Are you guys looking like you will be at full strength or where do you think you’ll be for Sunday’s game?
“Won’t know until then. We’re going to have a number of guys limited today, so I hope they make it. But, we’ll see.”
Have you decided who will start, RB Matt Breida or RB Alfred Morris? Does it really matter?
“No, not really. Not to me. We’ll see how the week goes. This is Breida’s first full week back from his injury, so we’ve got to see how healthy he is. It probably depends on a lot of personnel groupings, what plays we are running, things like that. So, probably won’t have an idea on that until Saturday night.”
Will OL Mike Person get the start at right guard?
“I mean, he’s leading it right now. But, those guys are competing. Like I said, I think last time I talked to you guys, [G] Josh [Garnett] is behind a little bit because he hasn’t had the reps. But, that doesn’t mean he can’t pass him up this week. That doesn’t mean he can’t any week that they are going. That’ll be some tough competition, to me, all year.”
Is LB Malcolm Smith still battling a hamstring? Is his availability kind of up in the air, too?
“Yes, definitely. Yeah. He’ll be limited today, so we’ll see how that goes.”
How far along were you in game planning for the Vikings before RB Jerick McKinnon got hurt? How much does that change things?
“You don’t get anything down on paper and give it to your team, but since the day we signed him we’ve been game planning for Minnesota. So, I’m not going to lie, it changes things pretty drastically. When you go for, that was your first target in free agency, so once you do it, you have a plan on how to use him, especially going into Week 1. So, that definitely changes. We didn’t have him before, so we’ve done a lot of different things without that. We were going to do some different things with him, which we have other guys on the roster who are capable of doing that stuff. But, it’s just how much you want to do it and things like that. That changes formations and everything. We definitely had to go back in and change some things, but definitely still excited about what we’ve got.”
Alfred has not been known as a big-time pass-catcher throughout his career. Does it present more of a tell when Breida is in, Alfred is in?
“I think it does if Breida never runs the ball and Alf never catches the ball, you know? But, we’ll be balanced in both. It’s not like that. It’s very rare you can have a guy on your roster who can’t catch at all or can’t run at all. If you only are in on passes, they can call you a running back but you’re a receiver. So, you’ve got to balance all of that out. We have the running backs who can do that. Guys do certain things better than others, but all three of the guys that will be up I feel confident that all three of them can definitely run and catch.”
Where have you seen the biggest growth in Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins’ game from when you had him to where he is now?
“Just reps. I only had Kirk for a couple games. I was with him two years, but didn’t get to play in many games with him. He’s got to play a lot of football since then. So, the more football very good quarterbacks get to play, usually the better they get. Kirk went through his ups and downs in the beginning, but he was always talented and made of the right stuff. I think that’s why he has become what he has today.”
What type of talents does Minnesota’s defense present to your offense in general and QB Jimmy Garoppolo specifically?
“A lot. They’re a very talented defense in terms of, I think if anyone said their best talent was their D-Line or their linebackers or their secondary, I’d say whichever one you said is right. You could argue any of those three. They’ve got a lot of talent there with high draft picks, guys who have made second contracts. It’s a very good scheme, too. With what [Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator] George [Edwards] and [Minnesota Vikings head coach] Mike [Zimmer] have done over the years, it’s extremely sound. Then, you’ve got 11 guys that have been playing together for about four years. I know they added [Minnesota Vikings DT] Sheldon [Richardson] as a three technique, but the last 10 guys have been there for a while and that continuity of good talent with a good scheme is why their numbers were as good as anyone’s last year in pretty much every category.”
When you sat down with Jimmy to go over film on the Vikings, what was the first thing you told him to watch for?
“I didn’t tell him a first thing. Today, we put in all of the stuff that we’re trying to attack them at first and second down. So, you try to go through their looks and how they play their fronts and their coverages. You’ve got to be ready for everything. They have their base defense, but whatever you get them with they have every adjustment possible to take that away. We’ve got to go in with an open mind and see how they play us. Just be ready to execute.”
What are your expectations for T Mike McGlinchey, just given the atmosphere, the guys he is going against and that it’s his first NFL game?
