Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski
Good to see you guys out here. Another good day of work here at OTA number five. What a challenge we have every day to go against that defense day in and day out with George Edwards and Coach [Mike] Zimmer. They present quite a challenge so it’s a lot of work and it’s really good work. We are sharpening this thing as we go. We are looking forward to going out in the community today to the Boys and Girls Club which is really important to our organization so I know our guys are fired up to be doing that.
Q: How do you think Irv Smith’s transition will be going up against physical capability?
A: Irv is doing a nice job. Like all of our young guys, he has a long way to go and that is why he is working really hard with Coach [Brian] Pariani. It’s important for those guys and I think he understands that. He is a young man but he is older in how he acts and presents himself. He understands he has a ton of work to do in the run game and the pass game and certainly we thought enough of him and his skillset to get him up here and you could see today just putting him in some spots where he could go and make a play.
Q: With a full offseason now, how much do you think the playbook will change in those final three games as interim last season?
A: Our focus has really moved way past last season. We are onto 2019. We really aren’t looking back very much to be honest with you. We are really cognizant about what we are doing right now and what we are doing is building a foundation. The credit goes to our players who have been so receptive to what we have been trying to do. Go back to April 15 or whenever the players showed up here. They have been so receptive to building this thing, building the foundation. OTA five was part of it and there is some good and some stuff that we have to get back in there and work on.
Q: What specifically has really jumped out at you about Irv Smith Jr.?
A: With Irv, I just go back to I think he is 20 years old. I think it’s so impressive for a kid, and maybe it speaks to his program, it probably speaks to his parents, he is here and is very serious about minding his business. We have some fun with him and that but I am just impressed by the kid. He breaks the huddle, most of the time he knows what to do. He is playing fast. I could see a kid where he is young but I can see this kid developing into a veteran who knows what to do every single time. His skillset was put on display a little bit there. He is a threat in the pass game but we didn’t draft him just to be a threat in the pass game. He needs to be a complete tight end for us and across the board for every one of our players.
Q: Is Kyle Rudolph out at a golf tournament?
Q: How is it for Irv Smith to step in and take those first team repetitions?
A: I think all of the reps matter. The walk-thru matters. Whether you are getting the reps with the ones, the twos, the threes. All of those reps add up and we hope they matter.
Q: Has Jordan Taylor done anything in particular to stand out?
A: Jordan has done a nice job. Again, consummate pro. I think it’s really nice to have a guy like Jordan in that room that has a head start a little bit on the system for those young guys around him so we are trying to nudge some of those young guys toward him. It’s not like Jordan has to tell them what to do, he can show them what to do. He’s been out in the field and I’ve been very impressed. You see the skillset again with Jordan with his size and length and speed. We are pretty happy to have him.
Q: Do you like the two-back league mindset with Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison?
A: I do. I hope all of our players, there’s only eleven guys out there, and there is only five eligible and there is only one ball. We hope that we have a team, an offense, a unit that really is rooting for their teammates, supportive of their teammates. We talk a lot about that. We want great teammates here. That is the kind of people that Coach Zimmer and Rick Spielman brought in here. Alexander fits in perfectly here with that.
Q: What does Laquon Treadwell need to do to take a step in year four?
A: Just like any other player. We made this point to our players earlier. We as coaches are giving them a few things each day to work on. Laquon is no different than any one of our players. There is certain things we point out on tape and we say, “X, Y or Z needs to get better.” Laquon is no different than any one of these guys I can tell you and you can go ask them. There is something that when they get out here, maybe it’s run blocking for a wide receiver, maybe it’s a specific route depth. I don’t think Laquon is any different than any of our guys. I hope each one of them walks out here with something they are trying to get better at.
Q: How does Sean Mannion look to you?
A: I see a pro. Sean, again, have enjoyed being around him. He came from a successful program last few years there. He is really a guy that I think fits in extremely well with Kirk, extremely well with the backups. A guy that I have enjoyed being around. He is a really smart guy and that room is an impressive room and he fits in really well in just his breadth of knowledge that he has brought to that room.
Q: What do you want to see from your young rookie wide receivers at this stage?
