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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Frazier, Priefer On Position Battles, Injuries and More

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Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier

Good morning. We had a good walk through this morning. Guys were really into it. It’s a little different format than what they had been accustomed to at Mankato and even coming back last week. Everything is a little bit different with our format. We’re treating it this week more like what we would do if we were preparing for a regular season game just to introduce our guys to the way we do things from a schedule standpoint so it’s a lot different for the young guys. Of course the veterans are familiar with it, but it’s a different routine than what they’ve been accustomed to these last couple of weeks. Practice wise, the only guys that won’t be practicing at this point are Jerome Felton, Shariff, everything went fine with the work that he had done and he should be back with us for sure by that opening ball game. Tyler Holmes sprained his ankle the other day so we’re going to hold him out of practice. Jarius, we’re going to give him one more day as well and hope to have him back tomorrow, but other than that, everyone else should be working. Looking forward to getting into a game mode, a regular season game mode at practice.

Q: What have you seen from Greg Jennings?

A: He’s providing us with great leadership in the classroom as well as on the field and his work ethic is just like we thought it would be, outstanding. His production will be there, we’re sure of that. He’s been everything we had hoped for and looking forward to watching him play and perform for us. He’s been terrific.

Q: What stood out to you about that first unit offense in the Buffalo game?

A: I was really pleased with their production overall. Some of the things that Buffalo was doing is some of the things that we’re going to see in the season. For them to get the number of three-and-outs, I think our defense had five series and maybe three, three-and-outs in that five series and one field goal I thought they did a good job and it was good for us because we were able to be in a situation where they got a couple first downs in one of those series and marched down to get a field goal so it made us get in some different situations that we need to be good at. One being when they got to their maroon zone, what we call outside the 20, we held them to the field goal, that was good to see as well. Then to come up with the big turnover in that situation and put our offense on those short fields is one of the things we had emphasized as well. I was pleased with the different situations they were put in then how they responded so I was encouraged.

Q: With the game being so up tempo, what was the biggest challenge of keeping the guys from losing their breath?

A: I think the fact that we had worked with our offense on some of that probably helped our defense, but it was good to get it on the road in a lot of situations where you had to not only run to the spot but now you have to tackle, get back up and get lined up and get the defensive calls as well. So to see our guys function as well as they did, that was good to see out of our first group.

Q: What was your impression of Xavier Rhodes?

A: Kind of up and down. He did some good things there but there were some other things that when we looked at the tape and he looked at it as well, that he’ll need to get better on as we approach the regular season. That was his first chance to get some live action, to get a feel of the speed of the game in a game situation so there were some good things but there were definitely some things he’ll have to work on to get better but he’ll get that chance this week against a very good offense in San Francisco and on the road again. ­

Q: With putting Desmond Bishop at the number one, how will that work in the nickel with him and Erin Henderson?

A: We just make a decision. We don’t necessarily plan on taking Erin off the field but there are times where Desmond could be playing at the outside linebacker spot as well. We’ve explained to our players what the plan is and they know that we want to get some views of Desmond with the first group; they understand that, they understand why. So no spite against them, we need to be able to evaluate Desmond along with some other guys. A lot of guys we need to evaluate here in this ball game this week as well as we’re trying to make some decisions regarding our roster.

Q: Is there ever a point of concern for you when the offense is not clicking?

A: Yes. There are certain goals in every ball game that we’d like to see us reach in those games and when it doesn’t happen you have to go back and look and try to figure out why and if that reason is a reason beyond physical ability, then you get a little bit concerned. If we’re not functioning, I want it to be because someone is way better than us, not because of things we’re not doing right. So yes, that would be some reason for concern if we don’t do some of the things that we set out to get accomplished in this ball game or any ball game if we don’t get it done.

Q: Is Matt Kalil going to play in the game this Sunday?

A: We do expect Matt to play in this ball game. He’s going to practice today so we’ll se how he does in practice but we don’t anticipate him not playing. Offensive line, our first group, they did some good things in that ball game but there are some things that we’ll could get better at, especially when we’re going to be on the road like we are in the opening game of the season. From a communication standpoint that was probably the one area that I felt like we could’ve done a lot better. Communicating some of the things that we saw, and making sure that we execute some of the things we have to get done whether it be snapping the ball back to the quarterback or identifying who the Mike linebacker is in certain fronts and those are the things we will get better at and should be better at this next week.

Q: What have you seen leadership-wise and progression-wise with Kyle Rudolph?

A: He’s had a great camp. He’s been terrific through this offseason and I really like the confidence he’s playing with and practicing with. He’s going to be a good player for us this season without question. Some of the things that happened in that Pro Bowl I really believe increased his confidence and him knowing that “I can play with the best” has really showed up in practices. He’s gotten better as a blocker, I’ve seen that in training camp and he’s become more assertive from a vocal standpoint. He’s still not a loud guy who’s going to come in and say “hey, let’s go do it this way or that way” but that’s coming, he’s growing in that role as a leader. That’s going to take a little bit of time but you can see as he’s gaining the experience, he’s growing in that area as well.

Q: Has the progression of Bobby Felder helped with the special teams as well?

A: Yes. This will be a big week for Bobby. He’s going to get some extended snaps in the nickel situations as well as special teams. He did some good things in the Buffalo game; those returns were very good, he was good in covering kicks as well, so we need to get some views of him this week and next week and try to see where he is.

Q: What was it about him that made you guys want to keep him around?

