Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards
Good to be back in training camp. It's good to be back here in our new facility. The guys are in good shape and have good recall from what we worked in the spring. Just finished our second walk through. As we get to the second practice, we are excited to keep improving from day-to-day.
Q: What have you seen so far from Mackensie Alexander?
A: I think anytime you are asked to do something that you're not familiar with or comfortable with, we are now all of a sudden asking you to step outside your comfort zone, you kind of resist. Especially as a young player, you're used to be working outside more so than inside. He's really had a good spring for us and good first day. We just look for him to keep improving as we keep working through training camp. He is a lot more comfortable with the calls and communication, which you have to do a lot more inside there at the nickel. Just look for him to be consistent throughout camp and just keep improving as we keep going through.
Q: Why is moving outside to inside something typically something guys struggle with?
A: The nickel position is unique. It's a different skillset inside because you have a lot of communication going on with the backers as far as route progressions, as far as run fits. Those are all things that are kind of new to him. There is a lot of newness when you take a guy and move him from outside to inside. Especially with all the formation variations we get from offenses in this league. It's a lot of things that are happening and it's the first time through. You are really out of your comfort zone. It's just a matter of getting used to it, getting used to the calls and communication, having to talk. Let's face it, when the rookies come in, they're not really vocal because they're learning a whole new system. They're learning a whole new position. They're really out of their comfort zone. The big thing is just embrace it and once you get going, you understand the techniques and fundamentals that go with it. It becomes more comfortable. The more comfortable they come, the more you see them use athleticism and skillset to be able to react.
Q: What do you think about Mike Hughes and his skills that tailor toward the nickel situation?
A: Mike has done a good job. He did a good job in the spring and thus far since we started training camp. He's really paying attention to the details of what we are asking out of each call and out of that position. We just look for him the same way, to keep battling and keep competing. His skillset will show up. The more comfortable he feels with what we are asking him to do systematically, his communication skills are getting better. We just look for him to come out here and be consistent and keep competing and keep improving.
Q: How do you see Xavier Rhodes take on a mentoring role to younger cornerbacks?
A: I think the younger guys see the success he has out here at practice every day. A lot of them weren't with him during the season as some of the veterans were. They can see the success he has on tapes, whether we are looking for cut-ups or whether we are looking at things from last year as we prepare as far as our instillation. I think they feel good gravitating to him with the success that he's had out there on the runway at the position of corner. They see the success that he's had and obviously they want to try to mimic that success.
Q: What does Anthony Barr potentially provide coming off the edge to the defensive line rotation?
A: Anthony has done a very good job of embracing the rush, rushing more. Giving him more opportunities to rush. He definitely has the skillset. We just look for him, as we keep developing through training camp, keep getting better at that and we'll try to continue to find ways to get him in pressure positions to get after the quarterback.
Q: What makes him so good coming off the edge?
A: I think he's got a natural pass rush ability, number one. Number two, his skillset with his speed coming off the outside edge. Whether it's inside matching up on a back or now even with an offensive lineman when we move him inside. I think his skillset, he's been given God given talent and him being able to embrace that and use it to the best of his abilities.
Q: What are your early impressions of Holton Hill?
A: He's done a good job thus far, again. He's in a learning situation but he's got good length, he's got good speed. We just look for him to come out here and be consistent with the calls and communications every day, the techniques and fundamentals. He's still just working and coming out here competing every day and that's what we're looking for him to continue to do.
Q: How do you assess the defensive line rotation in training camp?
A: It's sort of a combination of all those things involved, alright. We want smart players. Understanding that situational football is critical. Then the other thing it boils down to it, is their talent, their attention to the details of the fundamentals and techniques that we're teaching, as opposed to, just really coming and whatever they did in the past doesn't really matter. For our whole scheme to come together, we need everybody on the same page moving on the same cylinder. That's how we have success. We all know pass rush and pass coverage and all those things go together. Well, rush lanes and all those things, as far as their run fits. Making sure we have gap integrity and all those things. It's a lot that we ask those guys to do, and they embrace and go to it. The more guys that we can buy in, and the more guys we can see be consistent throughout training camp, of course. That allows us to stay fresher as we progress through the season.
Q: Does Tashawn Bower look as big as he is to you from rookie year to now?
A: He really worked hard this offseason. You can tell in his play. You can tell in his reactions. It's really slowed down a little bit for him now. He can concentrate on the technique and the fundamentals. He's not doing quite as much thinking as a lot of rookies do when they first come in. Let's face it, college football is a different football game now from what we play in the NFL.
