Vikings Assistant Head Coach/ Offensive Advisor Gary Kubiak
Q: Do you want to see Dalvin Cook in the preseason at some point?
A: Yeah, you know, I think we haven’t really sat down and talked about it this week yet as far as what Coach (Mike Zimmer) wants as far as play time and those type of things, but Dalvin has had a tremendous camp and we’ll wait till we sit down and see where we go this Sunday night.
Q: When you got here, did you have a sense for Dalvin Cook’s talent already?
A: I knew a lot about him. Obviously, was studying when he came out and knew how he was playing. Obviously, he went through a tough injury and came back and play extremely well. Most great players that I’ve been around in this business are workers and when you come out here every day, you see why he’s a great player, really works hard. He’s a big finisher at practice. He’s a three-down player, and he’s a leader as well. So, really excited to work with him this year.
Q: In preseason, will you get a good gauge on what that work load split could look like between two backs?
A: I think we have a pretty good idea of what we want that to look like once the season starts, so we kind of practice that way if that makes sense. You know, how much of a load we give him each day compared to two or three, but I think the key with Matt (Alexander Mattison) and (Ameer) Abdulllah and those guys, they’ve got to have a role on the football team. When Dalvin (Cook) steps out of the game or takes his break, we have to continue to go. We can’t be, “Okay, let’s survive till Dalvin gets back.” We keep going forward.
Q: What are your impressions on how the first team offense performed on that initial drive against New Orleans?
A: I don’t get too much into that in the preseason. I really just stay focused on the work. I mean, obviously there were a lot of good things and we moved the ball, some young kids made plays. That’s what you’re looking for, who can help you, but really I just try to stay focused on the work, the month’s work at training camp, and it’s been really good. We go against a great defense every day, so our judgment offensively is real if that makes sense, because we get to really see where we stand because of the people we work against. So far so good, we have a long way to go.
Q: Last year Coach Mike Zimmer was saying that it was a goal every game for Kirk Cousins to scramble and get a first down with his feet. Is that something you still want to see with him?
A: I think it’s a positive in his game because he has the ability to leave the pocket when people play a lot of man and those type of things and keep us on the football field. So, it’s something you talk about all the time. You don’t know how often it is going to happen in a game, but obviously you’ll be a good third down team if your quarterback has the ability to do that. The other night, we had a pretty good day third down-wise and one of those was because of him making a great play.
Q: When you look down the line and see first, second, and third team offensive linemen not giving up a sack, how much can you take stock in that?
A: I think Kevin (Stefanski) did a great job of keeping us on schedule and doing the things we want to do offensively. We had seven third down plays in the game, that’s unusual. In the NFL, sometimes it’s anywhere from 10 to 14 a game so if you’re only having seven, you’re doing something right on first and second down. I think we are all involved in that and the less times your quarterback goes down the better your offense going to be. It’s a big point of emphasis.
Q: The reputation of division three guys, is they that they have that hunger. Have you seen that in Brandon Zylstra?
A: Oh, absolutely. We have got a bunch of kids like that, but Brandon (Zylstra) coming off an injury, had made up a lot of ground, came back from the injury. It takes a period of time to adjust, but what I’ve seen and I’ve seen the last few days, is that he is starting to look like himself again. This will be a big two weeks for him and he’s going to get a great opportunity with us, and he obviously can help us.
Q: What are your expectations at this point for David Morgan III?
A: I really just know what Sug (Eric Sugarman) tells me. I know he’s coming off an injury. He had some stuff done, and they are continuing to try to push and get him on the field. I think we all know what he’s done when he’s been on the field, but we got to get him back out there. We will just support him until he gets back out there and try to make up some time.
Q: Is it hard to replicate that run blocking that he adds to that position among the other guys?
A: I think our guys have done a really good job. I think Rudy (Kyle Rudolph) has always been good. I think Irv (Smith Jr.) has surprised us. We saw a smaller, athletic player but he’s really, on the line of scrimmage, has surprised some people, so we want our guys to be versatile and do a little bit of everything. Hopefully, David (Morgan III) can get back, but the group’s doing a great job.
