*Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards *
We're in our fourth day now, it's good to see some guys now really have to push strong mentally through some things. Got a lot of different concepts that we're trying to get them acclimated to. Just continue to keep working this journey and try to come out here each day and compete and get better each day.
Q: What does the nickel rush give you and how do those guys blend together nicely?
A: The goal is to get the best pass rushers that we can on the field in certain situations. I think the more that they work together the more that they understand what people are trying to do to us protection wise. Them continuing to work the technique, the rush techniques that Coach [Andre] Patterson is concentrating on this training camp. Just really rushing off each other to make sure that we don't open up any lanes, being disciplined as far as the gains and those types of deals that we're running. From that aspect of it we just have to continue to keep working through it, it's still a work in progress.
Q: Does that open up your blitzing ability from anywhere?
A: I mean it's kind of built off that. You start off in this league just rushing and then we kind of build into our blitz package and what we're trying to attack and take advantage of from week-to-week.
Q: What kind of role can the defensive line play in takeaways?
A: We always talk about, the biggest thing we talk about with takeaways, number one, we have to relentlessly just run to the football. Go to the football with a purpose. Somebody gets him stopped, next guy comes in there and boom we're all swiping to try to get the football out. Anytime you have those guys, especially in passing situations, you'll see them, they're turned and they are running to the football. A receiver is worried about who is in front of him as opposed to who is behind him. They get him stopped and then all of a sudden they come in there and get a chance to get a good swipe at the ball. So that's one of the things I've been trying to emphasize with them.
Q: How do you practice that when you can't hit the quarterback?
A: Well the biggest thing is you can't hit the quarterback, which none of us want to do, we want to make sure we have our starting quarterback going in. They learn to practice together and they learn how to turn and run to the ball and those types of deal. So from that aspect of it, it really helps us, cause now they know that they're not going to rush pass the quarterback, they know they're not going to hit the quarterback. So now once the ball is thrown they can exit out of there and get in a pursuit angle to try and go swipe the ball.
Q: What do you want to see from the defense on Saturday night?
A: I think the biggest thing is we want to be locked in – good calls, good communication, good alignments, guys understanding what we're trying to do – so we don't want mental errors. So we want them to be sharp mentally, want them to be sharp fundamentally, want them to be sharp and playing with a lot of passion. That's the biggest thing we want to get accomplished. We've got a good group as far as going out there to compete. But we want to play with a lot of passion. When you understand what we're asking as far as schematically, whether it's alignment, assignment or technique, if you understand those things and it all comes together, that's when we usually have success.
Q: What are things that you're trying to emphasize in camp?
A: Defensively, I think you heard guys talk about it in the offseason, we went back and looked at last year and the things that we really weren't where we wanted to be goal-oriented wise. We kind of located those things and tried to make an emphasis on those things and we're working through them throughout training camp, work through them throughout the offseason. Them understanding the things that we need to do differently to be successful in those situations. One of them I know that they have talked about is the two-minute. That's a constant thing we did. The year before, our first year, we were pretty good in the two-minute. Then last year we had a lapse for some reason. So we had to go back and study the things that we're doing schematically and also the things that we're doing technique and fundamental wise to make sure that we're all on the same page.
Q: Do you think some of those two-minute lapses are due to scheme?
A: I think it's always a combination of all three. It's never one thing, one play. If we knew it was one play or one thing that we were doing or one play that we were doing then trust me we would get that corrected in a hurry. But it's a culmination of mistakes that we made during those periods. Number one is recognizing the situation and then what we need to do to get them stopped.
Q: Where is Mackenzie Alexander in his progression?
A: He's still in a cognitive state of learning, so he's still learning the things. It's his second time through pretty much everything but he's still having to think a little bit as far as what we are anticipating call-wise and what we are doing technique and fundamental wise. The thing he's done a good job is, he's been focused, he's doing a good job of competing every day. As long as he keeps doing that the more experience that he gets within the system, he'll continue to get better at it. The biggest thing we try to encourage him to do is to come out, concentrate and focus on what we are doing from the meeting room and the individual and then have that transfer over to our team period.