Q: How is Jalyn Holmes adapting to learning new things?
A: He's doing good. He really made some hay in the offseason. I know he got the injury and that ended up prohibiting him from practicing there late. He's come back in and you can see his improvement from day-to-day. That's what we look for, just keep improving day-to-day, understanding the concepts and different situations that we're talking about. A lot of times his athleticism then will come a lot more prevalent as we watch him on tape.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer
Afternoon everybody, welcome back. Obviously, exciting time of the year. Working with a bunch of young guys and trying to see what we are going to have emerge and play for us on Sundays and on special teams this year. Got a lot of good options. Lot of good football players. We got a great locker room, great attitude. The great thing about our team is our veterans, a lot of them have played special teams, the guys who start now on offense and defense. They were really good special teamers at one point, now they are starting but they are in the locker room kind of helping me and helping me do my job because they are great leaders. They help the young guys understand how important special teams is. Complimentary football, all of the things we talk about, that I talk about a lot, but that is my job. I am supposed to talk like that, but the veteran guys really help us and it has been great so far.
Q: How are you going to approach the kickers this training camp?
A: I think just like we did in the spring time, I think what we got to do is put these guys in pressure situations in team. And then on the side when we do all of the charting, because quite honestly they have to be, one has to be more consistent than the other. One's got to do what we ask him to do on kickoffs better than the other. It was very good competition in the spring. Both guys showed up and did a great job. I think Daniel [Carlson] is as advertised. He is very strong. He is a very good kickoff guy. He's got some work to do with being a little bit more consistent with his field goals. I thought Kai [Forbath] had a tremendous spring. They were neck and neck all spring and we will see what happens.
Q: How far would you realistically keep this thing going?
A: Well, that is not my decision. It depends on the roster, if we need another roster spot; you know how that goes this time of year. But, if they are both kicking well, like I expect them too, hopefully this competition will go on at least first couple game, maybe longer.
Q: How do you assimilate what is like to make a kick in a playoff game?
A: Well, anytime we do a team, we have 6 or 8 kicks in team, we are going to do that tomorrow afternoon. Those are pressure situations. They are competing against each other quite honestly. I tell them every kick say, 'game kick.' No matter if we are over here working with the snapper and holder only and then we are just charting them. It is on video and we are charting everything. You know me, I am going to chart everything. I have been dealing with punters in completion, kickers in competition, and even the snappers when we had competition here. We charted and videotaped everything. So we knew we were going to make the best decision for our football team. Also, we will have other hurry up field goal situations with the team. The head coach will have game situations at the end of practice that might include a field goal opportunity for one of the guys, and then we will trade off on those, whether it is a kickoff or a field goal in any of those game situations that we do in practice.
Q: How do the players balance working with each other and helping each other versus the competition aspect?
A: Well that's the great thing, both Kai and Daniel have come into this situation and are both professional. They like each other and I would think they would be friends off the field. They're both good people. They understand it's a business. They understand we're only going to keep one kicker. I don't know if Kai is going to impart all his wisdom with Daniel. I think at the end of the day they are both being very professional. I am proud of both of them, the way they've worked up until this point, I would expect them to continue to do that as well.
Q: How is Antwione Williams looking? Does his play line up with your expectations?
A: That's a good question. We have a lot of good linebackers. We have a lot of good players, a lot of different positions. There is going to be great competition throughout training camp. What Antwione brings to the table, he's got a little bit of experience from his days in Detroit. He was with us last year as a practice squad player and I believe he was on the roster at some point. He's big and he's strong and he can run. Some of the technique things that he brought with him we're trying to break him of some bad habits that he brought with him since we do things a little differently here. Other than that, he's got a great attitude, he's smart and he's a good football player.
Q: How much will special teams be important with the battle for reserves spots?
A: If you ask Coach Zimmer that question I know he will say they are very, very important. He was in the team meeting, the first special teams meeting we had we included the whole team so all 90 guys were in there. Coach Zimmer stood up in front of that meeting at the end and said "Hey, if you're a backup on offense and defense and you don't play special teams: a) you may not make the team and b) you certainly won't dress on game day", so I think it's a big deal and it has been since I've been here, so I'm very fortunate to have a coach and a general manager that supports that.
Q: How is Mike Hughes coming along in the return game?
A: He's come a long way as a punt returner. Kickoffs are a bit easier to catch like we've always talked about. I think he's done a really nice job. He's taking it to heart. He'll come in a watch some video on his own. We get a lot of video tape like we said. We have a lot of close up video. There's some little things, that again he brought with him from college that he's already broken those bad habits and he's only going to continue to get better.