A: It’s hard for those guys. When they get here, we don’t slow down necessarily for them, we keep going. We don’t slow down. With some of the vets, we have an instillation schedule. Now, they are getting extra meeting time with their coaches so there is some catch-up there. There can be times, and our rookies are no different at any position than rookies across the league, there is a lot to intake. There is a lot when you get out here on the practice field. You break the huddle and you can see the computers working. For those guys, it’s important to stay in their book. I know that is cliché but that is the truth. They get extra work with their coaches. I know Coach [Drew] Petzing works with those guys. Our guys which have been so impressed with our staff, they’re teachers. Nevermore is that evident than when they are with those rookies and trying to get them out here to practice and practice fast.
Q: What positions are the toughest at this stage to get aligned?
A: Tackle gets to line up either left or right so alignment isn’t hard for them. Wide receivers certainly. We do a lot formationally, so we challenge them so we do multiple personnel groupings. It’s not easy for those guys. I tip my cap to them. They are working their tails off at it. Certainly wide receivers, when we move them around the formation, the tailbacks need to know where to line up around the formation so that can be difficult early on in the process.
Q: What is the backup quarterback competition looking like so far?
A: I don’t know. I think right now our focus is out here at practice. Kirk is taking the reps with the ones. Beyond that, we are just letting it shake itself out and give guys reps and really what these guys know or what they need getting back to reps is they need opportunity. We are giving each of our players, whether at the quarterback position, running back position, it doesn’t matter. We are trying to give each of them a number of reps where they can show what they can do. Those decisions are so far away that we don’t really focus on them right now.
Q: What might be different for Kirk Cousins now from when he played in a different style offense before?
A: I know Kirk is coming into this year with a familiarity of our players, of his teammates. I think that is invaluable. That is wide receivers, that is tight ends, that is everybody. That element of having been through this with our guys is so important. I can tell you this is an evolving group of plays. We will get out of here, just going back to the foundation, we are starting from square one. We are putting the foundation together. Will we and can we evolve at different areas? Of course. But in OTA five, we are trying to get the base stuff taught, the base stuff learned and Kirk is doing a great job of that.
Q: Do you think the terminology in that aspect takes time?
A: Yes it takes a little bit of time. Like anything else, it’s like learning a new language. We think terminology is a little bit overrated in that regard. What is most important for us is coaching points and philosophy and schematically what we are doing. Our players, we will challenge them. They have done a nice job and they have been receptive to the new terminology. That is not the main focus at least for us moving forward. It’s the coaching points, it’s where the bones are buried in all these plays.
Q: Can they overthink the plays and the language?
A: Maybe. A veteran like Kirk, he knows the amount of thinking he needs to do each play for that quarterback position. There is a lot on their plate. I think it’s like anything else. He’s a student, a teacher and it’s their job to get that curriculum and get it covered and they are both doing a really nice job with it.
Q: How much is your familiarity with Kirk helping when teaching a new system?
A: I think familiarity in any aspect of this is important. I understand Kirk the player and I understand Kirk the person. For some of our young guys or newer guys, I am getting to know them as people. I kind of understand them as players. Doing the same thing. It’s nice to have a year under our belt. I know what makes him tick and vice versa.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf
Q: What does Nate Kaeding bring to the staff?
A: Nate is a nine-year veteran. I’ve known him from playing against him over the years. He has done a really nice job as a kicker. I’ve gotten to know him on a personal level because we know some mutual people at Iowa. He is another set of eyes. He has done a real good job so far of communicating with players and making sure everybody is on the same page. I think that is really important that we are all talking the same language. He is somebody I could send with the specialists and I can concentrate of other aspects as well as the specialists.
Q: How important is it to have a guy that had been in a kicker’s shoes before and can help Dan Bailey?
A: Yeah I think that is really important. Like I said, Nate has done it before. That is someone you can trust. That is experience that you can’t find just with any coach. So we have been lucky and he is local. It only takes him a few hours to get here. He’s with us a few days a week. He communicates constantly through e-mails, videos and everything like that. So he’s been great.
Q: How many candidates are in the mix for pint and kick return jobs?
A: A lot. A lot of guys who have done it. We will probably start pairing it down closer to training camp. I think guys’ roles start to define themselves at that point. There is a lot of guys that can do it, which is a good thing. That is a good problem to have .There is so many. All of them have done a really good job. [Chad] Beebe has been out there, Jordan Taylor, who has done it in games before. [Adam] Thielen has done it. We have a lot of options. It may come to a point where each one of those guys have a role depending on what the situation is on punt return.
