Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski
*We are in the thick of it, we’re still, as we’ve talked about, in the teaching and learning mode phase of training camp and the guys are doing a nice job. We are doing a ton of work out here in these walk-thru’s and looking forward to another good day. The weather took a break for us which is nice, so I know the guys are chomping at the bit to get out there. *
Q: How do you progress from teaching and learning to the next phase? Do you have a set guideline for how long that takes or adjust to what you are seeing out there?
A: We have an installation schedule and it is no different than it was when they showed up for Phase One. We start it right back at install number one when they got here, so once we get through those installs then we will start getting ready to play some football games. We will be ready to adapt and pivot once we get our base installation done.
Q: What scheme fits Dalvin Cook’s skill set?
A: I think anything fits Dalvin’s (Cook) skill set to be quite honest. I really do believe there is no schematic limitation to Dalvin Cook, so certainly zone scheme is a big part of what we do, and he fits it really well just off his God-given ability. The other thing I would say about Dalvin Cook is nobody works harder than him. I think for our offense, Dalvin Cook is a leader. He’s out here working his tail off. In the meeting rooms he is outstanding, so certainly Dalvin’s definitely a leader and somebody that we are lucky we have and excited what he’s about to do. I don’t think there is one set type of run that he is better at than another.
Q: What has Jordan Taylor showed you in these first few days?
A: Going back to the spring, Jordan (Taylor) is a player that has been in this system. I think what I appreciate about him is that he gets out here and he is assignment sound, he’s getting lined up, and then as you know, his body is different than some of our other guys. He is taller. He’s got long arms, so you can see in some of the reps he has out here in practice where physically he has the ability to go make some plays outside the frame work of his body.
Q: Is it difficult to evaluate from that third wide receiver spot when you got two guys who are drastically different like Chad Beebe in the slot and Jordan Taylor on the outside?
A: I think it’s a great mix of talent in that room. They come in all shapes and sizes, so we kind of just try to focus on what the guys do well, and Jordan (Taylor) is right in the mix with all those guys.
Q: What role have F tight ends had in the evolution of offenses?
A: When we are talking F tight ends, we are typically talking about someone that can move, someone that has more burst getting down the field and in our offense, and a lot of offenses, the complete tight end, those guys are few and far between. They are typically Hall-of-Famers. They can do anything. For us, when we are looking at F tight ends, we are talking about guys that we can line up all over the formation, help us in the run game and the pass game. Certainly, there is an athletic ability there when we are talking about the F’s.
Q: Why do some rookie tight ends come along a little slower, in your opinion?
A: I don’t know. Having coached the position, I think there is a lot that goes into understanding the run game, the pass game and protections. Certainly there is a learning curve, maybe that plays into it, but I can’t specifically think why that would be true across the league.
Q: How is Josh Kline coming along and how much does it help him having some familiarity with the system from his days at Tennessee?
A: Josh (Kline) is doing a nice job. I think Coach Zim (Mike Zimmer) the other day called him a battler and I think that is a great term. He has been on successful teams and I appreciate having him out here. We have talked a lot over the course of having him in the building and there are certain things he has seen over his time. He fits really well into that meeting room with Coach (Rick) Dennison and Coach (Andrew) Janocko. Those guys are battlers and Josh kind of sets the tone for those guys.
Q: What does it mean for him to have a Super Bowl ring from a Super Bowl winning team and bringing that in?
A: It means a lot and that is where we are trying to get to. He has one so I am all ears when he’s talking.
Q: What are you seeing out of C.J. Ham now that he is in his fourth year and how much more involved might he be in the offense now that you might have a more traditional type offense?
A: C.J. (Ham) fits Coach Zim’s (Mike Zimmer) Vikings. He’s smart, he’s passionate about football, and because he’s smart, he’s versatile. He is someone that we can ask a lot of in the run game, in the pass game, in protection, and we can move him around. He fits the mold in what we are trying to build here in having some smart, tough, passionate football players.
Q: Kirk Cousins made reference to his number with play-action compared to non-play-action. What makes him good at play-action?