Q: Is he getting it in meetings?
A: Yes he is, he's learning what we are expecting and how we are doing it. A lot of these guys especially when they come in, it's really the first time that they get exposed to it. He had a whole offseason where he got the first time, then he got injured towards the end of it. So some of the things now that are starting to come up, it's his first time through it. He's doing a good job of recalling and trying to get done what we're trying to accomplish from day-to-day.
Q: Is the nickel position a hard position to learn as a rookie?
A: It is and plus you put on top of it, we're playing him outside some too. So those things can run together a little bit, especially for a rookie. He's done a good job of handling those things – where his eyes need to be, his footwork, his alignments, his assignments – he's got a big bag right now that he's carrying. He's been doing a good job of staying focused on what it is that we're trying to get accomplished.
Q: Are any rookies mentally ahead of the curve?
A: I think this rookie class, I think it's a culmination of things, have done a good job mentally for us throughout the offseason as we come to training camp. I think a big part of it is that the guys in front of them are good examples for them. They're reaching back to help them, to teach them the techniques, to help them understand how to recall that information and be able to apply it to those situations. Communication is such a big key to what we do in the NFL defensively. It's such a big key to make sure that everybody is on the same page. They seem to have a pretty decent grasp on it as a group, I think as a rookie group.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer
*I'm excited about where we're going and where we're headed and going on into next week. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, because I know Saturday night is a big deal for all our guys, and we're going to kick some field goals, we're going to punt the ball, we're going to have some punt return work to see how far we've come in this week and a half – at that point, it'll be about a week and a half. And then, going on into Cincinnati next week is going to be a huge opportunity for our guys, practicing against a very, very good football team, and they're very well coached on special teams. They do a great job. When I was with the Kansas City Chiefs, we came to Mankato, and we did that summer practice with the Vikings; and we got a lot out of it. Our guys got a lot out of it. It was full speed, and you want to take care of each other. You don't want them to have any injuries or anything, but going into Cincinnati next week is going to be a big test for our guys, and obviously, next Friday night will be a huge test, as well. *
Q: Do you have a plan for what you want to do with Cordarrelle Patterson in kickoff return in the preseason?
A: I do. Coach Zimmer and I will talk about it. We'll see where he's at. Obviously, he wants to do it and get some reps under his belt. I know this is year four for him – and he has got a lot of returns under his belt – but like any young man, especially at this stage of his career, he's going to need some reps to get prepared for the season. My hope is to use him a little bit, maybe not in the first couple of games, but maybe the last few preseason games, if we can.
Q: He has talked a little bit about taking things more seriously this offseason at the receiver position. Does any of his extra focus translate over into kick return?
A: He has always taken kick return very seriously. He has matured over the last three, four years, and he has always taken it seriously. Our big focus with him is obviously ball security. Sometimes the ball will get away from him. He had the one we lost against Green Bay last year. That's unforgivable, but at the end of the day, that's his biggest deal. It's still working on some of the finer points of his return abilities and we're really emphasizing ball security.* *
Q: You mentioned those Kansas City scrimmages. I suppose those got pretty nasty. Special teams can bring out a lot of physicality?
A: Yeah, it can. I was talking to Coach (Darrin) Simmons (Bengals special teams coordinator) this morning for about half an hour; we went over the entire practice script and what we're going to try to accomplish. He and I are friends, we get along, so we're going to try to show some tape of these scrimmages, of good reps of the scrimmages, that we've done in the past, either here or that he has done in Cincinnati, and show our guys the tempo. We don't want it to be pillow fight. It's not going to be a short scrimmage, like we were back in the spring. It's going to be a little bit physical, but at the end of the day, we're trying to get better. We're not trying to get anybody hurt; we don't want any fights. To me, fighting on the football field doesn't prove you're a tough guy. I think to prove you're a tough guy is doing the techniques and fundamentals correctly, playing strong and playing fast and doing your job at a high level. To me, that's being a tough guy.
