Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
Well, after watching the tape I thought we did some very good things. It was a good win for our program, the development of where we are. I think it was important for our team to try and build some confidence in what we're trying to accomplish. Clearly there were many, many things that we have to clean up in order to be a good football team or to where my expectation level is and hopefully the team's expectation level. But it was a good start and we look forward to trying to build upon what we've done and, like I told the team this morning, we have to keep grinding, we've got so many things that we have to work on, so many areas but we were, I think, we were a tough-minded, aggressive, tough, physical football team.
Q: How happy were you with the tackling yesterday? It seemed like there weren't many missed tackles. What did the film show?
A: It was pretty good. We had a couple here and there, a couple in space, but for the most part, when we were in space we tackled efficiently. Usually when you're in proper position, you know where your help is and you tend to tackle better. That's one of the most important things about being a good defensive football team. All of the great defensive teams in the NFL always tackle very, very well. We missed some but we made our share, too.
Q: With an undefeated preseason and a resounding win yesterday, do you think this team can turn some people's heads?
A: I don't really worry too much about what other people think. I just watch how these guys practice, how they play, how they prepare. Our whole focus is about us getting better, not really about what people think about us, other than what I've said about our fans. I hope they like how we play, like how we prepare, but our focus is really on us all the time and how we can get better each and every day.
Q: You seem to be preaching caution right now. Do you sense that the players already had not gotten too high and were focused in?
A: I'm not trying to preach caution whatsoever, I'm just trying to be realistic. This is one game out of 16, 15 now, and I know what we have to do to be a good football team. I think I'm trying to teach our players what we have to do to be a good football team. It's not about caution, I understand that we haven't lost in the preseason and like I've said before, it's so much, to me, about the process about how we accomplish things, not so much what the record is at this particular point in time. There will be plenty of time as we keep playing these games that people will talk about the records and this is just one week and preseason was the preseason so we're just on to a different venue really. The schedule, as everybody has pointed out, it's a little different deal going this week.
Q: Was there anything in particular that led to some of the mistakes such as the penalties and miscommunication on the snaps? Was it nerves? Was it the noise?
A: I don't think it was so much the noise because we've been practicing pretty efficiently in the noise. We haven't had many penalties in practice. It's hard to put my finger on it from what happened yesterday but we had way, way too many. We probably need to continue to do a better job coaching and what is the penalties and they had their fair share too. It's like everything else, we just have to keep coaching it better and players have to understand what their role is in this part too. The communication problem really was just truly a miscommunication. We thought the ball was ready to snap, we were doing some things at the line of scrimmage and the ball came back so it was just an error.
Q: Was that issue with the helmet and communication just the one series? And what went wrong there?
A: It was just one series and it was the helmet communicator in [Matt Cassel's] helmet didn't work. At the start of the game the defensive communicator did not work. It was a little unnerving at first for me and the whole deal. You learn to adjust and adapt and go on. Matt did a good job, he did the game plan, so he was able to make some of the calls, which he made on his own, and we were able to overcome some of it.* *
*Q: What would be the number one thing that you want to work on and improve after yesterday's game? *
A: Mistakes, just general mistakes. We've got to cover better, we've got to be in the right place. I've said before, unfortunately I see mistakes and fortunately for me and probably unfortunate for the players too. I know exactly what I want it to look like and then I see things that aren't going the way I want it to see and so without trying to pinpoint so many different things whether it's stepping with this foot or staying on the double team when we're on the offense or misaligning a little bit here or there and it's more so about things that we've gone over, things we've corrected. I talked to one of the players, I said, "Last week we corrected this and then it happened again in the ballgame. We need to fix these things in order for us to move on as a football team. We need to fix these things."
Q: You added depth to the defensive line in the offseason with guys like Corey Wootton and Tom Johnson. Is this what you had in mind with six guys playing a lot yesterday and you guys obviously had a lot of success up front?
A: Yeah, well we've overhauled a lot of things with this football team. Obviously Rick [Spielman] and the scouts and the Wilfs spent the money to do some of these things but we want to have a rotation system, we want to be able to play a lot of guys. It's not only good for us now, it's good for us in the fourth quarter, it's good for young developing guys. It keeps us fresh and it's just something I believe in. We did it when I first went to Dallas with Coach [Barry] Switzer. We had a deep rotation on the defensive line. We continued it pretty much when I was in Cincinnati and so it's good because players get better. When they play, they get better as they progress and the more time they get in there and I just think overall it's better for our football program and for us to continue to get to where we want to get to.
Q: What did you think of Tom Johnson's performance?
A: I thought he did some good things. He had a nice sack-strip fumble on the one, played the run pretty good. He's kind of done what he's done for the most part the whole preseason. He goes in there and makes some plays. He's a good kid and works really hard and he's got some slipperiness to him in the pass rush so that helps.