A: I think Kirk (Cousins) works really hard in the ball-handling aspect of the game, and that’s in the run game and in the pass game. When he sticks that ball out there it looks exactly the same as it does on a run as a play-action pass. He’s really diligent about that and that comes from working it. There’s also an element of, don’t get bored with it. You’ll see some quarterbacks that get sloppy with their technique and I don’t see that from Kirk. I think that’s an element from his game that allows play-action to have some success.
Q: It is possible that teams have underutilized play-action, the run game doesn’t need to be established, it just works whenever you run it?
A: I’ve read the articles. I’ve seen it. Sure, there’s data to support that. We’re well aware of all that but we’re trying to just set our own course and make sure we’re understanding what makes our offense go.
Q: Brian O’Neill feeling much more comfortable this time around, being a tight end not long ago, what are you seeing from him in that plan that you have had for him? Is that physical part the biggest leap you want to see from him this year?
A: Absolutely. I think for our offensive line, the number one thing that we’re looking for is physicality. Brian (O’Neill) brings that. He also brings great athleticism to that position. He has showed up in great shape, he’s running around. It was great to be in pads yesterday, he was hustling down the field and that’s just a big man running who’s got the athleticism being a former tight end. I think he showed up to camp in great shape and I’m really looking forward to what Brian is going to put on tape this year in his second year.
Q: How much healthier and more mobile is Riley Reiff compared to last year?
A: Kind of going back to the Josh Kline discussion, Riley (Reiff) is a man of few words. When he speaks, guys are listening. So, he provides a great presence to that meeting room and he’s out here working. Again, another great opportunity yesterday to put the pads on and that’s when Riley Reiff is going to show up for you.
Q: Now that Brandon Zylstra is off the Physically Unable to Perform list, what are you looking for from him to take another step in year two in the NFL?
A: I think I’m looking forward to him being in the mix. When you’re on that PUP list, you really can’t get any reps, walk-thru or otherwise. Looking forward to Brandon (Zylstra) jumping in there and building off a good year last year and seeing what he can do this year.
Q: How much have you seen Pat Elflein embrace the change of going from center to guard and have you seen him become a mentor to Garrett Bradbury?
A: I think Pat Elflein is a team player. I could not be more proud of that kid, he is all ball. When we brought Garrett (Bradbury) in here and Pat moved over to left guard and didn’t miss a beat. That speaks to the selfless person he is, it speaks to the type of people that Rick (Spielman) and Zim (Mike Zimmer) bring in here. I think he brings a great element to our offensive line, both personality-wise, but then again, another athletic guy that is really strong, has a wrestling background, he can get in those bar-room brawls. His skill set fits exactly what we’re trying to do. But more than that, he’s certainly the type of guy that we want breaking the huddle and wearing purple and gold.
Q: You mention that you’ve read the data on play-action. How do you anticipate the defenses will adapt to the fact that all of the offenses know that play-action has been more successful?
A: That remains to be seen. It gets kind of deep with I know you know, and you know that I know. We focus more on just running our offense, to be quite honest. We have elements of our offense that are multiple, to say that we’re a play-action offense, I think is unfair. We’re trying to be multiple across many schematic fronts, if you will.
Q: When you were coaching tight ends with the younger guys and the rookies, what’s the hardest part of that, where do they need more time to develop?
A: It really varies. If you look at the college game, the criticism you always hear about offensive tackles coming from spread systems, well there are tight ends in those spread systems too. How often are they in a three-point stance? It really varies based on the kid. If you get a player from a school where he’s never in a three-point stance, as easy and simple as that sounds, there’s an element and amount of time that has to go by to teach a three-point stance kind of starting right from scratch.
Q: As you’re teaching the ‘what’s’, how much emphasis are you placing on the ‘why’s’?
A: I think it’s really a part of our teaching philosophy is if the guys understand the ‘why’s’ they start to get a global understanding of what we’re trying to do. We spend a lot of time in our offensive meeting room and then positionally, we’re teaching technique, but then at the same time we’re trying to explain to the guys exactly why and how and when we’re going to do these things. That informs, I think, their understanding of our offense.