Q: Any one of those skirmishes stand out from the past?
A: Yeah, when I was with the Giants, we scrimmaged the Jets, and it was unbelievable. (It was) at Albany. We had Jeremy Shockey, and I get along with Jeremy. Jeremy is a great guy, but he had a mouth on him. I think six DBs jumped him after one play. It was six DBs from the Jets against one Jeremy Shockey. It was wild. I walked quickly the other way so I didn't get involved with that. That's the one that stood out. Obviously, here when I was with the Chiefs, we came to Mankato for one scrimmage one day; it was a really good day. The next day, we went back to River Falls, where we used to have camp, and about halfway through camp, I think the guys like Jared Allen and some of the veterans on both teams said, 'You know what, let's start a fight here so we can stop practice.' We practiced against each other far too long. I don't think we'll have anything like that in Cincinnati, and I know Coach Zimmer and Coach Lewis get along really well, and we're going to have a great day and a half there.
Q: How do you evaluate all the young guys on special teams when you are getting limited reps?
A: I don't look at them as limited reps, they're the reps you normally get. Compared to offense or defense, you're exactly right. We treat these walk-through reps just like full cover, full speed reps in practice. We're jogging through stuff and working through the finer points of the techniques and the fundamentals. I still get a lot out of that. Are they paying attention to the meetings, are they paying attention to the walk-throughs, can they run our show teams right if they're a young guy. When they're running our show teams, I tell them all the time, 'A: they're being evaluated. B: they have to use our techniques and fundamentals. We're looking at that stuff, we're correcting that stuff in meetings and we're trying to make those guys better. Not only on the punt team, but the guys on show punt return, not only on the punt return, but the show punt as well, and on down the line.* *
Q: It looked like a couple times older players would pull younger players aside. Do you rely on the older guys to do that for the younger guys?
A: Absolutely. We have a great locker room and I've said this before, what Rick and Coach Zimmer both have built, and in that locker room the chemistry we have, we have a lot of unselfish guys that are going to take these young guys under their wing. At any position, whether it's special teams, offense or defense, we've got older guys that take these younger guys under their wings and then teach them the finer points. They can listen to the coaches and they should listen to the coaches and they're going to work on that stuff in practice, but it really means a lot when it comes from the veteran player. It means a lot to those young players and we've got a bunch of guys like that in our locker room and that's awesome.
Q: Does Blair have a preferred hash mark?
A: Yeah, I've made the preferred hash mark the middle of the field. We've changed that. We're going the middle of the field.
Q: Were you surprised how the longer extra point affected kickers across the league?
A: I wasn't surprised. I've heard coaches, reporters, even players say 'chip shot, chip shot.' I don't believe any kick is a chip shot. A 19-yard field goal or a 60-yard field goal aren't chip shots obviously. At the end of the day, you've still got to execute, you've still got to protect, you've got to have a good snap, a good hold, a good leg swing. When you're outside, not to make excuses for anyone who misses them outside, but it's a little bit different deal than inside. I hope we're automatic, especially from 33 yards, we should be.
Q: Beyond gunner, what special teams roles do you envision for Moritz Böhringer?
A: He is obviously a gunner, like you've seen him out there. He can be a halfback on our kickoff return team because he can block. He's strong. He's smart. He can return the ball if they do kick it do him or if they miss hit the ball. He can play a little bit on punt return, either as an outside holdup guy or a rushing off the edge or even holding up a wing. We can do a lot of things with him. He's come a long way since the spring. He's very smart, and I think just learning the game of football, how we play it at this level, it's going to take him some time, but he has come a long way since when he first got here, after we drafted him.
Q: Do you see him making the roster?
A: I don't know. That is not up to me. I think there is a lot of competition at a lot of different positions. He's going to get an opportunity to make the roster just like everybody else.
