Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
Starting preparation for the Chargers. They're really healthy now, they've been a beat up a little bit physically, so they got a lot of their players back. Defensively, they're very sound, fourth in the league. They got three tremendous players in (Joey) Bosa, (Melvin) Ingram and Derwin James. Offensively, Keenan Allen, who is a tremendous receivers, Hunter Henry is a really good tight end. (Phillip) Rivers is always been outstanding, tough to fool. Makes all the throws, very competitive. The two runners (Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler) are really good players. We're going to have to do a good job and go out there and play well on the road to get a win.
Q: Is there a challenge to practicing inside when you will be playing on grass for a game?
A: No, I mean we'd rather be on grass, obviously. We can't get out there today, but really what happens is not so much that, but the wear and the tear of being on turf every single day toward the end of the year gets you a little bit more than the one game that you're not on it.
Q: Is there any challenge to playing on the west coast in Seattle, coming back and then going out again?
A: I mean it's a two hour time difference. We just adjust a little bit. We're glad that they moved it to a day game.
Q: What have you learned about preparations and when to go out there with the time difference?
A: Well in the past we've gone out a couple days early. I didn't want to do it on the Monday night game, because you're sitting around the hotel another eight hours or something. It's only a two hour time difference. We've adjusted the schedule a little bit, but I think just get our work done here, go out there, get up and play the game, and go.
Q: Will you leave on Friday then?
Q: What does your defense have to be aware of when Austin Ekeler is on the field compared to Melvin Gordon?
A: Well they're a little different style of back, but not tremendously. Both can really hit the perimeter. They both run hard. (Austin) Ekeler is probably a little bit more of a receiver, but they use (Melvin) Gordon on screens as well. Sometimes they have them on the field at the same time. They use Ekeler a little bit more as a receiver, but they'll use Gordon as a receiver there and (Ekeler) will be in the backfield, or vice-versa. They're similar backs, but they have maybe a couple different plays. Gordon likes this play a little bit more, and Ekeler likes that one. That's about it.
Q: What have you seen from their secondary with Derwin James back?
A: Yeah, he's a good player. Plays towards the line of scrimmage most of the time. I've always been a big fan of his. He's one of those game-wrecker kind of guys because he's big and fast and physical. They've used him blitzing a lot in the past. Maybe not so much right now, but we have to be prepared for it as he comes out. But you have him and (Joey) Bosa and (Melvin) Ingram, the three guys close to the line of scrimmage, and they can do some damage.
Q: How did the Chargers handle the Packers so well?
A: They beat Chicago, they beat Green Bay. When they don't turn the ball over, they're pretty hard to beat. They've done a good job in those games, and they get some turnovers defensively. But they're good in a lot of areas, so we're going to have to be really effective in understanding their defense, the things that they allow us to do and the things they don't. Being aware of the protection with these guys, they don't have a huge amount of sacks, but they have a lot of quarterback hits. Offensively, they'll run the ball, but they like to hit big plays, especially on first down, so we're going to have to do a good job there.
Q: Does the old Bill Parcells quote – "You are who your record says you are," not apply to them? When you watch them, it seems like they could be a lot better than 5-8.
A: Yeah, I do. But I think they're a lot healthier now, too. They missed Derwin James for a long time, they missed (Russell) Okung, he's back. They've had some guys that have been hurt. They missed (Melvin) Gordon for quite a while, so they got a lot more weapons now.
Q: Are you anticipating a lot of Vikings fans there?
A: Yeah, I hope so. I hope all our fans come out. We talked about the stadium today, about the grass. We talked about the size of the stadium and things like that. Hopefully we get a lot of people there.
Q: When you were going through the draft process with Danielle Hunter in 2015, did the sack numbers play into it? What did you think of the number back then?
A: We looked at how he was rushing. We looked at his athletic ability, which was top notch. We looked at the type of person he was, which was top notch. We looked at his sack numbers and why he didn't have very many and felt like if we changed some of his angles and some of the things that he did, changed some of his hand usage and things like that. Did we know he was going to have 50 sacks at 25 or something? No, but we felt like we could improve him as a pass rusher.
Q: What were some of things in the early part of his career that he was doing differently here as opposed to LSU in the way he was rushing the passer?
A: He had a tendency to run straight up the field and turn left as opposed to taking the proper angle, getting on the offensive tackle, using his hands and using his athletic ability. Basically, he'd run straight up the field, make a wide turn, have to turn left and didn't have time to get there.
Q: With that 2015 draft, do you remember having a sense that those guys, Stefon Diggs, Danielle Hunter and Eric Kendricks, were going to change the trajectory of the franchise?
A: No, at that point in time we're just trying to find the best players that we can develop. We were fortunate with (Stefon) Diggs, obviously there were some reasons why he probably fell a little bit lower than he did. (Eric) Kendricks, we thought he was a good player but he's a little undersized and, like you said, (Danielle) Hunter had minimal sacks. You never really know going into the draft. I know Rick (Spielman) says he knows everything, but at the end of the day, you have to be lucky.
Q: Did you get a feeling for it in that 2015 camp? When was it you knew that class was going to be something different?
A: (Eric) Kendricks showed up pretty quickly. (Stefon) Diggs, you could kind of tell when he was going through camp and then making some of the plays in camp. If I remember right, we didn't play him for like the first five or six games or something like that. In practice every day, he was making plays, and then (Danielle) Hunter, honestly, I had a former player of mine, Greg Ellis, was here at the time and he was doing evaluation of the d-line and he said, "I think this guy is going to be like DeMarcus Ware." I said, "Are you kidding me?" Then, when we played Denver, I think it was that year, we were standing up, and he was actually DeMarcus Ware on the scout team and that really showed the things he could do. That's why we started standing him up a little bit more.
Q: What have been some of the keys as to why Stefon Diggs has been able to increase his average yards per catch so much from last year?
A: I think the biggest thing is we're hitting some explosive plays. We didn't get many last year. Because of the run and the play action, Kirk (Cousins) throws a really good deep ball and he can catch. He's got acceleration to get separation from the DB.
Q: What have you seen from Philip Rivers? In some ways, he had a career game last week.
A: You know what's surprising, he's 38 years old. He's very, very smart. He's always been very smart. He's always been a great competitor. You think that at some point the arm strength will go down a little bit, but he had a couple bombs in that game. He's going to throw the ball into tight spaces. He's going to give the receivers a chance. Really in that game, there's a couple guys coming over the middle open and he took the shot down the middle. If he sees one guy running with one guy, he's going to give them the opportunity to go get it and they made a couple tremendous plays there. There was a play where they snuck the tight end out and he was wide-open one time, too.
Q: Him being out of the playoffs, is that good or bad when you go in to face him as far as him slinging the ball?
A: I don't think he cares. He just likes playing the game. He likes going out there and talking to the defense. He'll talk to them all the time and he'll probably yell at me a couple times during the game as well, so we'll see.
Q: Not caring, is that good or bad for you?
A: I think that's how he plays all the time. I don't think there's a difference
Q: Anything you remember him saying to you the previous games?
A: No, I don't think he swears, but he's not afraid to voice his opinion about, "You call that a blitz," or something like that.