EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer turned the tables on Twin Cities media members Wednesday, peppering reporters with questions about assignments within his defensive scheme.
Zimmer, who was hired by Minnesota in 2014 after 20 seasons as a defensive coach in the NFL, held an off-the-record explanatory session for a third straight year. Zimmer explained several techniques and principles he teaches to players from veterans to freshly arrived rookies.
The coach puts all players on the spot during team meetings, even asking defenders questions about the offense, and vice versa. He mentioned during an on-the-record portion that he recently asked Chad Greenway about the offense's "red zone discipline." The veteran linebacker "spit it out, and he was correct."
Zimmer repeatedly went to work, using a laser pointer to cover drawings of formations, then implementing game film clips from the past season. Zimmer also took a few moments to illustrate things that Danielle Hunter learned last year as a rookie under defensive line coach Andre Patterson to become **a more productive pass rusher**. Hunter's 6.0 sacks as the NFL's youngest player in 2015 ranked second among rookies and surpassed the 4.5 he totaled in three seasons at LSU.
Zimmer cares more about team sacks and exerting frequent pressure than individual numbers, but also enjoys seeing growth in players.
The Vikings are currently in Phase 2 of their voluntary offseason program, and Zimmer has been using the allowed meeting time to illustrate things that helped and hurt the Vikings in 2015 when they went 11-5, won the NFC North and became the first team playing home games in a temporary stadium to host a playoff game.
Safety Harrison Smith, one of five Vikings who made the Pro Bowl last season, mentioned the film review sessions earlier during the offseason program. He said players want to keep learning and improving because they know nothing will be given in 2016 based on 2015's successes.
"It's really not to say, 'OK, we won that game,' " Smith said. "It's to say, 'OK, we won that game, but what could we have done better?' or, 'We lost that game, what could we have done better?', so it's really just for learning."
Zimmer said he believes "There's no player that doesn't want to get better."
"Whether he's 38 like [Terence] Newman is – or 37, or whatever he is – or if he's a young guy, they all want to get better," Zimmer said. "So you constantly try to figure out ways how you can help them be a better player."