“It’s going to be a big challenge, but I have high expectations for McGlinchey. That’s why we took him. That’s why we’re putting him in there. He’s been great since the day he’s come in. Whether it’s a rookie in his first game or whether it’s a 10-year vet, I mean, it’s going to be a challenge playing in that dome versus their personnel and the noise. I don’t expect him just to sit and dominate. I don’t expect anybody to. But, I’d be surprised if he didn’t play at a high level and I think he’ll give us a chance to win this game.”
The expectations for this team are obviously different from where they were last year at this time. How about for you? You’ve got 16 games under your belt now. How different is this than last year as you approach the opening game?
“It is different. I know our team a lot better. I feel we’ve improved, too, so I feel more confident in that aspect going into the year. I’m just excited. You get to sit around and think about it all year since the last game ended. Our players came in so excited the first day we saw them in the offseason. Preseason is a grind for everybody and we’re all glad to get through that. Now, we’re just pumped to play some football. It’s going to be a long four days or whatever it is left. It’s been a long couple of days, but we just can’t wait to get this started and just get into the groove.”
The Vikings signed TE Cole Hikutini to their practice squad. Does that concern you at all or had you not started to game plan for Minnesota?
“No. I mean, it’s not like Cole knew our game plan or would have been able to memorize it. But, hopefully the stuff he tells them we’ve got double moves off all of that stuff. So, hopefully they listen to him.”
You’ve gone against a Zimmer defense in your last three stops as a coordinator. Have you gone back to those games to see what was effective against him?
“You do to a degree. I don’t want to get into it too much, but I know they do so we do, also. There’s only so many ways you can attack certain coverages. He’s been very similar for a long time, going back to playing him when he was in Cincinnati when I was in Houston or when I was in Washington the time he was in Dallas. He’s a real good coordinator. Does all the stuff like I said earlier. It’s very sound. There’s just not that many secrets to it. You’ve got to play very well versus these guys. You’ve got to execute. I talked about their talent and their scheme. Any time you play against a group that’s played together that long, 11 guys recognize plays very fast. They tee off on people very fast because 11 guys can think very similar. That’s, to me, the biggest challenge. There’s not going to be that much secrets in this game. We’ve got to play well. We’ve got to execute. It’s going to be a hard battle.”
What are kind of the basic tendencies of a Mike Zimmer defense? When you go against him, I think you have like two or three times in the past? What do you expect to see that carries over to this year?
“They’re very sound in the run game. They play their gaps well. They play more match coverages and stuff. It’s a little similar to our defense in terms of their philosophy and stuff, but their coverages are a little bit different. They play a little bit more two-shell than our guys. It’s not always an eight-man front. But, they have two very physical safeties that even when they are playing in a two-shell, those guys can show up very fast and it can very quickly become an eight-man front. It presents a lot of challenges.”
I know you are busy game-planning obviously, but there was news with Colin Kaepernick getting an endorsement deal from Nike. Just curious if you have any reaction to that?
“Not really. I don’t have a reaction to probably anything that’s happened on this planet in the last four days. I apologize for that. That’ll continue for about six more months. Sorry.”
In the offseason, general manager John Lynch joked that you were in mourning once it became clear that you wouldn’t be able to get Kirk Cousins. Did you ever tell him how funny you thought that was?
“I told him how bad of a choice of words that was. But, no I understood what he was trying to say. I have a lot of respect for Kirk and I think he’s in a very good situation and went to a very good place and I’m very happy for him for that with what he’s been through. I’m extremely happy with who we have here and where we’re at and the decision that we made on who to go with before that.”
When you guys were mapping out the future of the team and looking at your quarterback options in the 2017 offseason, did you guys go ahead and start talking about 2018 and the possibility that Kirk would be available?
“Yeah, I mean we talked about every single possibility for quarterbacks the first day I got here, off the plane. We always knew that was a strong possibility because I didn’t think they were going to franchise him three years in a row like no one else did and I thought we’d have a very good chance. So, I think that’s what we knew was a very strong possibility of happening and I think we fell into another alternative option that was pretty darn good.”