Following today’s early session and prior to the Minnesota Vikings’ first practice in full pads on Monday, head coach Mike Zimmer took some time to answer questions from the media. As you’d expect, a variety of topics were broached, and we wanted to bring those to you here.
The full transcript of what Zimmer said this morning in Eagan follows, courtesy of the Vikings’ PR department. Enjoy, everyone!
Getting pads on today, excited to get out there and bang around a little bit. See where we’re at that way, it’s been a long time since we had the pads on. Should be fun, we’re able to get some bump and run now, able to get a little bit of one-on-one pass rush with the offensive and defensive lines and the linebackers, should be good. It’ll be a good evaluation day.
Q: How much work do you expect Dalvin Cook to get today with pads on?
A: He’s going to get a good dose today. We’re going to monitor him a little bit. He needs to get banged around a little bit.
Q: What have you seen from Holton Hill as far as his openness to coaching?
A: He’s been really good that way. I had a chance to work with him a little bit on some things yesterday, we’ll continue to work with him. He’s been real receptive to everything. I think he’s eager to learn.
Q: Do you go through a similar process with all young defensive backs or do you have to tailor it based on their skill set?
A: Basically, you go through the same process with all of them. Some of them you can advance a little bit quicker than others. The techniques we teach aren’t really that hard, but it’s different than they’re used to doing. That takes a while until they can really perfect it. Even guys like Xavier [Rhodes] are still trying to perfect it. It’s just understanding positioning and things like that.
Q: Will you continue to rotate Tom Compton and Danny Isidora at the left guard spot?
A: We’re actually going to have some more guys in there today. We’ve had some injuries on the offensive line so it’s important that we look at guys in different spots. It’s the, the more you can do to help the team thing. We’ll look at some other guys in there today. Just trying to work through the process of figuring out who the best five are.
Q: What is the biggest thing you want Anthony Barr to get out of working with the defensive line?
A: Besides some of the technique stuff, it’s feeling comfortable going against bigger, stronger guys. That’s probably the main thing. Sometimes when he rushed against some of the offensive lineman, I wouldn’t say he didn’t have a plan, but he’d get in a certain position and then didn’t know how to react to it or finish it. We’re trying to put him in those situations as much as possible so that he can understand what he has to do when he gets to that spot.
Q: For somebody like Mackensie Alexander, how important is it to be able to disguise looks?
A: Honestly, it’s not so much about the disguise it’s about doing your job, the things that we’re asking you to do, and making sure you accomplish that. I’ve always been a believer that the first thing you do is learn how to line up and play from that position. Then once you get to that and you’re comfortable doing that, then we can start working on disguises. Until then, it’s not important to me, especially right now, although we will do some today. It’s not important to me that we try to trick the other team until we know exactly what we’re doing, where we’re supposed to be and how we’re supposed to do it.
Q: How is Mack Brown performing after a full offseason with the team?
A: So far, so good. He’s got some other young backs that he’s competing with. This camp will be good for him.
Q: What do you look for when you’re evaluating for that third running back spot?
A: Well, it just depends on, a little bit, of their skill set. Mike Boone is a little bit different skill set than Mack Brown. Can they catch the ball, can they block protections, what kind of runner are they. Then we try to fit it where it’s best with us. It’s nice having a change of pace back like you say or a 1 and 1A and a change of pace or third down back. It’s really about who the best guys are and how we can utilize them.
Q: How does it change your process when you have so many veterans that can also teach the younger players?
A: The big thing is they know what we’ve been teaching them for basically almost five years now. They’re able to go in and maybe explain it a little bit differently to them. Then we’re coaching this guy over here and typically guys like Linval and Everson are watching their position, that’s really what they’re watching. So they can come in right after the play and tell them, you should have done this or you should have done that. Whereas us as coaches are watching the whole group until we get up there and watch the tape and then we go through it again.
Q: Especially with offensive linemen, how do your evaluations change now that players are wearing pads?
A: Yes, it is real football now. In shorts you can evaluate to see if they are taking the right spots, are they going to the right guy, are they coming off on the right combinations, are they blocking the right protections. Now they have to do those, but get some movement on this guy and where our pad level is. The physicality of it all starts to show up.
Q: When Pat Elflein comes back from injury, do you expect him at center?
Q: Do you expect Nick Easton to move to guard?
A: We’ll see.
Q: You say it is real football now with the pads coming on, are you nostalgic to the older days when there was more tacking and physical in training camp?
A: Those things don’t really bother me, it’s how you play the game now with pads on so I think that is part of it. We are not going to tackle much but, we can start talking a little bit more with the new tackling rules, lowering your head and things like that, wrapping up which we have not been able to really do as well as stripping the football a little bit more.
Q: Coach it looks like Anthony Barr did a lot of work at the defensive line yesterday at practice. Is that a conscious effort to get him on the edge more?
A: Kind of like I was saying before, it’s a conscious effort in to getting him into rush situations where he knows what to do. I really don’t have any concerns when he’s rushing on a back, but sometimes when he gets on a bigger stronger guy, and gets in certain positions he has to know what to do. A lot of it is that, so we just figured we’ve done it all spring long. We just figured that if we’re going to make him be able to do some more things pass rush wise, it’s good to get him down there with the defense line because that’s what they do all day.
Q: Do you anticipate him more running in that base defense, the four three under, where you shift linebackers over and having Barr on the edge? Or are you just trying it out?
A: We’ll see. I don’t know. I haven’t been a big under guy so that hasn’t been part of it. We do a lot of different pressures out of our sub groups, so maybe depending on how he does. We are just trying to utilize our guys the best way we can. If a guy has a skill set of being possibly a pass rusher then we’re going to look at him and see if he can be a pass rusher. If a guy’s a great inside cover guy then we’re going to try and look at him there. It’s really utilizing our guys.
Q: Is that kind of having that five-down look with Barr potentially contribute to what you want to do with the defensive line rotation. From the bigger sense of where you’re getting more guys in?
A: Maybe not so much rotation wise. There could be something in the game where we lose a couple ends, and we need a guy to go in there and do that. He’s been practicing there. If we are rushing five guys, and they got five guys to block then we got some one-on-ones for other people.