Kyle Rudolph, I’ve done a better job this camp, even, of just trusting him more and throwing it to him even when he’s “covered”. I think today there were probably two or three examples of him catching the ball with the defender draped over him or pretty close to him. He is just such a trustworthy target, so little things like that, building a chemistry with him, you would’ve loved to say I did that last year, but I don’t think I did enough. That’s been really positive. I think we’re running the football really well which is a great encouragement from some of the struggles we had at times last year, so that’s been fun. We focused on red zone offense today, which will always be such a critical part of winning and I thought offensively we did some really good things in the red zone. And in that situation in the end, it was good to see us move the ball and score. Adam (Thielen) and Diggsy (Stefon Diggs) continue to be two of the best football players on our team, that hasn’t changed. I am really excited about what Garrett (Bradbury) is doing at center for us as a young player. The focus for us, is it is a new scheme, it isn’t the exact same thing we did last year, so just continuing to master what is new is going to be a big point of emphasis for me and for all of us as we move forward.
Q: What has changed for you with Kyle Rudolph? Is there anything in specific that has made you more confident in that throw even though he may not look open at the moment?
A: He just continues to show that when you throw it to him in those moments, he makes you right. He catches it. The play he made in the back of the endzone today was just really impressive. He kind of ran out of real estate and stopped, and just had to kind of post-up, just did a great job of walling the defender without committing a pass interference and then making a strong catch. He did a similar thing in a corner route in the front corner of the endzone at the end of practice and he had a couple others through 7-on-7’s and other periods in previous days, so the more you do it the more you see it, the more you realize that’s a strength of his. I guess look back and regret a little bit not doing that more with him last year and then look forward to this year and giving him more opportunities to make it right. When really everything in you is telling you, ‘Hey, he’s really not open, but let’s give him a shot.’
Q: Is it more of a trust factor too?
A: I think it’s a reps thing, just building up time on task together and doing it. When you really think about it, it was, I think, 13 practices last spring and then you have training camp and then from there you really go back to scout team. It is hard to build that because the scout team guys aren’t really covering you, they are just kind of shadowing you. The number of full-speed practices you have to build that repertoire of understanding your players is not as much as you’d like to have. I think the more years together tends to develop that.
Q: Looking back at your throws to Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen last year, did you feel like you did enough, too much, too little? What is your refection on that?
A: Any time you get two guys who go for 1,000 yards and one of them catches 100 balls, I think we did a good job of getting them the football. I think maybe the challenge at times we did too good of a job getting them the football which made it tough to move the ball elsewhere because it was so focused on those two. Rightfully so, they are two of our best football players in the entire team and two of the best in the entire league. At some point in the season, defensively, I think teams started to try to take them away and it was tougher. When we have guys healthy and have other weapons that is so important. I think we will as I look around, I see a lot of talent out there. Chad Beebe is another guy who I think will make a major difference for our offense this year that because of him coming up from the practice squad and him having an injury, he wasn’t able to have the same impact as I think he can going forward.
Q: How important is it to focus on day-to-day or period-by-period?
A: Well, this is professional football and I hope we have expectations. I hope the people on the outside say, ‘Boy, they better be good this year or else.’ I mean, is that pressure? Yeah, but we’re professionals. We’re living a dream and we should have pressure on us and there should be expectations. I hope we get to play here for a lot of years where people really are putting a lot on us because they expect a lot out of us because we’ve shown that we can do it. That should be the goal.
Q: Maybe not verbal, I mean?
A: Well, I don’t really care whether they verbalize it, don’t verbalize it, talking about it, not talking about it. Let’s just go play football and go win games and set a standard here that’s a really, really high standard. If having a high standard and producing creates expectations that we have to talk about, that’s a good problem to have.
Q: With the new scheme, are there plays you’ve already identified as favorites or do you have to some live games to know?
A: Yeah, I’ve identified them. I’m not going to tell you which ones they are, but yeah, I’ve got them. I’ve got my list. I just told Rick Dennison today, we called a play, I said, ‘That’s my favorite play in the entire playbook and I said it shouldn’t even be legal.’ They should make a rule to make it illegal, but it’s legal and there’s a couple other plays. I said to Klint Kubiak the other day, we had a route by a receiver, and I said, ‘I can’t believe I played 12 years of big time football after high school and I’ve never run that route in 12 years.’ I said that route is going to get run this year and it’s going to make me a better player. I got my list of new plays but I’m not telling anybody except for the guys within the building.