Q: Out of curiosity, the fake punt against Green Bay, Adam Thielen, did you suggest that, did Mike Zimmer suggest that or how does it work?
A: Coach Zimmer is very aggressive, and that makes my job fun. We design either a surprise onside or fake field goals or fake punts, whatever it may be. And Coach (Zimmer) is always asking me, 'Is it there? Is it there? Is it there?' So, we install it early in the season, and we work on it against different looks that opponent has that week, and if we get the opportunity to run it, we can run it, and we'll go from there. But he's very aggressive, and obviously it's his call. He's the one who made the call last year, and our guys went out and executed it.* *
Q: What is it that you guys see out on the field that kind of hints toward 'Let's run one of these?' Is it the way the opponent lines up?
A: Sometimes it's the way they line up. It's the down and distance. It's the field position. It's the score and game situation. There are a lot of different factors that come into play, and that's why you don't run fakes very often, because those opportunities don't come up very often.* *
Q: Do players have the ability to call a fake off if they don't get the right look?
A: I can neither confirm nor deny that we'll call off a fake if we call it on the sideline. No, I'm just messing with you. That's an old Navy term. Yeah, we have the ability to get out of something that we don't want to run. Absolutely. I didn't want to give any trade secrets. That was kind of a dumb joke. My dad is the only one who laughed. My jokes go over so well. This is awesome. I'm like a comedian, me and Jimmy Kimmel.
Q: What are you seeing from Troy Stoudermire early in training camp?
A: He had got experience, and because of that experience, he has confidence. And because of that confidence, he's going to go out there, and the stage won't be too big for him. That's what I like a lot about Troy. He's come a long way with his technique. He didn't catch punts or track punts like I like our guys to do. He's very, very coachable, and he wants to get better. It's very important to him. He takes his craft very seriously, and I like working with him. It's going to be fun to see him return the ball.
Q: How has Jeff Locke been progressing through the first week?
A: He struggled the first day. I think I spoke the day after that. He had a really good plus-50 period yesterday. We went on the other field and kicked some more deep balls. It was pretty windy yesterday, and I thought he reacted really well. This time of year, everybody's a work-in-progress. Again, like I told our guys, Saturday night is going to be big, just because it's under the lights, it's a little bit more pressure. I'm excited; we're all excited for Saturday night here in front of our fans, our great fans that pack this place. So, that'll be a big test for him, to see where he's at.
Q: Blair Walsh told us that it took a while to get over the missed kick. How long did it take the special teams coaches to get over it?
A: I don't think I've gotten over it. I don't know if you ever get over something like that, but I've moved on from it. I don't think you forget it. I think the one thing I can learn as a coach is to remind him, 'Hey man, let's just focus here,' because he knew the moment, and the moment's not too big for a guy like Blair Walsh. He has been in those type of moments before – maybe not in a playoff game – but for me as a coach, I think I've got to be able to be smart enough, or whatever it is, and say, 'Hey, you know what, Blair? Let's just relax, stay focused here, and he's going to go out and make that kick next time. But I don't think you ever forget a play like that, but I've moved on from it; I don't dwell on it. I woke up at 3 this morning thinking about it, but other than that, I'm good.
Q: Does that stem from having all 11 defensive starters back?
A: That's exactly what I was saying. The guys that have been here have been able to reach back and really help those younger guys to make that transition a lot easier as opposed to year one where it's the first time you're in here. You're kind of learning on the run themselves so yes, I think that's very significant in their progression as we keep going forward.
Q: How much comfortable is Trae Waynes in the defense this year?
A: A lot more. You can't even put a grade on it. Now, he's not having to think and he's not having to think about alignments or assignments as much. You look at him coming in it was sort of different than what he did in college. All of a sudden he's asked to play a little more zone and make different adjustments rather than just lining up and playing man-to-man. Now, he doesn't have to think about those things quite as much. He can line up and play and concentrate on the technique and the fundamental of each call as we go through it.