Q: How different is training camp now than when you were a player?
A: That’s a long time ago. Yeah, it is obviously different; you went out twice a day in pads and you went a lot longer. You had so many players back in those days. The numbers are limited, the amount of time to get your team ready to go for opening day seems like the window gets smaller and smaller every year. Coach (Mike Zimmer) does a great job with our work. We have had some great work, been in pads and done all the things you need to do to get ready for opening day. We just need to continue to do that.
Q: What do you think the biggest difference is?
A: Really the number of players to me. I know when I played, we had fourth team offense, fifth team defense. We had so many players out there and then we would work for two weeks and then the vets would come in and we would start over. That’s the biggest difference: shortage of players and amount of time to get them ready for opening day.
Q: How is Irv Smith Jr. doing?
A: He is doing good. We are asking a lot of him, you look at Irv (Smith Jr.) and you look at Garrett (Bradbury), what we are asking of them on the offensive side of the ball. We are asking of it very quickly. He’s a smart young man. He is very young. I see a guy, to me, who has gotten bigger and stronger since he has got in our program. Irv has got a bright future and we are going to ask a lot of him. He is very fortunate, in my opinion, that he sits here and stands by Rudy [Kyle Rudolph] every day and watches him in practice, watches him work, watches him in a meeting. Not many guys get that luxury, so Irv needs to take advantage of that.
Q: What did you think of the run blocking the other night?
A: We did some good things. We did a lot of things we need to improve upon. I think the biggest thing for us is committing to what we are doing. We did that the other night. It wasn’t all very pretty, so to speak, but then all of a sudden we make a big play and you have a good night. That is what we want to do, just want to make sure that we don’t run away from it when it is not always right and stay with it because eventually we feel like we can make some big plays. Hopefully, that night was a step in the right direction.
Q: What kind of feel did you get from seeing all the quarterbacks in going under center and leading to more effective use of play action?
A: I thought they all did a good job. It is unusual to be able to get four guys playing time in a preseason game but we were able to do that, so that was good. We bounced back this week. We have had a real long week. A lot of reps in practice especially, what is today, Thursday, coming off of Tuesday’s practice, so we will just keep going. We have two good young players and we have a veteran back-up right now who is doing a hell of a job for us right now, so we just have to keep going and make sure that we get there.
Q: Do you think going under center more is going to be a bread and butter part of Kirk Cousins’ game leading to the better use of play action?
A: The biggest thing if you are under there, you have the threat of both. When you get in the gun, it is not that you can’t run the ball, but you probably don’t do it as much so percentages go one way or the other. We just think it is something he does good. We think it is something our team should do well once we get there, but let’s just stay focused on the work right now and make sure that we are putting in the time to make it right.
Q: What do you want to see out of Kirk Cousins in these relatively limited games?
A: I just want to see him have a good month. I know that sounds repetitive, but that is what I just stay on him for. I have never seen a player who has a great training camp that doesn’t have a good football season. They go hand-in-hand. Kirk (Cousins) has bought into that. He’s been working extremely hard and doing a great job.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf
Not much going on the last couple days - just kidding. We had a couple of good weeks of practice. I was really happy with some of the things we did in the game. Lot of stuff going on personnel wise. Austin Cutting, congratulations to him on winning the job, and thank you to Kevin [McDermott] for being a good pro and all the things he has done for this organization. We are very happy that we got the opportunity to trade for Kaare Vedvik, an extremely talented punter, kicker, can hold and do kickoffs. He does a little bit of everything, so right now we are doing a little bit of refining all of those skills and most importantly working on his timing because he is new here. He is working with new guys. The most important thing is he gets a lot of reps. From now until we start our first regular season game against Atlanta he needs every single rep, and so do those other guys just to get familiarized with each other. That is probably the most important thing we are trying to do right now. As far as the core guys, improve on some of the things against New Orleans and obviously improve on the things we didn’t do well, which is important. Clean up some things in the coverage phases and also in the return game.
