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Vikings Offensive Veterans Embracing Learning Opportunities

EAGAN, Minn. –Class is in session, and it isn't only the rookies doing their homework.

The Vikings added eight players through the 2018 NFL Draft and agreed to terms with 17 college free agents.

The new additions are scheduled to participate in a minicamp this weekend after a crash course in the Vikings playbook.

They aren't the only ones with an opportunity to learn this time of year, particularly on the offensive side of the ball that will be led by new Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo.

DeFilippo, whom the Vikings hired in February, will be Kyle Rudolph's fourth offensive coordinator since being drafted in 2011 and third in three seasons.

Rudolph told Twin Cities media members last week that "it's been a lot of fun" to dive into DeFilippo's system. He emphasized the success that DeFilippo has had in previous stops, including most recently as the Eagles quarterbacks coach.

"And for me specifically, the success that he's had with tight ends that he's been around, it's exciting," Rudolph continued. "We have a ton of playmakers on offense, and he's mentioned multiple times that he's going to get the ball in everybody's hands, and everybody's going to have an opportunity to make plays."

As Vikings teammates work to absorb an adjusted playbook, there's an expected learning curve – but they also are appreciative of ample study time before their knowledge is put to the test.

Rudolph, Stefon Diggs and Kirk Cousins were guests last week on KFAN's 9 to Noon, hosted by "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen, and all three discussed the learning process.

"We have two weeks of workouts, three weeks of coaches' school, so it will be five weeks before we go out and have an OTA practice against our defense," Rudolph said. "I think that gives an opportunity to really learn this offense conceptually and kind of get a good feel for it before we go out there on the practice field late in the summer."

Diggs told Allen that it's helpful to ask teammates about their approach to studying a new system.

"Everything is different for everyone, and everybody learns different. So for me, it's just my approach and my study habits – picking it up and leaning on the guys when we get outside and don't have the notebooks in front of us. You can answer a question easily when a notebook's in front of you, but when you go out there and you're running around a little bit, it's a little different," Diggs said. "Everybody has to do their part, and I feel like if that happens, we'll come together just fine."  

Cousins also is acclimating to a new offense, in addition to a whole new organization.

The quarterback played two full seasons in Washington under Sean McVay and under Matt Cavanaugh in 2017, but it's the first time since being drafted in 2012 that he's adjusting to a new team, new location and new system simultaneously.

Cousins said that Vikings quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski has been immensely helpful in the transition.

"As Coach Stefanski said the other day, 'How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.' You don't think about eating the whole thing. You think about, 'How can I today get better as a quarterback and take another step forward in mastering this offense?' " Cousins said. "That was the same approach as a rookie. You understand you are way behind, have a long way to go in this league, but just try to take the next step – and if you believe you're taking next steps, good things will happen."

Stefanski, the longest-tenured Vikings coach in the building, has spent a lot of time with Cousins since the Vikings signed him in free agency.

"Kevin's been great. I love the meeting time with him, so sharp. He has a bright future," Cousins said. "It's exciting to have that many talented coaches. When you start with [Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer], his organization and team meetings, the way he's teaching us situational football at our team meetings is outstanding."

Cousins added that DeFilippo has learned from a bevy of talented coaches across the league, as well.

"He's got great experience and attention to detail," Cousins said of DeFilippo. "Then, you add Coach Stefanski and who he's been around and what he's learned, I feel spoiled to have so many people around me leading me and teaching me the game."

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