Q: You've lined up both Brian Robison and Danielle Hunter on the left side of the line at the same time. Is that something you're trying in practice or plan on actually using?
A: I think it's something we've worked throughout the offseason. We actually worked it some last year near the end of the season so we're just looking to get our best pass rushers on the field in certain situations and just building on that as we keep working through.
Vikings Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
We've ran four days in pads and this atmosphere has been unbelievable. You know the guys are flying around and competing. It's been some physical practices and it's great to out here with these guys competing; we're excited. We get to go to Cincinnati in a couple of days to face a different opponent. It'll be good with both sides of the ball competing and making each other better. The wide receivers are making the defensive backs better and vice versa. Ultimately, we just want to continue to be a complete football team and do what we need to do to be successful.
Q: What do you want to get out of Saturday night scrimmage?
A: We want to keep up the tempo that we've developed so far in these four days in camp with our pads on. The guys have been flying around and playing fast and that's what we want to do come Saturday night. It's a different setting, the fans will be here and it's at night time. You get a feel for what it's like to be on the big stage in primetime. We just want to come out and give the fans something worth seeing.
Q: Do you want to thrill the fans with some long passes or are you going to keep that under wraps?
A: We want to continue doing what we've been doing so far into camp. I think we've been pretty all throughout camp and that's something we want to continue to do.
Q: Have you seen the defense trying to make more attempts to cause turnovers?
A: Definitely. That's one of Coach Zimmer's messages to the defense, 'create more turnovers'. Eventually that'll give the offense more chances to score points and things like that. But those guys are definitely trying to create turnovers, disrupt passing lanes and be physical on the outside with the wide receivers.
Q: What does Alex Boone bring to the offensive line unit?
A: That group is healthy right now and that is what's most important. You get John Sullivan back into the mix and then you add Andre Smith then Alex Boone. So those guys have been doing a great job of being physical and having the mentality that they want to dominate each day. That entire room is pushing each other and it's only going to continue to make the team better.
Q: How nice was it to have Cordarrelle Patterson and Jerick McKinnon back out there today?
A: It was great just having those guys presence in the walkthrough today. It was great. We're going to need all of the guys as the season goes on. As long as we keep the guys healthy, it'll be great for us.
Q: How was it having a healthy Charles Johnson back this year?
A: Charles has come out and worked every day. He's been a complete pro and that's what we want from the guys. To come to work every day and want to get better. We have a group of guys here who want to be great. You add in that work ethic, their talents and skillsets, it's only going to make them better players. Charles, he comes in every day, he's doing everything he can to make this team a better football team and he's doing everything that the coaching staff is asking of him.* *
Q: What did you do to help keep his spirits up after a tough season last year?
A: Charles is a guy who understands football. Having that ability to understand what's going on has really been helping him, helping both him and I with chemistry on and off the football field.
Q: What do you think when you see your teammates getting into shoving battles?
A: Me, I love it. I wish that I could get involved in it but I can't with the red jersey on. It's great to see that the guys have that physicality, mindset and attitude. But at the same time, we have to be a disciplined team. It's great as long as it's within our team and doesn't go any further than that. It's going to continue to bring attitude to this team and the mentality to dominate.
Q: Do you ever have to play peacekeeper out on the field?
A: No, it's a pretty good group. When something happens, once the whistle is blown and Coach Zimmer steps in it's over. That's the thing about this team, there may be a scuffle here and there but once the whistle is blown those guys understand that 'Hey, it's time to get back to football'. Sometimes you need that in practice. It sets the tone and tempo for practice. I think about that the other day when we did goal line and had the big scuffle in the end zone, it was great. As practice went on the defense competed, the offense competed. It just made that day a special day.
Q: When Taylor Heinicke is healthy, what does he bring to the table?
A: Taylor is a smart quarterback and a guy who has that mindset that he wants to do something special. To have him in that room, his presence has been great so far.