We’re getting closer to the Minnesota Vikings’ preseason opener, as they’ll take on the Denver Broncos on Saturday night in the Mile High City. People are going to be anxious to get a look at the brand new Vikings’ offense, and the man that will be running that part of the team got another chance to talk to reporters on Wednesday afternoon.
John DeFilippo, the Vikings’ new offensive coordinator, answered a series of questions from the Twin Cities media today. He touched on the offensive line, his communication with quarterback Kirk Cousins, and numerous other topics. Below is the full transcript of what DeFilippo had to say on Wednesday.
I thought the last couple days, offensively, we’ve started to put things together a little bit. The timing has been better, the cohesiveness has been better, the communication has been better. That’s been really good to see. I’m happy where we are right now. It’s that time of camp to go play against somebody else. The defense knows our calls, we know their calls. It’s getting a little chippy out there. It’s time to take some chipiness out on somebody else. Denver is a great matchup for us. Our young players are going to get press coverage. To play football in this league, you have to be able to get off of press coverage. It’s going to be great for our guys to be able to experience that and go out for the first time and play against somebody else.
Q: What do you hope to see from Kirk Cousins on Saturday?
A: Just to move the football. First time out with our guys, the operation being clean. Getting in and out of the huddle on time. Myself, getting the play in on time. Limit pre-snap mistakes, not jumping offsides, lining up correctly, motion landmarks, all those things. That’s what we’re looking forward to Kirk seeing and all of our offensive guys.
Q: Does facing a quality defense like Denver’s help Kirk this early in the preseason?
A: Yeah, absolutely. I think it goes along with playing against our defense every day. They’re going to play probably a little bit more man than our defense plays. It’ll be a good change for us that we’re not playing against the exact same scheme. We’re playing a different scheme. I’m really excited to watch some of our young wideouts and tight ends get off press coverage.
Q: How much excitement is surrounding Cousins’ debut?
A: You would probably know that more than me. I’m in this building pretty late and early into the morning. There’s reason to be excited, there’s definitely reason to be excited right now if you’re a Vikings fan. We have high expectations for ourselves, for Kirk and for everybody. We’re really looking forward to going out and competing.
Q: Will you be up in the booth during games or on the sideline?
A: I’m going to be on the field to start. I’m going to be on the field to start and I just want to start down there and see how it goes. There might be a time during preseason I go upstairs. Going to see how it goes this first week and we’re going to give it a trail run downstairs.
Q: Do you have a better feel for the game down on the field?
A: There’s benefits and drawbacks to everything. I think you get to talk to the quarterbacks down there. I think you get a better feel for the pulse of the team when you’re downstairs. Now, that being said, your vantage point is not as good as it is upstairs. We’re very fortunate to have some really good coaches on our offensive side of the ball that are going to be able to provide information and know what we’re trying to look for in terms of being able to attack their defense.
Q: Were you upstairs or downstairs with the Browns in 2015?
A: I was down, but that was also 2015 where they did not have the option of coach-to-quarterback from the box. So, you had to go through a middle-man, which is at least two to three seconds. So, if the play clock is running down, that’s an issue. You had to go through a middle-man if you were upstairs at that time.
Q: Does the state of the interior of the offensive line change how you’ll approach this game?
A: Absolutely, I think that anytime, whether it be a preseason game or regular season game, I think when you’re missing a bunch of starters you have to protect your guys. We’ll know very early how we’re holding up up front. I anticipate us holding up really, really good. Because we’re playing a darn good defensive line out here and we’re holding up pretty good. I’m really proud of how our young guys have stepped up up front. It hasn’t been perfect. Sometimes its not 100 percent fundamentally sound, it turns into a little bit of a street fight. Obviously, the toughness factor is there and we plan on executing well on Saturday night.
Q: Are you looking to change Kirk’s launch points, depending on the protection packages or the personnel you have in the game?
A: I think you’re always trying to do that, because you never want the defense to just say, “Hey, he’s going to be seven and half yards deep, the quarterback.” But that being said, I think you always want to be able to change launch points, whether it be on a keeper, a naked, a waggle pass where you’re setting up on the outside. A block protection, or an opposite side C gap. I think you’re always trying to change the launch point, especially against a team like Denver that has a tremendous amount of speed and is very, very physical.
Q: How do you feel about the interior of your offensive line?
A: Obviously we wish we had everybody healthy, but we don’t. That’s the nature of the beast, the next man up mentality. There’s no one who is going to feel sorry for us because guys are out. We got to go play, and the guys that are going to play are going to play well. We expect them to play well. Sure, we’d love to have our starting five out there, but unfortunately that’s not the case.
Q: What challenges will face Pat Elflein when he eventually jumps into this offensive line mid-preseason?
A: I think it’s going to be a couple of things. Number one, I think obviously just getting in there and doing it, physically. It’s different hearing Kirk’s cadence on the sidelines or behind the huddle than it is actually hearing his cadence at the line of scrimmage when you have Linval Joseph lining up across from you, or whoever we’re playing. It just happens to be that out here at practice. So that number one is doing it live. Number two, I think any time you come back from an injury there is a confidence factor that needs to be built up. He’s a very confident guy, but I think you’d see anybody that is coming off an injury where you’re wanting to test it out a little bit before you go 100 percent full speed.
