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Transcript: Stefanski, Edwards and Maalouf Addressed the Media on Thursday

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski

Good morning. Okay, looking forward to the challenge of going to Lambeau this week versus a really good team, an outfit that held the Bears to three points there the other night on Thursday night. So, they’re playing really well. Got some new players that are some good players that they added to that defense. Briefly going back to last week, it was great to get a W and we always talk about it, whatever it takes. That was certainly a unique way for us to go get it, but we’ll take it if that’s the result.

Q: How different does that defense look starting with the personnel you are talking about?

A: Yeah, I think the adds of Za’Darius Smith and Preston (Smith) over there on the right, 91 and 55, they’re good players and they fit this scheme really well. They’re stout. And then in the backend with the young safety from Maryland and bringing (Adrian) Amos over from Chicago, they’ve added really good players to an already good defense, in my mind, a scheme that presents a ton of challenges. So, certainly have our work cut out for us.

Q: What did you think overall of how things played out on Sunday?

A: We’ll take it. Our special teams giving us the ball right there. The defense giving us the ball right there. So, being up 21-0 early like that was really unique. Again, we want to play complementary football and I would love for that to be an every week thing. I don’t expect that, but we’re ready. When given the ball in short fields, we need to go get seven points, so that was our mentality.

Q: How much do you have to work on with Kirk Cousins with just 10 throws?

A: He’s spoke to how unique it was and even during the game and on the sideline, just talking to the receivers and the tight ends, the quarterbacks. When the run game is having that much success and the score is what it was, it just dictated how the game was flowing. Those guys are champing at the bit to play a meaningful part of this offense and guess what, that’s where I give them credit. A guy like Kyle Rudolph comes out of that ballgame without a catch and then you watch the game and he’s just straining in the run game. I think that’s so important. Kyle being a leader, one of the leaders of this offense, it’s important for our young guys to see that. That establishes the mentality that we have around here.

Q: How much is not unveiling your passing offense an advantage heading into Week 2?

A: We specifically talked about that, Diggsy (Stefon Diggs) and Adam (Thielen) and I on the sideline during the second half of the ballgame. We talked about all the things on that call sheet that we can save and hold for another week. Certainly, as a coach, you want to try all these things and in a game. You’d love to have 100 plays and try all these fun things you’ve been practicing on, but there is a level of trust in knowing that those plays are good and saved for another day.

Q: What have you seen from Irv Smith Jr. in the running game and how he’s come along in that area?

A: Yeah, I think we saw it really right away when Irv (Smith Jr.) was here in rookie minicamp. We saw a skillset with his footwork, with his hand placement that could very quickly be grown into a guy that’s going to help us in the run game from day one. There he is as a rookie out there chopping guys down, getting guys on the ground, putting his nose in there, so I think there’s something to work with early. We talked about he came from a program that knows how to coach the run blocking. It was certainly something that he was asked to do and now we’ve just had to build on it and clean it up. I think Coach (Brian) Pariani does a great job with all those guys in their individual periods in expressing the techniques that we’re looking for those guys to employ.

Q: What did you see out of Garrett Bradbury’s debut?

A: I think Garrett (Bradbury) did a nice job. There’s always things that you’d like back, I think, for all five of those guys, but I think you see a group that battles, that scraps and sometimes it’s not perfect, but I think the effort was outstanding from all five of those guys. You have to remind yourself, there’s Garrett in his first ballgame as a rookie doing it, so I think there were some good moments and some moments that we’re working hard to clean up.

Q: How would you gauge Brian O’Neill’s development as a tackle?

A: It’s funny you think about here’s a second year player and you lose sight of the fact that he’s a second year player, that Garrett’s (Bradbury) a rookie so we often times don’t give Brian (O’Neill) enough credit for his development that he’s come in there and performed really well. You see his skillset on display in the run game and the pass game. We didn’t have him there for a little bit with that injury, but he bounced right back. Didn’t play in the preseason, I thought acquitted himself nicely.

Q: What can you say about this rivalry and playing at Lambeau Field?

A: It’s a special rivalry. I think the proximity of the two teams and neighboring states obviously plays into the rivalry. There’s a lot of Packer neighbors around here and I hope some Viking neighbors over there in Wisconsin. So, it’s certainly a fun thing to be a part of. Nothing like Lambeau Field, really enjoy going out there and this week it’s a big challenge to be there. They’re going to be ready for us and I think it’s another time for us to get ready for this crowd noise and being in an environment that we haven’t really seen yet this season.

Q: Is it a little better to get some divisional road games out of the way early?

A: I hadn’t thought about it that way. Often times you think about the weather when you look at Green Bay early. However the schedule shakes out, it shakes out. We’re so locked in week to week, can’t tell you who we’re playing next week or the week after that. It’s just how they lined it up. Anytime you get Green Bay, you know it’s going to be a challenge.

Q: What’s your contingency plan if disaster strikes the offensive line at tackle?

