Before the second day of Vikings minicamp—the first the media have access to—new Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer held a press conference, which alone doesn’t reveal a lot but together with what we’ve heard over the course of the offseason provides us with a more complete picture of the kind of coaching staff Minnesota has.
First, Mike Zimmer wouldn’t speak to any injury news about players except for Adrian Peterson, who’s “great,” and recovering just as well as you’d expect from his offseason surgery.
In terms of draft priorities, Zimmer indicated that they will not change the Vikings board based on what they see in minicamps, although they are willing to change their needs profile heading into the draft. Unsurprisingly, this indicates that the Vikings will be taking need (and relative need) into account when they head into the draft, but do care about general player ability.
The quarterback question is not something Zimmer spoke a lot about. For the most part, he’s leaning on Norv Turner to provide insight on quarterback ability on the field, calling him the “expert on quarterbacks” in the house. His input, as we’ve learned earlier in the offseason, is to provide his opinion on leadership, intangibles and work ethic. To this end, he spoke of players “representing the state of Minnesota” well, and has consistently emphasized clutch play in adverse situations. Earlier in the offseason he also mentioned that because he and the quarterback will be working so closely together, they need to be “wired similarly.”
In general, the head coach will have influence in the draft room (though general manager Rick Spielman will again make all the final decisions) and Mike Zimmer said that he won’t hold back on his opinions during the draft.
Zimmer has gone out of his way to enforce a team culture. He referenced former NBA coach of the year and NBA champion Pat Riley (as both coach and player) when he espoused that discipline is not a “nasty” word, and he intends to enforce a culture of accountability around Winter Park. There are new signs around the practice facilities and workouts—they say things like, “Tough teams win in the 4th quarter,” “Out hit. Out run. Out work,” and “Take ownership in something bigger than yourself.”
When Greg Jennings took the podium, he reiterated Zimmer’s approach. Zimmer isn’t a “rah-rah” guy, and makes sure everyone is accountable. When Brian Robison stepped up to talk to the press, he mentioned the same thing, and mentioned the extra energy people have this year over the energy they have last year.
It seems like hard work is the order of the day. Said Robison, “It obviously makes you excited coming out here and seeing the guys working. It’s a totally different atmosphere than last year.” Cordarrelle Patterson echoed that and added that he didn’t think he worked hard enough last year, and vows to work harder this year—a conclusion he came to after watching film.
There’s a lot of excitement and emotion on the field, it seems—and the gusto with which the team is approaching the camp, which has 100% attendance, is certainly encouraging.
Jennings also mentioned the amount of involvement Zimmer had with the team in terms of hands-on teaching and direct instruction—something Zimmer made sure to emphasize several times both in his introductory press conference in January and one he seems to be following through here. He spent the majority of his time with the defense, and in particular the defensive backs, a position he feels he is “an expert on.”
Zimmer held a film session with the defensive backs yesterday (again, the first day of minicamp), and figures to be involved heavily with the defense throughout. Robison also mentioned how hands-on the head coach is.
“(Zimmer) is actually grabbing guys, showing them what to do. You don’t always get that with a HC,” he said of the head coach.
There’s a lot of indications about the defense that Zimmer will run. Having revealed that there will be a lot of emphasis on run-stopping from the defensive ends in a film session held with Minnesota media earlier this year (as well as basically every year with the Bengals defense), Brian Robison mentioned that the effort to stop the run first will frame everything they do, including rushing the passer, saying, “They want to make sure that we stop the run first and earn the right to rush the passer.”
On offense, there’s a high degree of complexity that will be installed in the Norv Turner offense—a system known for it’s variable receivers and multiple responsibilities for pass-catchers. Greg Jennings mentioned that this may be the most complex offense he’s seen, and joked that anyone confused by last year’s offense may be left behind with this new offense. The impression people are left with is that this offense is miles more complex than the Musgrave offense.
Cordarrelle Patterson committed to learning more than just the “X” position at receiver, and that seems to confirm in small part the multiple responsibilities receivers will be tasked with. Zimmer seems to have embraced the concept of a high-tempo offense, according to reporters there, as everything conducted at the practice was done at a quick pace.
Jennings praised Turner for finding the best ways to get “every ounce out of” players and maximizing their talent while not accepting mediocrity. Robison said the same of Zimmer, mentioning that while he thought he had a good day yesterday, he received a thorough critique of everything he could have done to be better.
There are a few other details—Everson Griffen will likely be the right defensive end and Robison will stay on the left side. Cordarrelle Patterson is a big fan of Minnesota professional sports teams, and has a 100% winning record for games he’s attended (of the Wild and Twins. No word on the Wolves). He’s hoping to steal Greg Jennings’ plane and go to Colorado tonight.