Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski
I know we have a game on Friday, but we are very much in training camp mode still. We are really looking forward to another great day of work versus our defense.
Q: Do you look for a light to go on for some of these young guys even though it still is training camp, you’ve got to get them into game mode?
A: I think Coach (Mike Zimmer) said it the other day that we are looking forward to these guys playing. They are out here on the practice field and there are coaches behind them helping them get lined up, so we are looking forward to being in a game setting where they get to go out and play. We’re really looking for their technique to stay true to what we have been coaching them. Sometimes when you get out in a game setting, whether it’s under the lights in TCO stadium or down in New Orleans, guys will tend to go off the reservation, so to speak, so we are just looking for those guys to play with the technique that they have been coached.
Q: We know what Ameer Abdullah brings the return game, but what have you seen from him coming out of the backfield and as a runner?
A: Ameer (Abdullah) has done a nice job. Coach (Kennedy) Polamalu works really hard with those guys and he’s got a very good understanding of what we are trying to do in the run game, in the pass game, and in the protection world. I think Ameer is a pro. He’s done a nice job so far and looking forward to seeing him work in the preseason.
Q: To see Teddy Bridgewater on the other side of the field, if you would’ve said three years ago you would see him play like he is now when that injury happened, would you believe that?
A: Those of us who know that kid, you wouldn’t doubt anything that he does. Really looking forward to seeing him. I think he has a bunch of fans in this building, so we will see him in pregame and say hello and then get to work.
Q: Are you able to judge how the zone blocking is going without the cut block?
A: I think we can judge it out here on the practice field and make sure guys are assignment sound. And then as you’re watching it you say, ‘Okay the right guard would have or is going to try to cut that nose.’ We have those discussions and the players are well aware of when they’re cutting and when they’re not, so certainly in a game setting where you are allowed to cut, you get to see the full scheme on display. I feel like we have gotten a ton of good work versus our defense as you would imagine with a caliber of scheme, caliber of player that we have. I think we are getting there, we are not there yet, but I think we are making strides.
Q: It’s the first-year you guys have had the drill in practice with the big donut that they are trying to dive at.
A: We have worked the cut drill in the past. I believe this is the first year of the donut, as you put it. I believe we had the pad out there prior where guys would run and cut. It’s hard to simulate, but I think the donut is one good way to try it.
Q: What is the donut drill?
A: I am probably not qualified to answer that perfectly, but I would just tell you that it’s a shape where you’re not just jumping on a mat that’s just down flat. There’s at least a shape that simulates the player as they roll into the player and then there’s a safety element where they can then roll on to the matt.
Q: What kind of influence has Gary Kubiak had in terms of using tight ends?
A: I think Gary has a real good feel for that position. Historically, he’s had a bunch of good ones, going back to Shannon Sharpe, some of the guys he had in Houston and Denver. Certainly, he has a good feel for the type of player that fits our scheme and we’ve had a lot of really good discussions. I think you see it in practice. We are a multiple offense, so were going to have three tight ends out there and then we are going to have no tight ends out there. There is certainly a place for those players in our scheme.
Q: What can you learn about younger players as you get into the dog days of training camp?
A: I think you can learn a lot about the young players and the older players. By design, training camp is not easy. The heat gets turned up a little bit and there’s a monotony to it at times. What you try to impress upon the young guys is this is their job. This is their livelihood. We are really trying to put all of the focus on working on our side of the ball. We show up here and it’s time to work and to hone our craft. I have been really impressed with the young guys, and the old guys, and they have really taken that message to heart.
Q: Kirk Cousins said last week that he’s excited to run new plays, do you like some of these new plays?
A: I would say we as a staff are excited about the system we’re putting together. Certainly, there’s plays that – I can tell you every offensive coordinator, every offensive staff in the NFL around the league right now can’t wait to unleash some of their plays that maybe they haven’t shown prior. That’s where the fun gets in the preseason and in the season, to see what you drew up on the board back in March and get to see it in real life, live and in living color. That kind of starts on Friday and then we’ll progress as we get through the preseason and into the season.
Q: How much does that experience as an offensive coordinator last year help you this year?
A: I think it certainly helps. Three games there were simply just the procedure of pressing the button and calling the play, those little things help. One of the things I did learn in those three games is how collaborative play-calling is. It’s something that I think I knew before, but you lean on your coaches. That’s where I’m so lucky, I have some really good ones on our staff that can help us through those games. I put a lot of the emphasis on the work we do during the week in preparing a game plan and then the play-calling itself should be a little bit easier because you feel stronger about your game plan and you’ve got a lot of good coaches helping you along.
Q: What’s the process like of deciding how much time to give veteran players in preseason games?
A: Yeah, I think Coach Zim has a good handle on that. I think we’ll meet more on that and make that decision. To that point I will tell you, the work we get out here on this field is really good work. I could think of a wide receiver, the defensive backs that he’s going against every day, and think about the offensive line and the defensive line that they’re facing every day. We’re certainly getting a ton of good work here and I think that the preseason games become another element of that work.
Q: How close can you simulate game-type work and the benefits you get from playing a game in practice?
A: I think you try, if you’ve noticed, we’ve had the coaches more off the field the past couple days to simulate that for the younger players, so it’s like anything else. You try, and then you get into a game and you’re under the lights and it’s a different feel. I think the guys are looking forward to that part of it. I think we as a staff are looking forward to evaluate the guys under those circumstances and those conditions and we’ll see Friday night.
Q: I know it’s kind of cliché, but to go on the road, even though it’s the preseason and the chance to bond and get out there with the coaching staff itching just as much as the players to get out there to get this thing going even though it’s the preseason.
A: Yes, and I think part of it also is we get to travel and the guys get to see what that looks like, get to see how we meet in the hotel. And for us as a new offensive staff, we also get to talk about how we want to structure meetings on the road, how we want to structure pregame warm ups and those type of things. So, it’s a dress rehearsal in that regard and I think we are looking forward to putting our best foot forward.
Q: Why is Kirk Cousins such an accurate passer?
A: You know, there’s probably an elaborate answer to that, but I think the short answer is that it’s pretty innate. He has that skillset where he takes that ball and he puts his eyes on his target and he hits his target. Some people are blessed with that ability, I’m not one of them, but certainly there’s technical aspects that you work on that help you. You can throw from a platform and different things that you can work on to improve that, but certainly God blessed him with that skill.