Q: What have you seen from Cornelius Edison as he’s gone from the practice squad to taking reps with the first team in camp?
A: I tell you, he has stepped in and done well, really well. I’m proud of him. He plays with great leverage, he has strong hands, he stays low to the ground, and he’s smart. He hasn’t messed up a snap yet in terms of the cadence. He’s done a fantastic job with stepping in there, and we’re happy where he’s at.
Q: What do you like about the competition between the younger running backs?
A: I’ll tell you, they keep playing well, and I think you see them catching the football and running hard. Each guy will have a really good play, and then they’ll have an average play, so we’re really looking forward to this next week or ten days to having one of those guys really trying to take the forefront in that spot.
Q: How do you envision communicating with Kirk Cousins in-game? Does he have the freedom to suggest certain plays in certain situations?
A: It’s always a collaborative effort on game day, always. At the end of the day, I always tell our quarterbacks, “You guys are the ones that are throwing it, not me.” So we want them to be as comfortable as they can in everything that we do, and that starts in the middle of the week. If there’s a play that we practiced a couple time that needs another week of seasoning, as we call it, it’s out of the plan, because they don’t feel comfortable throwing it. You’re always making adjustments to the game plan up until the beginning of the week and in the game, whether it be a route, whether it be a protection, the way you’re calling something up front, all those things. You’re in constant communication on everything.
Q: Which second and third team wide receivers are you interested in seeing on Saturday night?
A: All of them. I don’t want to single anyone out, because I want to see them all perform well. They’ve been doing a nice job out here, but it’s different when you’re going against somebody else, in what for a lot of these guys will be their first NFL action. Not only do you want to see guys perform physically, but how are they going to handle this situation mentally as well. Is it going to be too big for some guys? Will they forget their technique? That’s what you see a lot in young players. They’ll come out here, where it’s a comfortable environment and they know the fields and they know the locker room, and all of a sudden a different color jersey shows up in front of them and they forget every single technique that we’ve taught them. We want to see our guys take things from the meeting room to the field, for our young players. We’re really looking forward to seeing them doing that.
Q: For some of the younger offensive linemen who may not be as ready for Saturday, what as coaches are you focusing on to prepare them?
A: I don’t want to say anyone is not ready, because I think all of these guys are NFL players. I think they’re all going to be ready, but obviously some guys are more battle tested and game tested than others. So I think there’s going to be certain times where you use certain protections to help people, and I think you have to do that. That’s coaching, you don’t just throw a guy out on an island and expect him to go block Von Miller one-on-one. You got to help him. There are certain situations where we’ll have some things up protection-wise to help either the right side of the line or left side of the line. That to me is coaching and helping your guys out.
Q: How is Rashod Hill holding up?
A: I’m just happy that he’s feeling better as a person. It was hard to see him going through that. He couldn’t hold any food down, he couldn’t practice. As a person, I just felt so bad for him because you don’t want to see anybody go through that. We’re just happy he’s back and feeling better. You’ll see his stamina continue to grow as we go along.
Q: How has Trevor Siemian been in the quarterback room?
A: He’s been great. Anytime you have a guy as a number two quarterback that has played games and played well in games, I think that’s a good thing. Number two, the relationship between the number one quarterback and the number two quarterback has to be really good or you’re not going to have a very functional quarterback room. If one guy is trying to overtake the other guy or the starter is not treating the number two, they’re not collaborative working to beat the opponent that Sunday, then I think, personally, you’re in for some problems. So, the fact that those two guys don’t have an ego, they work great together, has been a real asset to not only our quarterback room but our team.
Q: What have your impressions been of Rashod Hill?
A: He’s done great, obviously he needs to get in a little bit better shape and gain some of that weight back. I was pleased where he was before, this spring coming out of this spring. Obviously, the first practice he came out and was sick. We’re just looking forward, again like I said, him feeling better and getting his stamina back.
Q: What have been your takeaways from the competition for the slot receiver spot?
A: Again, there’s two guys in there, I think you’ll see in practice, we’re getting a lot more guys in there with the second and third squads. I think it’s a little bit early in camp. We wanted to get the majority of the offense in and let Adam [Thielen] take the majority of those snaps and let Kendall [Wright] take the majority of those snaps with the second team. But now I think you’re going to see us mixing and matching a little bit as we get closer to actual real football of getting more guys in there and testing them out to see what they can do.
Q: What have you learned in your past coaching experiences to help ease your transition here?
A: Knowing what’s important and what is not. The first time you do it, you want everything to be so perfect, every single little detail. That doesn’t mean we don’t want that now. The old saying, ‘don’t sweat the small stuff.’ You kind of figure out what the small stuff is. That’s the one thing I learned, especially in a tough situation. I learned to really know what’s important. I feel like Coach Zimmer and I communicate very, very well. I know kind of what the important things are to stress and what to lay off on.