Q: Did you go into camp expecting him to be your kick returner?
A: I think so. I think his talent and productivity in college you'll probably say, "Hey, he'll probably be the kick returner and Marcus [Sherels] will be the punt returner as it stands today." And let them both compete at both spots to be quite honest and we've got some other young guys that will compete as well that are going to take some return opportunities in the preseason games.
Q: How has Marcus Sherels handled the fact that Mike Hughes might handle both kick and punt return?
A: The thing about Marcus is he's been a pro since I met him eight years ago or whenever, seven and a half years. He's done everything I've ever asked him to do. He's quiet. He's humble. He just comes to work every day. He's healthy now. I think he was still a little banged up last year from the 2016 season. I'm excited about him because of what he brings to the table. He brings experience. He brings productivity. He brings a great attitude. Everything he does, every drill he does, everything he does is almost perfect in terms of what we ask him to do. So he knows that every day is competition and he knows Mike [Hughes] is going to bring a lot of competition to the table. I think quite honestly it will make him better. If he wins the job that's because he beat out a very, very good football player and he understands that.
Q: How much weight do you put on everything else Marcus Sherels does?
A: I put a lot of weight on it. He's been a gunner for us since 2011. He's been on kickoff team since 2011, he's been our punt returner since 2011. He's had a lot of reps and kickoff return he's been a part-time guy there, so you guys know how I feel about Marcus and lot of you guys probably feel the same way. He's a good man. He's a hard worker. He's been very productive for us and I see no reason why he's not going to go out and do the best he can and give us great competition and see what happens.
Q: Would you rather have different guys at each spot just in case one gets hurt and you would have to replace both positions?
A: I think in a perfect world you want to put the best guys out there no matter what spot it is. If it's Mike at kickoff returner and Marcus at punt returner or vice versa than that's great. If it's only one guys and he gets hurt than we'll have to find somebody else. We've done that before and we'll just keep doing that. But in a perfect world I want the best guy no matter what spot it is. At any spot on special teams for that matter.
Q: Is anything etched in stone with special team changes?
A: I think it's because the dynamics of the plays changed it's a work in progress. We worked on it today with the kickoff returners in the half-field, so the alignments weren't perfect, but we worked on it a lot this summer. When the Jaguars come to town I'm going to swap ideas with their coach because he's been around the league a long time and he'll have some great ideas. I'll kind of study and see what other teams are doing during the preseason and see if it fits what we do and we just keep doing what we're doing. I think we have a good plan, but like any plan at this stage with a new rule you're going to need to be ready to adapt if you need to.
Vikings Wide Receiver Stefon Diggs
First and foremost, I want to send my prayers and condolences to the Sparano family. He really meant a lot to us, and I just want to let everybody know that if anything, he would want us out here working. He's been in our hearts and on our hearts for a couple days now, and I just want to give him his respect and send some love to his family.
Q: How do you feel the deep passing game is coming along?
A: It's day two, pretty early. But I'm excited, to say the least. Everybody is just working in the right direction. I'm going to give you the answer; each and every day we try to come out here and get better. I get excited coming out here, I can tell you that first hand. Me and Adam [Thielen] take it really, really seriously, and it's not just me and Adam. All the receivers take it really, really seriously, coming out here and putting our best feet forward. I'm excited.
Q: How do you think that connection with Kirk Cousins has carried over from the spring, and how are you building on it right now in camp?
A: He knows us a little bit more than he did. We spent some time with him I guess, so he can kind of gauge where we'll be. It's still the beginning, it's still early and it's still fresh, so we're still trying to work towards something. Just not counting the days, but making the days count. It's only day two, so it's still early, but we're definitely working in the right direction.
Q: Did you guys get together at all in those five weeks off?
A: No, we didn't spend too much time together. We kind of took that break to really just refocus and get ready to come into training camp. We spent that time really just refocusing and taking our time. We knew that we were going to spend a lot of time in training camp, so we're taking full advantage now.
Q: What can this offense do to match the level that the defense has been at the last few years?
A: Just continue to prepare the way they prepare. Just prepare the right way, do everything in our power and control what we can control. Each individual is trying to work towards the same goal, so as an offense everybody holds each other to a high standard. Accountability is huge, everybody is trying to be on the same page and work towards the right goal.
Q: The defense has had a lot of continuity with coaching, but the offense has changed offensive coordinators multiple times. What are the challenges that come with having multiple offensive coordinators?