Q: What does it do for a quarterback to have two dynamic tight ends like you had at Washington with Vernon Davis and Jordan Reed?
A: It’s important. Formations, personnel groupings, you can disguise things better. We were just talking in the quarterback room this morning with Klint. Klint played safety in college, so he thinks of the game a lot of times as a safety and it’s a great resource to have. Most of my quarterback coaches in the past were quarterbacks. Kevin (Stefanski) was a safety in college as well so I asked him, ‘What’s your eye progression? What does do for you?’ You realize as a safety or as a corner, as a linebacker, you have to have your eyes on your gap and in the backfield just as much you have on the guy that you’re covering. When you have tight end set, that’s really hard. That’s really tough on your gap discipline and then where your eyes need to be. If you have athletic tight ends who can also block who are versatile players that gives us as a team a lot of opportunities to have a scheme that put defenses in a difficult place to defend us.
Q: Do you feel like a kid in a candy store to get these new plays and to like them off the bat?
A: I think you understand why I said I wish it was September 8th. It’s been frustrating all offseason talking about how we need to be better and how we need to deliver and all that. Let’s move on, let’s get to September 8th and hopefully do some really good things. We got to put the work in between now and then, we still have a long ways to go, but obviously that’s one of the reasons why I’m excited and optimistic and encouraged by where we’re headed. But it’s just talk until we go do it, it’s just talk. It doesn’t mean a whole lot.
Q: What’s impressed you the most about Irv Smith?
A: He’s come in and done everything right. He’s worked hard, he’s shown that he can roll. He’s got great movement skills and he’ll do whatever is asked of him. He’s a great teammate, and I think he is who we hoped he would be as a player and as a person. That’s really all you can ask for. Then it becomes just a day-to-day grind of teaching him the offense. Little things, like when I say, ‘Set, hut,’ and then expect him to know that means he steps off the ball on certain plays. He’s just a little slower to step off the ball, because it’s brand new to him. So I got to pull him off to the side and say, “Hey, make sure when I say ‘Set, hut’ you’re stepping off quickly. I don’t want to wait for you.” With Tyler Conklin or Kyle Rudolph that’s just an instinctual thing. Little pieces of the offense, things like that that we just work through every day that we’re out here.
Q: How do you put yourself into game situations out here in training camp?
A: I try to encourage the coaches to create an environment that mimics the game, and sometimes walk-thrus and team periods don’t really feel like a game. But that last period, ball is on the plus-33, end of the half, offense is down 10-0, you got one timeout, first and 10, minute and two seconds left, go. That mimics the game, so that gives us an opportunity to really feel like we’re in it, and I feel like those are great experiences to have at quarterback. Try to get as many of those as we can as we get closer to the season, and even to the preseason games.
Q: Can you talk about the atmosphere of the team scrimmage under the lights from last training camp?
A: That was an electric atmosphere last year. I wish we could do more of that. That was outstanding, practicing there and having the fans there. It just had a different juice to it. Talk about getting closer to what the game is like. There was an energy, just warming up and going through drills was just a lot more fun when the fans are there and you’re under the lights and there’s excitement. I think we had the Skol Line and all those pieces to the organization, they’re so fun. What a great night. I think it’s sold out again, as it should be. Our fans just do a great job of coming out. I’ve been looking forward to it, it really adds to the training camp experience because these days tend to get old and long, and to have a day like that to change it up is a lot of fun.
Q: When you have someone like Pat Elflein who’s not only willing to move to guard, but to help Garrett Bradbury get adjusted to center?
A: I think it’s key. Pat (Elflein) has done a great job at guard. I believe he played that in college, so he knows what he’s doing. He’s a funny guy, he’s a great teammate. One of the funnier guys on the team. It’s very subtle, but it’s funny. He does a great job with Garrett (Bradbury), helping him with calls, although it’s not like Garrett needs it every play. He knows what he’s doing. We just got to continue to get reps going against those guys. It’s been nice that Linval (Joseph) is not destroying us quite yet.