A: It is a contingency plan, I hope never to have to use it. I remember when we played Atlanta a few years back at TCF, I think they got into it and had a tight end that went down to play tackle. So, we have those plans. Again if you get to that point, you’re limited, obviously, in what you’re going to do protection-wise and run game-wise with those guys. Typically, it’s the tight ends that need to slide in there to a tackle spot.

Q: So if it’s a guard, will the tackle play guard?

A: Typically, that’s what you do. So, everybody moves down one spot.

Q: How many linemen do you feel you need?

A: I think we’ve kind of been between eight and seven. It’s like anything else, you worry about one play losing two guys and that did happen in that Buffalo game I remember. What you try to do and you work with Coach (Mike Zimmer) and the special teams and the defense and you try. There’s going to be some position that you feel a little uneasy if you carry seven or if you carry two tight ends or whatever it is, there’s always a position that you have to have a contingency plan. When that comes in with the offensive line, certainly you know what you need to do in case a disaster were to strike.

Q: Which tight end is it for you now?

A: I don’t know. I don’t want to jinx it.

Q: Was it reassuring to see Dalvin Cook handle a full-game work load?

A: He did a nice job. I think he was right where the work load we’re looking to get him. Again, something that we’ve seen all spring and summer, something that we saw in that preseason game, so just keep bringing him along. I think the entire running back room did a nice job in that ballgame. That run game is never one person so I’m pleased with how those guys ran really hard. Sometimes it’s clean and perfect and sometimes it’s not and those guys, I thought, did a nice job in fighting for some hard yards in that game.

Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards

We just finished a walk thru here, getting ready for another practice this afternoon to handle some of the situations going into the game. Guys are locked in, we know this is a divisional game and the importance of that and how it affects the season, so we’re excited about our preparation going into this week. Guys are locked in trying to get ready as we keep going today through practice.

Q: What are the biggest difference do you see in this Packers offense?

A: It’s a lot different than what they’ve done in the past, but a lot of things at the line of scrimmage where the quarterback is checking, which is the same kind of process they used last year offensively. A lot of the concepts they’re using in the passing game are different as far as the matchups and those kind of things, so we’ve had to go through (and look). At the start of the season when you have a new coaching staff, you’ve kind of got to look and see what they’re drawing from, what they’ve seen in the preseason and also what they’ve done in the past and the different concepts that they like. You also got to see the new players doing it, so it’s been a process.

Q: So you are looking at Matt LaFleur’s film from Tennessee?

A: It’s just like last week, when we got ready for game last week. You just want more evidence to confirm certain concepts that they’re doing in certain situations, so that’s the process at the end of the day.

Q: How did you evaluate them against the Bears defense? Is it hard to evaluate how good the Green Bay offense could really be?

A: Yeah, I think any time you’re starting off with a new offense and the rhythm and the timing and just what you’re expecting to look at, I think that’s a part of it. When you go against the defense as stout as Chicago is, I think it’s a combination of those two variables together. But at the end, they’ve still got (Aaron) Rodgers back there, who can make a play at any point in time, and that’s what they did and ended up scoring to win the game. We’ll have our work cut out for us as far as the matchup this week. We’ve got to do a good job of going back to the fundamentals of stopping the run and being able to handle leverage in the passing game and understand all the nuances that he brings to the game with being able to move around in the pocket and throw the ball down the field, and also having a great feel in the pocket and being able to run out of the pocket. We’ve got to do a great job with our rush lanes and got to do a good job with our coverage, and those things always go hand in hand together.

Q: What did you think about your pass rush on Sunday against Atlanta? You got a long look at it.

A: Yeah, we did. A lot of guys did a good job, and we were excited that they were able to go out and have success with it. We’re excited that we were able to hold up in coverage on the back end, guys did a nice job in the coverage. Those things kind of go hand in hand. Anthony (Harris) ended up getting two interceptions off of it, and I think he’ll be the first one to tell you, any time we can get good pressure on them and force him into bad decisions to make throws, and he was able to get two interceptions. I think that’s a big part of it.

Q: What did you see from Hercules Mata’afa in his first game?

A: Hercules, it was his first outing and he did a good job. Got good push in the pocket. We just look for him to continue to get better from week to week. From the first game to this game, hopefully we’ll see an improvement and him understanding that it’s a different plan this week as far as rushing this quarterback as opposed to last week. We’ll have our work cut out for us Sunday.

Q: How do the new wrinkles in Green Bay’s offense alter how Aaron Rodgers looks and how he plays?

A: He’s such a dynamic talent that he makes the most of every situation that he’s in. He really didn’t play in the preseason for them and I think just getting out there the first week they were trying to get their timing and rhythm, those kind of things. But at any point in time you can see Rodgers making a good check, throwing the ball to the receiver at the right timing when there was pressure. He scrambled around, threw the ball down the field, those traits are still there. We’ve got to do a good job just like always with our rush plan and covering those guys down the field, because when he starts scrambling around they’re headed right to the end zone. Guys got to be disciplined with their eyes, disciplined as far as leverage in coverage, and we’ve got to do a good job with our rush plan up front.

