Over the course of training camp, we expect to hear from head coach Mike Zimmer a lot. Are we going to get a whole lot of information about him about the Minnesota Vikings and how things are going? Maybe some, but not a lot. Still, since we want to give everyone an opportunity to read what the coach has to say, here’s his transcript from after today’s practice sessions in Eagan.
Q: Has there been any more progress from Pat Elflein?
A: He’s progressing every day.
Q: Are you waiting for him to be fully 100%?
A: As soon as he’s cleared. I’m not obligated to talk about injuries. I’m only obligated to give an injury report on Wednesday of week one. I got that from [Eric] Sugarman.
Q: We’re talking about progress, not about injuries. It’s a more holistic question.
A: I’m sure he’s getting a lot of treatment.
Q: What are your impressions of the offensive line group that you have coming back?
A: They’re working really hard. It’s been a little bit. We’re looking at a guy here, we’re looking at a guy there. We’re still moving guys around a little bit, and will continue to do that because there’s a possibility that one guy may have to play guard, may have to play tackle, may have to play center, something like that. We’re trying to figure out how we can get the best five in there and how they work best together. It’s always going to be a work in progress, but these guys work their butts off. They come out here and they grind and work and study up in the room. They’re good guys.
Q: Do you feel like you have a bunch of guys who have the versatility to play multiple positions on the offensive line?
A: We have some. Some of them are less likely to go to another spot than others, but when you’re talking about [Nick] Easton, Elflein, [Mike] Remmers playing right and left, Rashod [Hill], we haven’t moved [Brian] O’Neill to the other side yet, but we will at some point. [Danny] Isidora has played right and left guard, so when you’re only dressing seven on game day you have to have to be prepared for anything.
Q: It seems like around the league teams are getting better at pressuring the quarterback and getting sacks without having to blitz. Is there a particular change that has led to that?
A: Not necessarily. I think a lot of it is based on your guys up front, really. The offensive line, when they get drafted they typically take a little bit longer to get ready, but I haven’t seen any kind of certain thing.
Q: As rookie offensive linemen take longer to transition out of the spread offenses they played in in college, has the early balance of power shifted to the pass rushers?
A: Yeah, I think for the guys who have just come out of college it takes a year sometimes for those guys to come in [and start] pass setting guys one-on-one. They’re used to slide protections in college. A lot of this stuff that we do is a lot different.
Q: Why is the slot cornerback position such a difficult transition to make from college to the pros?
A: It’s not nearly as complicated [in college], number one. Number two, all the different concepts that they have to go against, man within a zone, zones. If it’s just man-to-man, it’s not that much different, but if it’s some of the zones they might have to carry the vertical and then see another guy coming into the zone and pull off the vertical. He might have to carry number two on the vertical or pass a guy off, there’s a lot to it and there is a lot more room in there as well. The guy on the outside, he’s really only covering maybe half of a field. The guy in the slot, he’s got to cover everywhere.
Q: Where have you seen growth from Jaleel Johnson since he arrived here last year?
A: He’s improved a lot. I think one of the biggest things, he was a wrestler, so he wanted to get in wrestling matches with guys as opposed to locking them out and then playing the gap that he’s supposed to be in. When a guy would come to block him, he would knock him back and then jump inside, and then his gap would be open. He’s been a lot more disciplined that way, and like I’ve said he’s not getting in wrestling matches.
Q: You’ve paired Jaleel up with Ifeadi Odenigbo inside a little bit. What do you like about Ifeadi moving inside on the defensive line?
A: I feel like that’s the best position for him. His quickness shows up. He’s a tough, heavy handed kid, and he probably didn’t have the juice that we need at that spot [defensive end]. I think inside is a better spot for him.
Q: What have you seen from Tashawn Bower that you’ve liked over the past year?
A: Well the first thing is that he’s a really hard worker, he’s got great size and length, good speed, and he’s becoming better and better with the techniques. He’s another great kid, and I’m trying to figure out how to say this the best way – he’s more of a power rushing end than a speed rushing end. There’s a lot of guys like that, but his skill set is different that Danielle Hunter.
Q: Does versatility and the ability to play inside or outside come into play when you’re analyzing cornerbacks?
A: Yes, it’s really important. At some point the defensive backs get hurt as well and so you may have to take a guy and move him back to safety or you may have to move him outside the corner or you may have to move him inside. Being able to do that gives a lot of flexibility to the defense. I’ve been in some games before where nickelbacks got hurt for instance or two nickelbacks have gotten hurt, and so you’re really limited in what you can call, so you have to finish out the game with certain calls because you stuck a guy in there and he really only knows one or two things.
Q: What changes have you seen in Adam Thielen from his first training camp to this training camp?
A: Shoot, I don’t know if I remember his first training camp to be honest with you. Adam’s always been a great competitor, trying to get on the field anyway he possibly could. But now he’s the guy, so the way he runs his routes, he’s always talking about how he had the defender on this hip or that hip, or leaning this way or leaning that way. He’s always caught the ball pretty well, so I think his confidence is way higher than it was the first camp too.
Q: What are some things that Sheldon Richardson adds to the defensive line?
A: Well he’s got great quickness. So far Sheldon’s played the run very, very well. We’re working on some things pass rush wise because he’s always been a guy that’s been disruptive, he can get around the quarterback, but he hasn’t finished. So we’ve been working on a lot of things with him. I saw it happen two or three times the other day in practice where he got to the spot and he’s working on things that we’re teaching him where he’s got an opportunity to finish on the quarterback. That part has been great. He’s got excellent quickness, strong, he’s been good in the locker room and good on the field.
Q: What is Harrison Smith doing for this defense that he wasn’t able to do the first couple of years?
A: Harrison Smith’s pretty much always been able to do pretty much anything, but now I can come up and talk to him and say, “Hey try this today” and he’ll do it. Sometimes I’ve had safeties in the past that you talk to them about something and it might take them three days working on it to do it. As soon as you tell Harrison, he can get it. He’s a really, really smart guy. He sees things really well. He very rarely makes the same mistake twice. He can pretty much do most anything. The thing I like about him is that he works on his deficiencies, so if he doesn’t feel like he’s doing this good he’s going to get out there and work at it.