Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf
We’re just getting ready for the Chicago Bears. The Bears have a good special teams unit. A lot of things to prepare for in those regards. We respect their coach and all the things that he’s done throughout his time in the NFL. Excited to have Marcus Sherels back. (He’s a) key guy, good, proven returner in his history and also a core guy.
Q: How much does it help to have a guy like Marcus Sherels with as much familiarity as he has back with the team?
A: It help a lot. When I was at other teams, we tried actually to sign him and he ended up staying here at home. It’s actually good to get him back here. Like you said, he does have a good proven track record as a returner, as a core guy and it’s good to have him. He’s really good for the room, a lot of the guys like him. He’s a great professional.
Q: What different challenges do Chicago’s returners present?
A: Yeah, they have real dynamic returners, absolutely. Great question. 84 (Cordarrelle Patterson), obviously was here. He’s a Pro Bowl returner. 29’s a Pro Bowl returner, Tarik Cohen. Both are dangerous weapons for them in their return phases. We take that seriously. We’ve got to be fundamentally sound in everything that we do in the coverage phases and that’s probably the most important thing and finish each play because those guys gain yards after the initial hit. We’ve been emphasizing to our guys that we have to finish and be very fundamentally sound in our coverage lanes and responsibilities.
Q: Is there an extra emphasis on special teams in divisional games, which are often close contests?
A: I think every game has an emphasis on special teams. I’d like to think that we try every game to have a positive impact. I think that’s the most important thing as long as we have a positive impact. It may come down to that, which team makes the least amount of mistakes on special teams. If we’re able to make one play that helps our offense with field position or helps our defense, that’s really all we’re looking to do—is contribute in a positive way. It’s an exciting place to play. It’s historic and I think all our guys are really looking forward to it.
Q: This may be the first game with sloppy weather conditions. Do you have to emphasize ball security?
A: Absolutely, ball security is extremely important in this game. We saw the weather report. There’s a chance of rain. There’s going to be some wind. The best thing about our preparation is we see so much wind and different weather here in our back yard, so I think that’s a really good prep for us and it helps us get ready.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards
Just finished the walk thru in preparation for a big division game on the road this weekend. Guys are paying attention to the details of what we’re trying to get accomplished here today and the facets that we’re covering in the game. We had a good practice yesterday, and just looking to come back and capitalize on it today.
Q: Where do you think Mitch Trubisky took steps in year two, and where do you think he is now?
A: He really did a great job last week of identifying what they were trying to do coverage wise, putting the ball where it needed to be with the matchups that they were able to create. In the past you looked at him, he’s got a good pocket presence where he’s able to throw, he’s able to run. Pull it down and run it after he recognizes what is going on. We’ve got our work cut out for us. We’ve got to do a good job with our rush plan, we’ve got to do a good job with our coverage down the field on the outside receivers and on the combinations that they’re running inside. We’ve got to do a good job and concentrate on what we need to get accomplished in those situations.
Q: Do you see Chicago using Cordarrelle Patterson in some of the same ways New England did?
A: Some similarities. He’s playing a little bit more, you can tell with the packages that they’ve got when he’s in the ballgame. He’s still running some of the rocket sweeps, he’s lining back up there at tailback. They’ll have him outside at the one receiver, they’ll have him inside at the two receiver. They’ve got a nice package in that they’re using his skill set in, and we’ve got to do a good job of being aware of what is going on in the game when those situations come on.
Q: How important is eye discipline against this team, and how do you get guys ready for that?
A: Very, very, very important. That’s a very important part, and that’s one thing that we’re stressing to our players. There’s a lot of motion, a lot of shifts, a lot of rockets, a lot of go’s, so those things try to really preoccupy the eyes pre-snap. That’s been something that’s been a league trend over the last couple of years, and we’ve done our due diligence to work on what we need to get done in those situations in the offseason, carrying over to the preseason and in the first couple of ball games. We’ve definitely got to carry that to the game and be disciplined with our eyes and our assignments and our alignments.
Q: How do you evaluate the high level that your Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith have played at through three games?
A: They’ve really done a nice job. Those two guys, number one, they’re very smart players, and they’re very tough players. They play with a lot of effort when they’re out there, so that’s a big plus for us. But they are great communicators within the scheme of things that we do, and they not only get themselves lined up and in the proper positions with disguises and stuff, but also with the guys that are working underneath with them.
