EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Thursday that he hasn't established a preference of matching up with head coaches who rose through the ranks on defense the way he and Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan did or facing a chess match with a coach more known for offense.
"Nah, I mean I like Rex. He's a good guy," Zimmer said before adding a twist of humor. "I like defensive coaches in general. Offensive guys usually try to cheat a lot, and we play by the rules. (Offensive Coordinator) Norv (Turner) was pretty good, but there are some guys, though, that are always looking for the edge."
Zimmer, who grew up in suburban Chicago, spoke earlier this season about the admiration he has for Buddy Ryan, a former Vikings assistant on defense that went on to coordinate some of the most dominant units this season. Zimmer was able to host Buddy Ryan when the first-year Vikings coach was defensive coordinator at Weber State to draw from Buddy Ryan's expertise.
Zimmer said he can see a resemblance between father Buddy and son Rex in the "aggressive nature and way that (Rex) preaches defense."
"Defensively, they're different because of the times, but yeah, any Ryan is a pretty good defensive coach," Zimmer said.
Since 2000, when Zimmer became an NFL defensive coordinator for the first time, his units have ranked in the top 10 in yards allowed eight times and points allowed six times, including this season in which the Vikings are currently 10th in yards allowed and 14th in points allowed. Zimmer was defensive coordinator for seven seasons in Dallas, one season in Atlanta and six in Cincinnati before garnering his first head coaching opportunity.
Since 2005, when Rex Ryan became defensive coordinator of the Ravens (2005-08) before taking the controls with the Jets, his defenses have been in the top 10 in yards allowed nine times and in the top 10 in points allowed five times. The Jets rank seventh and are tied for 25th, respectively, in those categories this season.
Turner said Ryan's defenses are "always very sound" despite using a variety of alignments before the snap.
"They create a lot of different looks," Turner said. "They're geared not to give up big plays. Early in the year they were giving up more big plays than usual. I say they're a very complete defense and they're going to adjust their defense to what they feel you have the toughest time handling."
RUSH COMMITTEE: The stinginess of the Jets this season is built on allowing the third-fewest rushing yards per game (85.2) in the NFL.
Turner was asked about the status of Jerick McKinnon and how the Vikings might split carries among running backs. Turner said the Vikings would have to wait until the end of the week to know more about McKinnon, who missed Sunday's game against the Panthers with a lower back injury.
Matt Asiata had 14 carries for 52 yards, Ben Tate added 15 yards on his first five carries as a Viking, Joe Banyard rushed twice for 8 yards, and receiver Jarius Wright carried once for 5 against Carolina. Turner said he thinks rushes and improved protection by running backs has helped reduce the number of sacks opponents have recorded recently.
"Over the last five weeks we've cut down our sacks dramatically, we've not turned the ball over," Turner said. "I think we have two turnovers in the last five games. We've cut down our sacks. During that three-week period, we had 19 sacks, over the last five weeks I think we've had 10 sacks. Some of those aren't protection issues, they're other issues. I think we just tried to manage the situation we have as well as we can, create some runs so people have to play us honestly."
Zimmer said he likes the way Asiata "hits the holes quick and runs behind his pads well, so he continually gets some yards after contact," and that the team is learning more about Tate, who was claimed off waivers two weeks ago.
"I think (Asiata is) the most experienced protector of the bunch," Zimmer added. "(Banyard) missed a protection last week, so that's important for the backs. It's not just carrying the football, its making sure that when we are throwing the ball, they're protecting the right guys so we can get the ball out.
THINK HOT, BE HOT: As temperatures have plunged, Charles Johnson has been on a warm streak of production with 11 catches for 180 yards and his first NFL touchdown in the past three weeks.
Johnson was asked about the sub-freezing temps during the Panthers game, and said playing in cold is "mind over matter."
"Cold don't really bother me. I always say if you think hot, you're going to be hot, so I always think I'm hot, and I'm cool," Johnson said. "When I went out there initially for a pre-game, I thought it was kind of cold, but I'm a no-sleeves type of guy, and once you're out there playing in the heat of the game, you get warmed up."
The forecast for this week's game is 32 degrees Fahrenheit with a 60 percent chance of precipitation. This past week's game was 12 degrees, tying for the seventh-coldest home game in Vikings history.
Turner said Johnson is likely to continue to receive additional opportunities at the "X position" where Cordarrelle Patterson opened the season atop the depth chart. Turner and Zimmer, however, have made it clear the Vikings still have plenty in mind for Patterson, who didn't play as much Sunday after missing some practice time to attend a funeral.
Patterson said he is a little disappointed in production this season, but he continues to have a solid relationship with coaches and teammates.
"It's not always as good as it seems, it's not always as bad as it seems," Patterson said. "It's somewhere in the middle."
PARTICIPATION: For the Vikings: McKinnon (lower back), Anthony Barr (knee) and Jabari Price (hamstring) did not participate Thursday. Rhett Ellison (ankle), Sharrif Floyd (knee) and Chase Ford (hamstring/foot) were limited, and Kyle Rudolph (abdomen/groin) participated fully.
For the Jets: Jace Amaro (concussion), Greg Salas (hamstring) and Muhammed Wilkerson (toe) did not participate Thursday. Jeff Cumberland (illness), Nick Folk (right hip) and Jeremy Kerley (illness) were limited. Josh Thomas (illness), Willie Colon (shoulder/knee) and Chris Johnson (knee) participated fully.