Vikings Coach Leslie Frazier after Friday’s practice:
Another great day to work here at Minnesota State, here in Mankato, the weather has been terrific of late. Our guys are really making some progress, we have a lot of things we want to try and get covered today. We will get a chance to hit the two-minute drill for the first time in practice which is a very crucial period for our football team, so many of our games come down to that one possession of the game. Sometimes it is a two-minute drill, whether you’re trying to stop the team or try and score on offense and it’s an area that we are going to spend a lot of time on while we are here in Mankato along with once we get into the season. Hopefully today we will get off to a good start and get some work that we can look back at on tape and try and keep improving. We have got a few guys that are a little bit banged up and may not work today, we will see. Xavier Rhodes has a hamstring that is bothering him a little bit, we may hold him out. We have got a couple of other guys that we may hold, but Xavier probably for sure, we are going to wait on. Chris Summers is another guy that we will probably hold out as well, but for the most part everybody should be working and we will hopefully have a good day.
Q: What is Summers’ ailment?
A: Hamstring with Chris (Summers) and Xavier (Rhodes).
Q: Did you run any tests on Erin Henderson’s groin last night?
A: Yeah, he is fine. It’s a little sore but he worked through it yesterday and he feels like he can work through it today as well.
Q: What are your thoughts on the depth at the linebacker position?
A: You like to get Audie Cole some more reps, he’s never really had much game experience other than what he did a year ago in the preseason so we would have to get those guys some experience that are backing Erin (Henderson) up right now and do whatever we would have to do if something were to happen with Erin. So to say that we would be pretty complete and satisfied where we are depth wise at the middle linebacker position, I couldn’t say that today, we need to see those guys work. This is Erin’s first year as a full-time middle linebacker, Audie has never really played in games other than the preseason, but our depth overall, I think, is pretty good. I think we have more quality and better quality than we have had in awhile.
Q: What specifically are you looking for in the two-minute drills?
A: We would like to see how our execution is going to be like. How well we can get lined up, get the football at the line of scrimmage and in and out of the quarterback’s hand and then being able to do what we have got to do from a protection standpoint on offense. On defense, understanding the situation, the time on the clock, how many timeouts there are just to see what our awareness is doing that situation. More of an introduction so we have something to evaluate once this day is over.
Q: Is Matt Cassel completely up to speed?
A: No, he is still learning our offense, there are still some nuances to it that he has to learn. He’s getting through that, he’s a veteran guy, he’s been in multiple systems so that will come we just have to keep giving him opportunities and he will get better at some of the things that we are doing. There are some things that we are doing here that he hasn’t had to do somewhere else.
Q: What are some of the things that you have seen from Audie Cole in the offseason?
A: I like what Audie is doing, I like how hard he works. He is a bright guy, he plays physical, has real good length, we have got to keep giving him opportunities, get him in some game situations like we will this preseason and see how he responds. For what he has done up to this point in training camp, he has done a good job.
Q: Would you review what you were and were not able to do in the two-minute offense last year?
A: There were some missed opportunities, we could have did a little bit better in. We are trying to correct that. We looked at our offseason study, there are some things that we could do better and we know that. There were times we did a real good job in our two-minute situations that we had, but we think we can be more productive and this will be a start on that on the field.
Q: What would you contribute that to, lack of communication or execution?
A: We sometimes shoot ourselves in the foot with some things that we didn’t execute as well as we could have. That was more it than any other thing. Our execution at times wasn’t as good as it needed to be and that is one of the things that we are emphasizing in this camp. We have got to execute what we are trying to get done better in game situations
Q: How would you assess the way Chris Cook finished the season last year and where he is right now?
A: He had a spell where he was really playing well for us, and then he got banged up. But I thought his finish was good. He came back the for Texans ballgame, and we matched him up on their good wide receiver, Andre Johnson, and I thought he did a good job in that ballgame. He played in the remaining games, and his whole deal is staying healthy. When he is on the field, we see him get better and better. It is just keeping him on the field.
Q: How valuable was it to get Cook back for the final few games leading to the playoffs?
A: I think it was very important for his confidence, as well as ours. To see him back and then play well down the stretch when we needed a corner to step up and play well for us, I think he contributed to our defense playing better in that month of December. In our league, if you are short at corner it really creates some problems for your defense and he is a guy that we need on the field.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about what fans might see or you’re hoping for from Saturday nights practice?
A: Well it will be a chance for some of our young guys to play in front of a captive audience. They have been at practice, and it is great to have our fans at practice, but it is a different environment when you are under the lights, and you feel the sense that it is similar to a ball game. We are going to try to create some situations in that time that we are there on Saturday night where they feel as if they are in a game situation. It probably helps our young guys more than it helps our veterans. It is somewhat new to them, and some of the things we will be doing will be new, but it is the atmosphere more than anything, being under the lights, the fans in the stands, packed audience with the cheering and some of the things that happen kind of get you in the mode of getting close to game time.
Q: How many snaps do you envision for Adrian and Christian and the first team?
A: We will go our with ones maybe a couple of series. I don’t know how much we will use Adrian. But we will try to get Christian a couple of series when we do line up and go ones versus ones or ones versus twos. But we will probably limit Adrian’s involvement. We will have a normal practice up to the point where we scrimmage one another. It won’t be a full contact scrimmage, but we will have some scrimmage plays. Just to get them in the mode of going up and down the field on offense and defense. We will have a special teams period as well, but all without live contact.
Q: How is Jerome Simpson looking so far at camp?