Q: What do you think Ameer Abdullah can add to that?
A: He has done a good job as well. He hasn’t done punt returns in the past but that is something that he is practicing this offseason and he is improving everyday with it. The elements here you can’t mimic anywhere else. The wind that we get here in practice. If he can catch them here, he can catch them anywhere. His role is actually broadening. It’s getting bigger as a core player as well. His value, he is driving his own value up by possibly being a returner and being a core player which is great.
Q: What can guys show you to make a difference if they are not a returner?
A: We are working the core fundamentals which is what we have been doing in phase two since we’ve had little time on the field and phase three as well, which is great. They are all learning how to tackle. We had a tackling circuit today. Getting the offensive guys caught up with the defensive guys. And expanding their roles as much as possible. On punt return, if you’re not the returner, just like you said, you have to be rushing it, you have to be holding up. If you’re not the returner on kickoff returns, you have to be willing to front-line blockers, you have to be willing to back-end guys. They are all learning that which is great. Ameer is learning how to block on the front line. We can have a little bit of variety in everybody’s role. At least practicing the fundamentals in case they want to return.
Q: Does that surprise you when guys like Adam Thielen that have made a name for themselves that are still willing to help out in special teams?
A: He is a great example of what a pro is and how he started his career. If you ask him, he remembers. He’s like, “I remember special teams.” If anything, we have to pull him out of drills because he will be one of the first guys in there. His retention is really good when it comes to the fundamentals. It’s almost like you don’t have to coach him up. If anything, he is a really great example for those young guys. The guys that didn’t play special teams in college. Now this is Adam Thielen, this is what he’s done. This is his blocked punts. He’s been a core guy, he’s been a returner. This can be your way to build your career. That is an example that is priceless.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards
Finished practice number five of the OTAs. Guys have really been working hard for us thus far since we’ve gotten through those five practices. We still have a long way to go but effort has been good and working on the techniques and the things we are trying to get polished up going into the season and they’ve really done a nice job.
Q: What has Hercules Mata’afa done that has made him stand out at OTAs?
A: We’ve moved him to the three technique and he’s really embraced it. He is playing the run well, he has a good pad level. His quickness and his size rushing the pass rusher is really showing up in these first couple practices.
Q: Was his size concern one of the reasons people thought he should switch to linebacker?
A: Yes but let me tell you, he ended up on injured reserve last year and he really worked his butt off throughout last season and this whole offseason getting prepared to go. He is feeling some good girth and it really hasn’t affected his play. So his quickness is really beneficial inside.
Q: What have you thought about Jayron Kearse moving to different spots?
A: Jayron has played underneath for us a lot in the last couple years in different packages that we’ve used playing at the safety. Being able to make that communication and transition from week to week has been a benefit for us because he matches up against tight ends underneath real good for us. He’s embraced that role for we just look for him to continue to develop.
Vikings Wide Receiver Stefon Diggs
Q: How have you been?
A: I’m good. It’s nice to see you all. It’s been a while.
Q: What are your early impressions of this offense?
A: I am excited. One, I am excited to see Coach [Kevin] Stefanski again. I have 100 percent faith and trust in him based off of those last three games. Going into the offseason, I was under the same confidence. Seeing him and being back into the motion and swing of things, it’s exciting once again. It is part of getting the ball rolling, picking up on the playbook, the new things, define nuances how he wants things done. I’ve been here for a while and I’ve had a new offensive coordinator pretty much almost every year. As far as the learning curve and doing that thing, I’m not too new to it but it’s still fun.
Q: What has been different for you?
A: Everybody does things with minor tweaks, as far as how things are run and timing and getting used to stuff. Just the way he wants it is going to be the fun part, as usual. Since I’ve had the opportunity to have different offensive coordinators and have different learning processes and number systems and all that, I think I have somewhat of an advantage. But I am just taking it in stride.
Q: Is the familiarity something that is bigger than the new plays?
