Mike Zimmer is a defensive coach, so you know he'd be excited about the Minnesota Vikings choosing defense with the team's first pick in his tenure.
It may not have been what many Vikings fans were expecting, but Zimmer shared GM Rick Spielman's enthusiasm of drafting Anthony Barr with the #9 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Zimmer led his press conference with a big statement about Barr: "This kid is a full grown man". Zimmer is excited to take someone with Barr's talent level and make him better. "He's still learning a lot of different things and we'll be able to teach him a lot," Zimmer explained. Coach Zimmer repeatedly praised Barr's intelligence and character throughout the press conference.
The potential to play Barr in a lot of different roles on the Vikings defense was a big selling point for Zimmer. "Without trying to tell too many things, I think we can use him in a few different positions." Zimmer anticipates that Barr will be used as a Sam Linebacker in the base package and will be a blizter in sub packages, intimating that Barr will be a three-down linebacker.
Next there were two assumptions that Zimmer quickly dispelled:
Barr will be handed the starting job since he was such a high draft pick.
It's true that Zimmer thinks Barr will play the Sam Linebacker in his scheme. Chad Greenway has been in the "Sam" role in the Vikings defense for the past several years, but Zimmer clarified that "Sam" and "Will" are different in his scheme than with the previous regime in Minnesota. Barr will be used much more to rush that passer while Greenway will likely play on the other side in a more traditional weakside linebacker role. "Chad can play anything," Zimmer explained. "I've watched him play for a long time and he can be effective anywhere on the field."
Zimmer also clarified that nobody on his defense will simply be handed the starting job. He expects everyone on his team to compete for their roles. "[Barr] is like a fawn. He's just learning some of these things...but at the same time it's not like he's raw." Zimmer believes that the part of Barr's game that needs the most improvement is when he lines up away from the line of scrimmage in base packages since Barr doesn't have a ton of experience with it. The Vikings coach even dropped some draft buzzwords about Barr, saying that his new linebacker has "great hips, great feet, and a great first step coming off the line of scrimmage".
Zimmer finished the press conference with more large praise for Barr. "I've never had anyone with his size and speed. Not even back in my Dallas days." He thinks that Barr can be used in a similar manner that the Denver Broncos use Von Miller in their defensive scheme.
It might not be the pick many of us wanted, but it certainly appears that the Head Coach and General Manager were in lockstep with the selection of Anthony Barr. Barr is obviously in good hands with the defensive-minded Zimmer and should be getting a lot of first-team looks during Training Camp in August.
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