A: I think Jerome, he looks like the Jerome we had a year ago at this time. He was doing some very good things for us last preseason, and he had done some good things in camp, and then we had to fill the time for the suspension. Then he came back, played a game, and then he was injured and never got really got on track after that. But we are seeing a guy right now that I think can help our football team and really make a difference for us in the passing game. He’s having a very, very good camp, his attitude has been great, it’s been great watching him get in and out of routes in the passing game and we are expecting big things out of him this year. We just need to keep him on the field and keep him healthy.
Q: What have you seen Erin at the MLB position so far in camp?
A: He has done some impressive things. He got some opportunities yesterday in our live scrimmage, where he had some chances to make some plays to make some open field tackles and he did. I like the leadership that he is showing, and he is showing that he is beginning to mature in that role. It is different than playing outside linebacker when you’re the middle linebacker and everyone is looking to you for leadership. I think he is growing into that role. He realizes that he has to handle certain questions from the guys. One time, one of our younger players asked him a question about a certain defense. He gave a short answer, and I know Allen went up and said, “You are in a different role now. When those guys talk to you, you need to listen. Speak almost if you are a coach, if you stop talking, they will stop asking questions because they don’t want to get in any confrontations.” I think he is growing in that role; it is an important obviously for the defense, because you are like an extension of the defensive coordinator. He is getting better, and I like some of the things he is doing.
Q: With the depth of linebacker is moving Desmond Bishop back inside an option or is that not even in the picture?
A: Well. He is doing well enough outside and Erin (Henderson) is doing well enough inside that that’s not anything we have discussed of late. We will see how it goes over the next few weeks, but so far so good for what Desmond is getting accomplished, along with what Erin is doing at the middle linebacker position.
Q: How do you feel about guys making individual predictions?
A: Well guys in general is one thing, Adrian Peterson is another. When Adrian says 2,500 or 2,000 it’s a different thing, it’s a different matter because he’s more than capable of achieving those goals. I’ve learned that when he told me last season that he’s going to have the type of year that he did have and for it to turn the way it did, I don’t doubt Adrian Peterson. If he says he can gain 2,500 yards, it’s possible but if there’s someone else that is talking about predictions and this and that then we’ll have a conversation; but Adrian, no. I like to see him achieve goals.
Q: Why is Jerome Felton such a good fit for this offense?
A: If you take a look at what Adrian was able to accomplish a season ago and the fact that Jerome turned out to be a Pro Bowl player, sure Adrian’s production had a lot do with that but Jerome had a lot to do with Adrian’s production. When we looked at our off season study for our 2011 season we realized, Adrian was very productive when he had somebody in front of him when he was running the football. We set out to find a full-back that could really be, what we would say, a hammer-ead, a guy who could match up with those linebackers that are coming to step-up in the holes that we want Adrian to run through and what Jerome did was perfect for dominate linebackers but also at times pick up safety blitzes, pick up corner blitzes, he provided something for us in our two-back run offense that we were lacking. When we were using sometimes in the past a tight end that could come from the back end and block for us so to have that one guy you can count on in our two-back situations I think it definitely helped our running game.
Q: What’s the biggest difference you’ve seen from Everson Griffen rookie year to now?
A: He’s come a long way, a long way. It’s a good thing for our team, a good thing for him and he’s really grown up as you recall, there was some moments there that were a little tenuous. I wondered ten, in 2013, we talked about Everson being a part of our team. But a credit to him, and his maturation to move away from some of those things that really would inhibit his growth as a player and as a person and we did some things to help him and encourage him, but we tried that with a lot of players and at times they want to do their own thing. In Everson’s case, he wanted to listen, he wanted to make some changes and it’s an ongoing process. We still have something we have to continue to work though, but he’s come so far and I talk to him all of the time being one of those guys that I hope one day will be able to stand up in front of a room and talk to the young guys about this is where I was but this is where I am today. He’s come a long ways and we’re very proud of what he’s been able to accomplish. On the field for sure he’s really grown as a football player, but as a man, he’s grown as well.
Q: What have you seen on the progression of Josh Robinson in the nickel?
A: I think he’s really growing in the position. In our personnel meeting last night, we were talking about that, we’re much more confident with him today than we were say three or four days ago when we opened camp so we just have to keep on putting him in situations, because this is all new for him and let him gain experience. The practices along with the pre-season games are going to be big for him, big for our team because we need that position to play well for us because you’re on the field as much as our starters are so it’s a key role on our football team and he’s making progress which is very, very encouraging.
Q: Where would you say Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti are in their growth progress?
A: Michael has really come along. Of course we were concerned with the knee injury and how soon it would take him to get back and get on the field and be productive but it seems like every day he is gaining more and more confidence in his knee. He’s moving more freely now so that’s encouraging. He has all the leadership skills we’re looking for, all the physical talent that you like, but coming off a second ACL surgery is no easy task as a football player but he’s making dramatic improvement and we’re much more positive now than when we opened camp. In Hodges case, I think he’s a guy that is going to be a very good special teams player for us early, at least we anticipate that, and eventually he’ll probably get some reps on our defense. He’s doing some good things, he’s a smart guy, he has very good range, has the ability to cover a back for the back side of the field and a real good effort guy. We like the things we’re seeing from him early on so we’ll see how he develops over the course of this pre-season.
Q: With Rudolph being such a beast out there, have you seen him improve this camp?
A: I couldn’t have said it any better. I completely agree. He’s the MVP of the Pro Bowl, he’s on our tam, he’s having a great camp, he had a great off season and we’re looking forward to him having a great season as well. I do agree that if we can get the things we’re expecting from the outside it’s going to be hard for people to do what they did late in the season a year ago virtually taking away the middle of the field because of Kyle and saying, “okay, you can’t beat us outside.” So we are excited that Kyle is where he is and he should have a good season; we’re hoping so.