Q: How do you balance looking at film of LaFleur’s offense with another quarterback, but knowing Aaron Rodgers is going to do what he’s going to do?

A: Right, that’s why I said it doesn’t matter what system he’s in, he’s such a dynamic talent at the quarterback position, decision making and being able to have that kind of presence in the pocket to move around still release the ball down the field. Not only that, but he’s got a quick release. If you’re pressuring him he’s got the ability to get the ball out quick. No matter what system he’s in, I think those traits are going to carry over within what they’re asking him to do.

Q: How impactful was Anthony Barr in what you guys were doing on Sunday against the Falcons?

A: I thought he really had a good game. Not just like you said on the sack, but if you look at the body of work that he put out there on Sunday, the way he ran to the ball. There was a scramble, because this comes back to my mind, there was a scramble on third down, and he’s on the other side of the field and chases and gets the quarterback out of bounds. It was like the first third down, and he gets him on the ground and we get off the field. Those types of deals showed out throughout the course of the game, just his effort to the ball. He’s a good talent inside for us, and we just look for him to continue that throughout the season.

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf

We’re just practicing right now for Green Bay, working everything that we can. Very good special teams unit in Green Bay. We’re preparing, I was happy last week with what happened against Atlanta. Still a lot of things to work on, and we’re still ironing out a lot of things as well. That being said I was proud of the way our guys played and how they reacted situationally in the game. Now on to Green Bay and getting ready for them.

Q: What did it feel like to see that overloaded inside rush lead to a blocked punt?

A: It was good. The way we drew it up and the way it was executed, obviously that was the way it was supposed to go. We practice all the contingencies and what the possibilities would be, and I think it’s a credit to our guys and how they prepare. Now they’re getting ready to face Green Bay. That’s a thing that’s on their mind. They came in, watched the film and on to the next opponent.

Q: What stands out about Green Bay on special teams?

A: Their specialists are really good. J.K. Scott does a really good job of flipping the field. Mason Crosby is a veteran who still performs at a high level. Those are the two biggest factors that we have. They have a lot of team speed, and that’s something that we have to match. We got our hands full with Green Bay.

Q: With a game under your belt, how do you feel about the rhythm between the specialists?

A: Those guys have done a good job of working together and getting a lot of reps and making sure that they’re on the same page. I think that’s a good thing. Whenever you get a veteran like Britton (Colquitt), he’s somebody who’s done it so long and it makes things a little bit easier. I think Austin (Cutting) is doing a good job as well, so all those things are coming together. They still have a lot to work on too, it’s only game one. But they’re getting better.

Q: What goes into a decision to choose to prioritize a return on a punt versus a block on a punt?

A: Down and distance, obviously the distance is big. Where we’re at in the game. There’s so many factors that go into it. If we’re outside, there’s even more factors that go into it. Depending on the wind, what’s going on there like it’ll be in Green Bay. I think there’s so many things that go into place. I think the most important is making sure our guys are confident in what we’re doing. I think that’s what really helps us make the calls. It’s just like in any offensive or defensive call, there’s going to be calls where coaches are going to throw things out, and there’s going to be calls where we’re going to practice it a little bit more. That happened to be a situation where the guys liked the call and it worked out.

Q: If the players see something, do the players have the ability to change the punt return strategy on the field?

A: In certain situations. It just depends, but we try to stick with the call, then there’s adjustments they can make as well. I’m not really answering your question very well, but that’s just the reality. It’s not like they can go to a different call, but there’s some things that they can adjust.

Q: Chad Beebe talked about needing to do a better job of understanding what the call is. Did you see a lack of aggression from him a little bit?

A: No, I mean it just depends on certain situations it just depends on how many guys are doubling the gunners out there too. I think that give him a little bit more of a comfort level. I’m sure if he had one to take back, he’d probably be a little bit more aggressive with it, but I was happy with the decisions that he made and the things that he did. He made a really good play on the hands team when they kicked it deep and getting us to the 30-yard line. That’s a veteran move right there. Chad hasn’t done it for a long time, but smart. And that’s what we keep preaching to him, is secure the ball. That thing is the most important thing right now.

Q: Do you want to try to get some looks at Olabisi Johnson and Ameer Abdullah back there too?

A: Yeah, it just depends on where we’re at in the game and who’s involved in the different positions, what’s going on with the offensive game plan as well because all three of those guys are offensive players, so it makes a difference there. We’ll try to get those guys involved as much as we can.

Q: From a philosophical standpoint, do you lean a little more towards being aggressive with it or play it as it comes?

A: Yeah, I think that’s the best thing to do, is play it as it comes. We’re not going to be able to block a punt every week. There’s going to be some weeks were you see us try to return more than block. That’s just the reality of it. You just have to take what they give you.

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