A: This team has faced a lot of adversity though. We've been through a lot of different quarterbacks, different coaches, but at the end of the day we've managed to adjust each and every year. It's like moving and a going to a new school, you kind of just have to adjust and get used to being around different people and kind of work off of it. We've had some great coaches though. I've been blessed to have enough coaches, so I know how to prepare the right way and I know how to approach things, so as far as learning your new coach, how he wants things done and just doing them to the best of your ability and giving your maximum effort. You can control your effort, so I'm just out there trying to give it everything I got.
Q: Is the hope now to get a contract extension done? Is anything close to happening?
A: The magic question, I knew it was coming from you. You know for me, I'm going to give you the political right answer as always. For me, I want to be here, I love it here, I love being a part of this organization. They took a chance on me early on, so I love it here. As far as where we're at, you kind of got to take it up with the right people. I haven't spent too much time up there, but hopefully we can get some things done. We'll see how it goes.
Q: What did you think of the other wide receivers in the league getting paid?
A: I was extremely happy for them. Seeing guys who grind out in life and get paid, it's definitely a blessing. I'm happy for every guy that gets paid. For me, I don't really think of it as far as for me personally, everybody is different. I'm just more so happy for those guys when they pop up on my phone, two claps and keep it going.
Q: Do you have any advice for the rookies starting camp?
A: I was young once, I'm still young. Try not to be too big-eyed, it's all going to come at you pretty fast. Training camp is a little different than OTAs, so as far as how you manage things, I would teach them to treat every day as special. One day at a time, don't get ahead of yourself, stay in your books and just play ball at the end of the day. Be a baller, that's pretty much about it.
Q: How does Dalvin Cook returning help the offense?
A: It does a lot, I love DC. I'm actually looking forward to his upcoming season. He has put in a lot of work as far as the offseason. I felt like, personally, last year he was just getting his feet wet. He was really on the cusp of doing a lot special things. He had some great games. I really look forward to his success and blocking for him. It'll open up some passes, you know how that works, and we all work off each other. Hopefully I can get him some wide open runs or some blocks.
Q: What are your thoughts on how the Minneapolis Miracle will live on in Vikings lore forever?
A: For me, it was something that changed my life. That play was definitely huge for me right now, been trying to put it in the past for a little bit. Not really the past, but in the back of my head. It was a special moment we will always share, Vikings fans and people around the city. For me, I've got a new season I'm trying to focus on right now. Trying to make some better plays so I'll let you know.
Q: How important is it to let those deep shots fly in practice when you want to expand the deep passing game?
A: That's what you've got to do. That's one thing about Kirk, he trusts his guys. He's going to take his chances when he can and he is real smart. Only way to get better at it is to do it. I take it this way, sprinters get better by running. You're going to have to do it, regardless. So, for us, just keep repping it, keep going after it. For us as receivers, to build that confidence he has, as far as trusting that he's going to get it there and you're going to catch it. For me, I try not to leave anything on the ground, I'm pretty hard on myself about that.
Q: Do you have any personal goals for the season?
A: No, I've got some goals as far as like I want to win. I want to win game one and I want to win moving forward. But as far as personal goals, I write them all down and put them in my locker, come see them some time.
Q: Coach Zimmer said you really upped your game and thinks you are better than ever. How did you up your game this offseason?
A: Well, not just this offseason. I have been working for a while and taking as much coaching as I can as far as listening. Coach Zimmer has been around for a very long time. My coaches, Coach Hazell, Coach Flip [DeFilippo], as far as my new coach. Just listening to every guy that I have as far as learning and really dedicating my time to being a great and trying to perfect my craft. Right now I am just a worker bee again, another training camp trying to get better.
Q: What is your impression of Holton Hill? It seems he is getting a little more aggressive and confident?
A: As a corner, you can see he has the confidence. At corner, guys are feeling their way around. He has that confidence and plays with it. I like him as a player and I like what he brings to the table. It does not really matter to me at the end of the day, I am trying to kill him, but I love him on my team because I love what he brings to the table. As a young player, to play with that much confidence is a good sign early. I am pulling for him. I am going to keep barbecuing him though, that ain't going to stop. But I like him a lot. I'm just messing around.
Q: What physical skills does Holton Hill have?
A: As far as body control, he is not a small guy. He has a good shape and he can run. I don't know where he got drafted, at this point it doesn't even matter. He is a special talent, you can see flashes of it early and that is always a good sign. I am pulling for him. I'm kind of trying not to make the spot hot right now, you can't tell everyone about him, but he is going to be a good player I hope.