One of the main focal points on Saturday night for the Minnesota Vikings will be the play of quarterback Kirk Cousins. The
$84 million $90 million man probably won’t play much on Saturday night against the Denver Broncos, but what snaps he does play will certainly be analyzed to death until we get to the Vikings’ second preseason contest.
On Wednesday afternoon at the Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, Cousins got the opportunity to answer questions from the media, answering queries about his wide receivers and numerous other topics. The full transcript of his remarks is below.
Q: How do you feel about making your debut in a game with the Vikings?
A: Obviously, we are excited. Training camp can drag on too. We are on our tenth practice we came here early so eleventh or twelfth now. By now you are ready to change scenery and go play against a different defense. I think schematically, you get too familiar with this defense. We are getting the same looks, we understand it and they know all of our stuff. It is time to change the script up and get ready for something different. That is also a huge benefit and dealing with noise, road environment, substitution from the sideline, game situations that are constantly changing not working off scripts anymore. All of that is very different from a practice setting and we need that work.
Q: Have you been able to tell a lot from preseason as far as how you are going to do during the regular season?
A: Well, you certainly won’t put a good product on the field any time you step out there obviously it is a small sample size to go off of there so when it is all you half to look at, especially when you are on the outside it appears to be pretty telling to how the teams are doing and how they look for the year. Looking back at my preseasons, personally, I don’t know if it is a very good indicator of how the season plays out. I know in 2016 we did not really get our offense going but almost threw for 5,000 yards during the regular season. That would be a time where it was not a great indicator, but I think it is important to get out there, have a good taste in our mouths leaving the game. When you only get a handful of snaps, if you don’t start fast, you don’t finish strong. You have to come out the gates ready to go before your opportunity is gone and you don’t really have time to ease in.
Q: What are your impressions on Laquon Treadwell compared to what you have heard when you came in?
A: Well you just see the numbers or the lack of production in the first couple of seasons, but I get out here and see a guy that comes to work every day, knows the play, knows the system, has a good sense of the game, has made aggressive tough catches, and has run a variety of routes and really shown up on all of them and schematically he is getting the football a lot. He keeps showing up, I am just going to go where my reeds are taking me. I have always played that way I don’t do a lot of, “Oh, I am going to throw to this player because he is a better player.” I just go where my reads take me and he keeps getting the football. I think he has had a great camp. The goal is to not just have a great camp, the goal is to have an outstanding season. We have to make sure he keeps up what he’s doing and keeps doing it all the way into this fall.
Q: Do you have a preference on whether the coordinator is in the booth or with you on the sideline?
A: I haven’t even talked about it with him. That is the kind of thing, as we get closer to Saturday night we need to address. Sean McVay in 15 was on the sidelines, in 16 he was in the bow, in 17 Jay called the game for me from the sideline. Kyle Shanahan always called it from the sideline, when I was with him. So my experience has been both. I think that the box gives you not only better vantage point, but a little more sterile environment, so the play call, the voice is coming in from a sterile environment, which can be more of a calmer setting. Not a lot of crowd noise or static coming in the microphone. The advantage to the sideline is the communication, we can be on the same page. So there is pros and cons to both. You kind of give something up to gain something else.
Q: What are the challenges if being down three starting offensive lineman?
A: It is a challenge. I played with a depleted offensive line last year and it is certainly not preferred. Much of the offensive line play is like quarterback, where you have players, who down the road you know are going to be good players, but they may not be there yet. It takes time, it takes reps, it takes these preseason games. We have to throw them in the fire and get them work, so that they can take those next steps. I see it as a great challenge for me as a quarterback, to say, I look around the league at some of the all-time greats who are playing right now, and they have had a revolving door at offensive line and it really never caused a drop in their play. If I ever want to be mentioned among those guys, I have got to be able to play regardless of who is in front of me. So I will take pride in that, hopefully still being able to produce at a high level regardless of who is out there.
Q: Is changing your launch points a way to counteract what personnel is out there?
A: Yeah, and that is where you always want a great play caller who can look at your personnel and say, “Okay, schematically, what can we do to extenuate our strengths and hide our weaknesses.” One of the ways you can protect yourself against an elite pass rush, is to create rollouts, create movements where the Von Millers of the world don’t know that you will be setting up every single time in the exact same spot. Whatever we can do. Not only launch points, but snap counts and other ways that you can keep those guys guessing as they rush the quarterback so that it is not an easy tell, play in and play out.
Q: Were you surprised the Vikings were a potential landing spot considering they had Case Keenum?
A: Yeah, I was just keeping an open mind. I’ve learned never to be expecting too much in this league because things do change so quickly. I was just keeping an open mind and whoever would be interested in me I would be interested in them and I’m obviously looking back very grateful the Vikings came into play and made a call. We roll with it from there and we’re thrilled to be here.
Q: Have you had a bigger workload in order to adjust to new teammates?
A: I think the workload has always been about the same. I want it to be as much as possible. The nature of the quarterback position is you’re not running a lot, you’re not wearing yourself out physically – certainly it can be a mental grind. I want as many reps as I can get. Sometimes I’ll look back when we’re going through a period I’ll look back and hope that they’re not going to sub me out quite yet because I want to keep getting reps and getting experience, that’s important. I’ll get as many reps as I can get.
Q: What’s it been like working with Cornelius Edison the past few days?
A: I think he’s done a really good job. Maybe another guy who hasn’t really played football in this league but has been around the block long enough to know what it should look like. I really have enjoyed working with him. I think he’s got a good demeanor about him. He’s a pros pro. I’ve enjoyed getting to work with him from a center to quarterback standpoint.