A: He’s a pretty instinctive guy. He can kind of feel things and it doesn’t have to be just like you drew it up on the board because rarely does it happen that way. Once people start moving around on the football field you need some guys who can have the instincts to make plays and recognize things as they occur and he’s one of those guys. He’s a very instinctive player who has very good awareness when it comes to football so that was one of the things that struck us when he was on the scout team. He did a good job for us then so we were anxious to see how he would play once we got him into some game situations.

Vikings Special Teams Coach Mike Priefer

Q: What did you see out of Bobby Felder, and what are you looking for in the next few weeks out of him?

A: The thing about Bobby, obviously he has been here on our practice squad, and then he has done a great job this summer, and the spring, coming into the offseason. He is a very hard worker. He’s a very good athlete, very intelligent and he players bigger than he is. He is probably about 200 pounds, but he plays like a bigger guy in terms of being physical in the return game especially. But the plays he made the other day (against Buffalo) were very exciting for him and exciting for us. He did a great job downing the two punts inside the five (yard line), and just releasing, getting down the field, and understanding where he was. It is not an easy thing to do, and that is why we work on it a lot. Of course his returns were great. Coach Frazier has been on me about giving him an opportunity about being our punt returner, and he responded to the challenge.

Q: What are you looking for from Bobby Felder as a punt returner?

A: I think as we go on the first is ball security. He does a good job of catching it, and he does what we ask him to do in terms of hitting the return how we wanted him to hit it, and breaking tackles like he did. He broke a few tackles the other night, so he is doing what we are asking him to do, and that is what we are looking for, hopefully that will keep going for him.

Q: How do you see Joe Webb fitting in on special teams and where do you think he would be the most comfortable?

A: I don’t know if he is comfortable in anything yet, but I think that he is becoming more comfortable with all the techniques that we teach him at the gunner position. He is going to be a hold up player on the punt return, usually in the vice as a safety, as well as one on the kickoff cover team. He is going to play a little more on kickoff return as well this week on the front line. Athletically he can do a lot of these things, and it is still a work in progress for him to be quite honest.  I like the direction that he is going, and he has worked very hard.

Q: Is it harder when you have never done special teams before, especially at the NFL level?

A: It is hard, not only because he was a quarterback, but because any time you walk into this scenario, a lot of these guys like Hodges, Mauti, and Audie Cole, they came from college and they weren’t playing a lot of special teams. So everything is kind of brand new to them.

Q: How do you evaluate him knowing that he is very raw, and it may take a couple weeks for things to set in when choosing players for the final roster?

A: Yeah, that is a good point because at the end of the day we need to get ready to play Detroit on opening day. It is more difficult, but I think when you look at Joe, because we know him and we know what type of man he is, high character, his high work ethic, and we know that he is willing to improve. I think we need to keep that in mind as we go down the stretch here.

Q: How is Locke doing as far as the hang time on his punts?

A: He did a good job. I think we gave him one minus. He had seven punts the other day and only had one minus punt, and that was a 61-yard punt. When it went in the air I thought, “oh no!” They had already had a 34-yarder (return), but it was not his fault, as the 34-yard return was because of poor coverage. We did a terrible job on that. But Jeff improved a lot from game one to game two. Obviously his plus-50 punts he already proved he could do, and his Aussie style punts as well. But his field punts were much improved the other day, and hopefully we will keep going in that direction. He gained a lot of confidence because of that game. You could just tell as the game went on that he felt good, which is good to have him at that point.

Q: How much does his Aussie style punt help Felder down those punts so close to the goal line?

A: I think even Jeff said when he and I were watching the film yesterday that he didn’t get exactly the bounce you want on that punt. You want it to either bounce straight up or bounce back, and it actually bounced forward and Bobby was in position to do that. The thing that Jeff does better than other punters that use the Aussie style of punt is that he gets more hang time out of it which gives the gunners more opportunity and time to get down there and make a play.

Q: How many guys punt Aussie style in the NFL today?

A: I don’t know the number. But it is getting more and more.  A lot of the young guys are doing it because it is easier to control, it is easier to get that better bounce. I am sure Darren Bennett started it many years ago, and Mike Scifres has been outstanding his whole career In San Diego. I had to go against him year after year when I was in the AFC West, man it was automatic. He was going to down his punts inside the 10-yard line every time. So it is a good technique for these guys to use.

Q: Do you feel comfortable giving Bobby Felder a shot to win the number one punt return job?

A: He is getting a shot. He got a shot the other night, and he will get another one on Sunday. I feel comfortable giving him a shot. Marcus knows and Marcus is great about it. He knows he has to win the job. You know Marcus, and everyone in here knows Marcus, with his attitude and work ethic, as well as the adversity he has overcome. He always welcomes that challenge, and he’s got to go out and prove himself again.

Q: What was the coverage breakdown on the 34-yard return?

A: Our right gunner went inside and he got knocked down and wiped out our right guard and our right tackle. They were both on the ground. I tell our guys all the time that big returns happen because coverage guys are on the ground. We did not respond quickly enough, and Robert Blanton did a great job containing it, but he was on an island. He ended up missing the tackle but that was going to be tough against that 88 from Texas. Man can he run. I didn’t envy his position at all, but we have to do a better job of staying on our feet, do a better job of staying in our lanes, leverage squeezes and all of those things we constantly talk about.

Q: Besides Sherels and Felder, is anyone else getting a shot at punt returner?

A: I think Cordarrelle, we continue to work with him. Again, as I said in the beginning of camp, we don’t want to overload him. Right now, I think that would be a lot being the punt returner, kick returner, and he’s going to get a lot of time on offense obviously. So I think that he is back there, Josh Robinson is back there, continually working with him, but those two (Sherels and Felder) are the top two right now. I think Stephen Burton has improved as well. He took a couple reps in the Houston game.

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