Q: When you look at Chicago’s defense, do you see similarities to your own unit?
A: I’m going to be honest with you, we haven’t spent a lot of time on what they’re doing defensively, the changes that they’ve made schematically or anything like that with Chuck (Pagano) being there on defense. But personnel wise, they’re very, very good. Two ends that can rush, they’re big inside, second level (has) a lot of speed, a lot of skills in the secondary. We do know that just from the offseason stuff that we looked at them, but we haven’t played behind them defensively to know too much about them, you just know what those guys are capable of doing. The first ballgame where we saw them a little bit against Green Bay, but that’s about it.
Q: What challenges does Chicago’s running back group present?
A: You take (Tarik) Cohen, he’s everywhere. He’s sort of like Cordarrelle (Patterson), they use him everywhere. He’s outside as a number one receiver, he’s in the slot as a receiver, he’s in the backfield, he’s lined up in a spread formation, coming back into the backfield. We’re going to definitely have to be aware of where he’s at and what he’s doing. That’s another package that they have, and his skill set and his speed and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, catch the ball on the perimeter, we’ve got to do a good job of paying attention to the details of what we’ve got going in those situations.
Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski
Looking forward to the challenge of going on the road and playing on a division opponent, the division champs. We have quite the work cut out for us, I think we’re going to be up for the challenge and are looking forward to it. Briefly on last week, great team win. Excited to see the guys contribute, and now we’re ready to face a really tough team in Chicago.
Q: What is the toughest part of seeing this same Chicago defensive line over and over?
A: They’re big, they’re fast, they’re athletic, they’re strong. They fit the scheme really well, they have some good inside players, good outside players, so certainly the tape is impressive, and we know that from last year. Our guys are up to the challenge.
Q: Are their similarities between Chicago’s defense and the one you see in practice every day?
A: I’d say scheme, there’s not a ton of similarities, but just like we’re talking about their players being big and strong and athletic, our guys get to go against Danielle Hunter every day, so there’s some physical specimens that they’ve been blocking since the spring. Again, they have some really good players and a very sound scheme that I think we’ll have to have a plan for.
Q: You gave a lot of credit to Rick Dennison for how well the running game has gone. What makes him so good as the run game coordinator?
A: I think Rico (Dennison) puts a nice plan together each week with Andrew Janocko, Brian Pariani and Kennedy Polumalu. I think Rico does a great job of listening and putting a sound plan together that he knows our guys can execute, because so much of it is understanding your personnel and what they do well, and I think Rico has done a nice job along with all the coaches of putting some plays together that our guys can execute and execute fast.
Q: How much has the scheme change helped the running game this year?
A: I think we’re pleased with where we are in that aspect, but we’re definitely not where we want to be. So there’s a lot of room for improvement across the board, specifically the running game. We’ve had some nice outings there, but we’re always going to be looking for more.
Q: Laquon Treadwell talked yesterday about recommitting to his craft now that he’s back with the team. Did you have any parting words when he was cut at the end of camp?
A: No, I don’t think specifically parting words, but I just think Laquon is a guy that comes in here and is a great teammate, we know he’s going to work his tail off, so we’re excited to get him back out here and right away from day one throw him out there. He’s practicing as hard as he always does, so it’s really fun to see him back at it and nice to see him back out here in the field.
Q: When you’re able to break a long run in a first-and-20 or third-and-long situation, what does that do for your offense?
A: We talk about getting in some of those situations, and we can overcome first and 20, but we don’t want to. We have to play with clean technique to stay out of those situations, but as an offense our mentality is whatever the situation we’re presented with, let’s overcome it. Sometimes that’s on a first and long, sometimes that’s on a third and long. It’s not a give up down for us, so we kind of have a mentality as a group that we’re trying to do anything it takes to get us back to a manageable third down when you’re put in those scenarios.
Q: Does Irv Smith Jr. seem more comfortable after last week’s breakout game?
A: I think Irv is a young player and it was nice to see him making those plays in that ballgame. I think there’s more there, and it’s just a matter of him working. He’s a rookie and he’s also a pretty young player age wise, so he works every day really hard. I think he and Brian Pariani have spent a ton of time together in that meeting room, so I think there’s definitely more there, it’s just a matter of hard work getting it out of him.