Q: What are your impressions of Dalvin Cook thus far coming off the injury?
A: I mean Dalvin [Cook] is an outstanding back. Going back to Coach Fllip [DeFilippo] and scheme, we’re just trying to find the best way to get him involved. What does he do well and then how many other things that he can do outside of the traditional running back can he do? So we can get the football into the hands of one of our best players in more unique ways, so that the defense can’t plan for the same look over and over. We’ve got to get creative with getting him involved and maybe it’s just calling a simple quick gain and then checking it down to him over the ball, but as we’ve talked about a check down to a running back isn’t the worst thing in the world when that running back is Dalvin and he’s proven that when the ball is in his hands good things happen. Even if it’s a check down, find a way to get him the ball and let him go be special player.
Q: When you studied this team on film what was the best thing you saw from Case Keenum?
A: It’ll be hard to narrow it down to one thing. Anytime you win 13 games and a playoff game you’re doing an outstanding job as a quarterback. I’ve watched Case [Keenum] going back to his days in Houston running [Gary] Kubiak’s offense and watching him in LA, he won that job in training camp. Then here, he’s just a winner. I mean going back to Houston what he did for that program and the records he set. You don’t do that at multiple stops unless you’ve got something to you that’s special, that says you’re an elite quarterback. I just think the way he led, the way he is on top of the details, the way he makes great decisions, protects the football, makes plays. He’s very good off schedule. I think there’s a lot of positives to his game.
Q: What have you learned about Stefon Diggs in the last three months?
A: He’s a great personality, great teammate, a lot of fun to work with. Gives you good feedback, loves playing, loves practicing, enjoys coming out here. He loves fashion. He’s kind of got his own look every day. He’s got his own way of doing things and I love him as a guy, love him as a teammate and as a player.
Q: Tom Compton said you both really got into moon phases. How did that come to be?
A: I’m wondering how in the world Tom acknowledged that to you. Tom and I have a weird sense of humor and maybe we should put a hidden camera in, but we roomed together for two years, my first two years before I got married. We developed our own little sense of humor and it’d be pretty hard to articulate how it goes, but a lot of riffs back and forth. I’ll just say that. Adam Thielen’s picked up on it having a locker next to us he hasn’t really had a choice.
Q: What’s the collaborative effort between you and Trevor Siemian in the quarterback room?
A: I can’t really say enough about our quarterback room and Trevor as a player and as a person. I’ve said it several times, so I’m repeating myself, but when you’ve started that many games, been in the fire that’s a huge asset to have in your room first of all. Second of all, just as a guy I love his demeanor – laid back, go with the flow, whatever you want to call it, calm, cool. It’s just good for me to have there and I look forward to working with him all year. I really enjoy whether it’s the cafeteria or the quarterback meeting, I really enjoy spending time with him. With how much time we spend together that’s a really good thing.
Q: Is there a sense of camaraderie with other quarterbacks like Case Keenum going through similar situations?
A: I think there is a bit of an unspoken camaraderie among NFL quarterbacks in general because as you look at someone you know they’ve been where you are. They understand what it is like to practice and play and get hit and stand in there and come back the next week. Not a lot of guys can do that. Not a lot of guys have done that. The ones that have, there is a bit of a bond there whether you spend time together or not. Certainly, he [Case Keenum] is a guy, I think we are wired very similarly as people. I have a great deal of respect for him and his wife, his family. I wish him a great deal of success going forward.
Q: Do you feel like the cohesiveness with the offense is starting to progress?
A: I think so. I think that is what training camp is all about. Over these last 10-ish practices, we’ve taken steps as an offense. We have to continue to fine tune as we approach closer to Week 1 about what are we going to emphasize, what are we going to install that is new, then what are we going to go back and try to perfect that we’ve already installed. Those are conversations that Coach Flip [DeFilippo] and his staff and myself will have to have, just continuing to try and figure out what our identity is going to be and what we are going to hang our hat on.
Q: Where is the defense giving you the most trouble during training camp?
A: That is a good question. I think the first thing that comes to mind is just their continuity. If I make a check, they make a check because they are all on the same page. One time in OTAs, which I think you all were here this day, I saw they were bringing a pressure. I made a check to have an answer, well they then checked to get out of the pressure so then I was left with a play that was not very good versus their max zone coverage. I went over to Coach Zimmer afterwards and said, “Tell me a little bit about what is going on there.” He said, “They were not supposed to do that. They were supposed to leave the play on but they’ve been playing together for so long.” They’re so dialed in. Even if the play clock is running down or even if you’re getting your check out quickly, they know one hand signal, one word, everybody knows what to do. I think that is the hard part. When you have a brand new quarterback, a brand new offensive coordinator, we can’t say the same thing on offense. The continuity, in addition to all the talent they have, I think helps them play at a high level.
Q: Do you have a similar thought process to when Case Keenum felt like he was handed the keys to his buddy’s Lamborghini and to take it for a ride?
A: I think what he is trying to say if I’m discerning it correctly, is that this is a special place. It’s a great locker room, it’s well coached, ownership is strong. It’s got a great fan base, it’s a great place to live. When you start to look at the key factors that would make it enjoyable to play for an NFL team, this place checks all the boxes. I feel the same way, my wife feels the same way. The key is I’ve said many times is, “That’s great. You can enjoy where you live. You can enjoy the fans. That’s all well and great. You better win football games.” That is where my focus is. Because we haven’t done that yet, all of this is just preparation. We’re just out here and it just looks like activity right now. We have to turn it into wins in the fall and that is certainly where our focus is each day we come out here.