Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur
Q: When it comes to splitting carries from your three running backs, what can you take from your 2015 season in Philadelphia with your three running backs sharing the ball?
A: I think what is important is when you put the roster together, and we feel like we got a lot of guys in that running back room that deserves carries. As you're game planning each week, we feel like each one of those guys can go in there and run the ball, pass protect, and then catch it when we throw it to them so it gives us a lot of flexibility offensively. From a substitution standpoint we can give them chunks of time, or we can give them specific plays, or we can just get a feel for how they're doing and just make sure we get fresh backs in there so there's a lot of ways to do it. I still think that is a final cut, final team decision as to what we are going to do with it though.
Q: Has Dalvin Cook been improving at pass protection?
A: Yes, he has done a good job. I don't see any elements of running back play that he can't be very good at and pass protection is one of them.
Q: Pass protection can be a very hard thing for rookies to come in and learn, so do you trust Dalvin Cook with that job?
A: Absolutely. He's got a great background in it. I think the last time we visited here, we talked about how he has a really great foundation coming from Florida State, so he understands the big picture, he understands our terminology as to who we're blocking and he really has a good feel for the game.
Q: You have a small sample size. The offensive line still seems to be a little banged up, but where are you at with offensive line?
A: I think we have covered a lot of ground. I think we're making progress. We really like, number one, the way our guys are competing, and I think even though we are mixing it up a little bit, I think those guys are getting a good feel for working together, and I think that's as critical in an offensive line group as it is as just blocking your guy. How you're coordinated, are you the front side or back side of a scoop, how you are by yourself because somebody is pulling, I think the coaches and the players in that group have done a nice job.
Q: Is this emphasis as heavy now as it was before?
A: No, I think we go into every year trying to build a foundation with the offensive line, but again I think they're working hard, they're really dialed into what we're trying to do, and along with the foundation of them working on their fundamentals, we really want to develop, and that what's good about practicing against our defense because they give us so many different things. Offensively we want to develop a shared situational awareness of what we want this to look like and how we want to play and it obviously starts up front.
Q: Now that you have gotten a little longer look at Rashod Hill, what do you like and how do you think he is developing?
A: Well he certainly benefited from more reps than we thought he would get against our front line guys on defense, and he's making steady progress. We really like the path that he is on. I think we have more than a month before we play New Orleans. There's a lot of water that has run under the bridge, but we see steady progress in him and he is certainly a big body with long arms and is a guy that has a chance to be a good player.
Q: What was the main thing with him that drew you in the first place?
A: I think he has the general skill set and he came in early as a young developmental player and then we saw some of the things he could do physically and then you say that's a good guy to work on. If he was 5'8" with really short arms, I don't know.
Q: How much have you experimented with Elflein at guard?
A: I think both of our centers are getting guard work.
Q: How do you want things to play out in the preseason with the guard and center positons? Do you want to look at each combination one game?
A: I think you include the preseason games with the practice time. We're constantly going through that. Really, all three centers, Zac Kerin is in there doing a good job as well. We kind of lump all of that together, certainly when we put the pads on and go play in a game that gets a little more emphasis because it is a game situation but again, we have a month to go. We like the path that both or all three of those centers are on right now.
Q: In one game would they get some reps at center and some at guard?
Q: Is that an emphasis that you want all your centers to do at some point or do you have players that are capable of doing both?
A: Yeah. Here's what ends up happening, you develop a starting five and typically you take seven to the game. So, you have to have a guy that can be primarily an inside guy or a backup center-guard. So, until you become a Hall of Fame starter at a position where that's your position, if you're say the sixth guy and you're the inside kind of rotational guy you have to do both, and then you always have a guy that can play tackle and maybe guard. So, in the event you have injuries and we had a lot of practice at it last year, those guys slide in and do what they have to do.
Q: Is there something specific you are looking for as a Litmus test for the center position?
A: I think everything from the inside out tends to be more vocal and certainly the center and quarterback direct things. So, we feel like they are both very vocal. They both have a really good grasp on what we want to do and we just continue to work on the details of it. We sort of refer to it, you can't be a slow blinker, you've got to make a good decision and roll with it. If Sam doesn't like it he can trump it, but go with it and we'll all run off the cliff together. But the center has to be able to do that, so if you're a guy that's indecisive or you're a little bit, kind of a slow blinker that's not a spot for you. But, I think the two guys we're talking about, Pat and Nick, are both fast blinkers.
*Q: Alex Boone is the alpha dog. Is there a specific leader, maybe a number two and what does a leader look like within? *
A: Well, they all exert what they are as leaders in their own special way. In order to be a leader you just have to have great courage and compete. You don't have to do anything extraordinary. Sometimes the noisiest guys in the room are the ones that have the longest way to go. But I would say that group is coming together well. They find a way to lead each other.
Q: Athletically, what differences do you look for between the center and guard positions?
A: Well we just talked about center for a moment here, and then at guard you're certainly going to get singled out on a three technique. You then have to work in conjunction with a tackle, passing off twists. Some of the zone scheme stuff is the same, you're either on the front side or the back side of it. That's primarily it.
Q: Do you like the way the screen game is shaping up so far?
A: It's getting better. I think we put a lot of emphasis on it, but again screens are plays of deception, so they have to think you're doing something else when you hit them. It's just like all the elements of the offense, you try to work on it. Some days they look good, some days they don't.
Q: Do today's players approach their free time in training camp differently than the players did years ago?
A: I don't know. That's a better question for them. I just think we're living in a society now where there is more of a veer towards fitness and doing the right thing with their bodies. I see guys that on their off time, instead of doing something that might take away from that they're doing a good job of getting their rest and hydrating, getting treatment. These guys all for the most part do an excellent job of taking care of themselves. I think their free time is no different.
Q: In the old days you may have had guys breaking curfew and coming in late, is that not an issue nowadays?
A: I think we have a low tolerance level for that, but we don't have to worry about that here. We have a bunch of good guys.
Q: How has Bucky Hodges progressed as a run blocker here in camp?
A: He's gotten better. I think he still needs to improve. There are a lot of areas. We're asking them to do some things at the tight end position that he didn't do much of in college. He was extended, he was standing in a two point away. Bucky is a tough guy, he showed up well in the red zone in terms for having a feel for getting open, which is good. He'll stick it in there, now it's just a matter of time to have that courage to do it with the fundamentals of the footwork or the fit and then the finish. I think he's working on that and making steady progress.
Q: How is Danny Isidora looking?
A: Danny is doing well. He's competing, you saw that he got in there with there with the first unit a little bit. Again, the important thing for us, as you know, is we're really good up front on defense. For us to blend some of those guys we're developing in with the "1s" is a way for us to see them against our better players. I think he held up and did a decent job. Again, we have a month and a couple days so he has to just keep climbing with that development.
*Q: Has anytihng surprised you about Michael Floyd? *
A: We were certainly as offensive coaches were excited when he became a part of our team. We watched him be a really good player for a lot of years, so we kind of knew that. I think the thing that I'm seeing now as compared to the spring is his physical presence out there. He's a big physical guy, he's a full grown man playing receiver and I think that shows up on the practice field. He can make contested catches, but yet you've seen him do a decent job at times of getting behind the corners, which is a good thing. We like what we've seen.