Q: Will Sharrif Floyd or Xavier Rhodes miss any time this week?
A: I don't know. They are both day-to-day right now. I think we'll find out more about him tomorrow. We'll see. Mike Mauti, I anticipate practicing tomorrow. Zach Line, I anticipate him practicing tomorrow as well. Not tomorrow, Wednesday. See I'm already ready.
*Q: Josh Robinson? *
A: Oh he's fine.
Q: What did you see from Brandon Fusco that earned him a contract extension?
A: He's got a lot of toughness, he plays every week. He's got physicality in the running game. He's smart. He does a good job in protections. When the fans don't know some of the offensive lineman, I think that's a good thing, because they're doing their job all of the time and that's one thing that Brandon always does is, he does his job, he gets his job and we're very, very excited to have him for five more years.
Q: Are there any positive examples of how far Anthony Barr has come?
A: How much time do you have? He made a great play on a screen, took out two blockers and made the tackle. One time there was one play we didn't fit exactly right, he was on the backside and he accelerated and went over and made the tackle on the back. Obviously, the play that we intercepted the pass was pretty nice, too. He's going to keep having those splash plays and he's going to keep continuing to keep getting better. The things that Anthony has to clean up right now are some of his alignments aren't precise enough so he has to make a really good play when he can make an easy play. That's kind of what my focus is on him. There's still some pass rush things that he can do a lot better than he's doing. Once he starts feeling more comfortable with his alignments, things will come a little bit smoother. I know he's thinking quite a bit but he was excited to play on Sunday. I just keep looking to him doing the things that he has been doing.
Q: How did you grade Robert Blanton's performance?
A: He did some good things. He made a couple of good tackles. There was a couple of areas where he's got to do better. He got nosey on one play that was a play action pass that he needed to stay back on. For the first time out, he was alright.
Q: What's your impression of Harrison Smith at the other safety spot?
A: Harrison's had a good camp. The thing I like most about Harrison is, he's a football player. He's intelligent. He comes and asks questions if he doesn't know and he'll try to do it to the very best he possibly can. He made a really nice tackle, he kind of made a mistake on one of the plays, but he accelerated out of it and made a really nice tackle. Obviously, the play he intercepted for the touchdown was a good play, he anticipated that. He's got good anticipation and the things that he is not as proficient at right now, he will work really hard at it. He's not afraid to work and as I said before, he's a smart guy and a tough guy, too so I like that.
Q: Were you planning on being so aggressive with your pass rush or did the fact that they were playing a third-string quarterback add to that?
A: No, actually, we backed it down when the score got out of hand. I know they got some yards there at the end, I think we could have hit him a few more times if we tried. It was more about the clock was our friend at that point in time. I like our blitz package and what we do out of it. It'll vary week-to-week from what we do just based on who we are playing. Honestly, yesterday the quarterback would not have mattered.
Q: How did you arrive at Gerald Hodges' role in the nickel package?
A: It actually is a huge role. Our nickel players tend to get upwards of 600 plays a year. There's a lot of really good things about Gerald. Gerald is a very good athlete, he's got some physicality, he's got some pass rush, which I always look at, at that position, to see if they can blitz. He seems to be keeping his nose to the grindstone. We have to keep our thumb on him just to make sure that he's always being precise in everything, I think because he has so much natural ability, sometimes he'll rely on his athletic ability instead, kind of like I was talking about Anthony (Barr) a minute ago, we can make it a lot easier than if we do it. I think he's got good coverage ability, I think he understands the zone defenses well, I think he has good blitzability.
Q: Are you proud of the league and its stance on the Ray Rice situation and is it difficult as a head coach to concern yourself with off-field issues?
A: First of all, I heard about it when I was walking downstairs. I heard there was a video this morning, I was walking downstairs to come here and I had heard he had been released. I don't know that much about it, but as far as the question that you're asking, I'm always proud of the League and what it represents and the way it wants our players to act. Just like with the Vikings organization, I want our players to act in a certain way. Does it make it difficult sometimes? Yes. I'm not speaking in reference to Ray Rice because I'm just talking about our guys and what we do. I do think that if we continually talk to our players about doing the right things, bringing in the right kind of people, and again I'm not talking about Ray Rice, I'm just talking about here, what we believe in. We will continually try to uphold the standards that the League wants.
Q: Do you view Rhett Ellison as an underrated role player?
A: Rhett did a great job in the ball game the other day. Obviously, he made some mistakes like we all did. I thought he did a good job in understanding where we're helping in protection. Obviously, the catch that he made on the boot. I don't get into the underrated/overrated kind of thing. I think maybe a lot of people don't rate any of us very good, so it's okay. We just go out and try and play football the best we can, as hard as we can and as smart as we can.
Q: Will Robert Blanton continue as a starting safety?
A: I haven't thought about changing out. I mean, I have no reason to take him out, yet, for any reason.