Q: In the process in acquiring Kaare Vedvik, is that a guy you help identify, or is this somebody that the front office identifies and asks if you can make it work?
A: A little of both. We were familiar with him last year when I was with another organization. I have some familiarity with the Ravens as well, I was there for four years and I know all of those guys. We keep in touch, and they do a really good job of developing specialists. They already have two specialists that they aren’t going to move on from for a while. I knew with the help of Rick [Spielman], George [Paton] and Rob [Brezinski] and all of our scouts, they do a really good job of identifying those guys, and then it is up to us to go out there and get them and they did that.
Q: Is there a possibility Kaare could occupy both punter and kicker roles?
A: Anything is possible. I think it is hard to do. I don’t remember the last guy that did it in an NFL game. There’s guys that have done punting and kickoffs and long field goals and stuff like that. There’s guys who have obviously done a little bit of a mix, but it’s a difficult task to ask out of somebody. But that being said, he’s talented enough to do all three, do all four. So we’ll see.
Q: When you’re deciding what his role is going to be, how much depends on what Kaare Vedvik is doing well versus what you’re seeing from Matt Wile and Dan Bailey?
A: I think all that plays a factor. That’s a thing that I think is the most interesting and makes this the most fun, when we those guys get competition all of a sudden their game rises to the occasion. Dan [Bailey] was 19-for-19 the other day in practice in field goals, and I think he was 16-of-17 in pregame against the Saints. They’re making our job difficult, because they’re stepping up their game. We just got to find the best match.
Q: What is the hardest part about having one player kick and punt? Is it the workload, or is the fear of injury, which would lead to two roster spots that you have to fill?
A: C. All of the above. That’s a thing you worry about, his workload, because you have to really manage him during the week. It’s hard for me to ask him to punt and kick field goals the same day. We have a plan in place right now, and then you bring up the injury, what do you do if one guy gets injured? It’s hard to keep just that one guy on the roster. It’s not impossible, I know the other position coaches would love it because it would free up a spot. But realistically, it’s a tough, tough thing to do. But yeah, all those are factors. That’s true.
Q: Would you say you’re considering Vedvik equally for both positions right now?
A: Yeah, absolutely. We’re trying to evaluate all these guys. Matt [Wile] has been working on kickoffs as well, he’s punting. His thumb is feeling a lot better, he punted today and he held. Everybody is doing everything now. Everybody is getting healthy, and that’s a good problem to have.
Q: Does it provide another complication to figuring out the combination of long snapper, kicker and holder?
A: I guess it just depend on how you look at it. It depends on who is doing what. The mix and match part of it, I think it’s a good problem to have. I don’t see us having problems when it comes to all these guys. I think it’s a good problem to have for all of them. It makes things a little bit more complicated from an outside perspective, but I think if we stay true to our plan and what the potential possibilities that can happen, I think we’ll be okay. But we need reps.
Q: How has Austin Cutting looked since he won the long snapping job?
A: He’s been great. Obviously his load increases. Before we obviously had him and Kevin [McDermott], so we have to manage him a little bit more. He’s young, he’s excited, he wants to take every single rep. He wants to snap every single time that a guy is warming up, and we just have to pull the reigns back on him a little bit. But you can definitely see his talent and why he won the job.
Q: Did Cutting win the job, or was it just kind of time to end the competition?
A: He definitely won the job. He won the job, and he deserves it. And we’re happy to have him.
Q: Have you narrowed down the candidates for the punt and kick return jobs?
A: It just depends on our reps the last game. That was a real strange thing. We had a lot of kickoff return reps, and then depending on when certain guys are playing during the game kind of dictates how we use them, if that makes any sense. We had two punt return reps the last game, so hopefully we can get more. But you never know, that’s the big thing. We just have to be ready. I think we put together all these different plans, and we try to execute them based on all the reps that we get. But if we don’t, then we just have to make do with what we get.