A: Yeah. I feel like it’s the big picture. Everybody wants things to happen so fast. But Kirk was only here six months or something like that. As far as going into his second year and getting comfortable, I remember at one point I was with Teddy [Bridgewater] and it took a while to get adjusted. I was new to the league and he was young, too. As far as having a veteran quarterback that has been around the game, I trust him. Going into his second year, I look forward to building the relationship and just moving forward. We kind of have a bad taste in our mouths from last year. Of course we had high goals like everybody else. Things didn’t go that way. Going into the new year, we have the same goals but we just have to handle it differently.
Q: What has your offseason look like away from here?
A: Just a lot of training. As far as focusing on my body, I had a couple of nicks and injuries last year but tried to not let it show too much. But as far as staying focused on my body, wellness, family, spending some time with my little girl. Just hammering on this new playbook.
Q: Where did you do your offseason training?
A: D.C., where I’m from.
Q: What do you think of C.J. Ham as a teammate and person?
A: C.J. Ham is a great guy. God-fearing man, great man, works hard. Worked his way from the bottom. Came in and I know he played running back but he stepped in at the fullback position and really gave it everything that he had. Special teams guy. A guy that does everything that you want. As far as being a professional and a guy that works hard, he is a great teammate.
Q: What do you think about the new offense that highlights Kirk Cousins’ best skills?
A: That is what you want. We want to do things that make him comfortable. Being a receiver, I want him to be comfortable. I want to play to his strengths. Be there anyway I can. As a wideout, you want to be in his corner anyway you can. Anything that he wants to throw, just run it.
Q: How have you changed and improved mentally and physically as you grow as a veteran?
A: It is more mental than anything I would say as far as my preparation and how I go about things. I have done it for a couple years, not too long, I am not that old. Made me feel old. Just understanding the process of running a new offense, ironing out the wrinkles and going into mini camp and going into OTAs. Using that time to your advantage and working smart. You work hard but you want to work smart more than anything. Just good with that relationship going into the new year.
Q: What is it like working with Gary Kubiak?
A: I like him a lot. He doesn’t talk too much but when he does, you definitely listen to everything he says. I love him as a coach and I look forward to working with him. It is going to be a fun year.
Q: How different is it knowing you don’t have the distraction of your contract?
A: I wouldn’t say last year was too much of a distraction because my approach last year was to put my head down and work and it will figure itself out, which it did. God took care of it as always. Going into this new year, I would say the same kind of thing. I put my head down, work and take it in stride. Happy about the new offense, happy about some new teammates that I got. I just look forward to working.
Q: Are there any specific reasons you missed two OTAs last week?
A: I just had to get back. I had some house problems. You know how adults are.
Q: Did you work out?
A: Yeah I worked out. You guys watch my Instagram, right? I work out every day.
Q: What did you think when you found out Adam Thielen signed his contract?
A: You guys know. I’ve seen it first hand as far as the work he put in, his commitment, his efforts and the kind of guy that he is. As far as him getting paid, it’s well deserved. As a colleague of mine and as a friend, I was happy for him. I smiled when it popped up on the ticker.
Q: How was it having your brother here at rookie mini camp and what are his next moves?
A: You are going to have to ask him for the most part. I was excited for him. I was happy for him. It was something that I could never have imagined even happening but it did. I was pushing for him as always.
Q: Have you been working out with your brother?
Q: What kind of workouts do you do?
A: I play receiver so as far as when we come together, it’s more competing one-on-one, redzone stuff, a little bit of the field stuff. He is more tailored to the defensive backs stuff and I am more on the receiver side. We workout at the same gym. We do pretty much the same workouts but I have been just trying to get him right.
Q: What has been your observation about some of the younger wide receivers fighting for the third spot?
A: We have some guys that can play. It is definitely a spot that anyone can have. We can’t play three positions. As far as the young guys, everybody is showing what they have as far as learning the new system, being consistent each and every day. As far as working hard, I am not a coach but I can see that those guys are working really hard and they want to give it everything they’ve got.
Q: What do you think Irv Smith can do in the passing game?
A: He can move around. He’s fluid. He’s a tight end that can run. He pretty much does everything from what I’ve seen on tape. Like I said, I’m not a coach or anything but from out here what I see, he moves around pretty well. He can catch the ball. He is athletic. He has a little bit of speed, too, so we make fun of him a little bit. It is going to be fun.