The offensive and defensive coordinators for the Minnesota Vikings aren’t saying exactly how long they will keep their starters on the field for the team’s first preseason game Friday night against the San Francisco 49ers, but the discussion is ongoing for a defense with a new coordinator and an offense featuring several new players in starting roles.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said he would like to keep his starters on the field late into the first quarter. After Monday afternoon’s lackluster performance in practice, he will be looking for improvement.
“Yesterday we took a step backwards in a couple periods,” Musgrave said. “We’re looking to make those corrections and get better the next time we’re faced with those periods, for sure.”
The defense dominated Monday afternoon’s practice, allowing few first downs overall and no touchdowns in goal-line situations, despite seven of eight snaps starting inside the 5-yard line.
“The production part, I was pleased because you never want to allow the offense to get into the end zone, but we have a lot of things to sharpen up in terms of staying in gaps, creating a new line of scrimmage, picking up guys in terms of coverage,” defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. “We still have a ways to go. It may have looked like we had all phases and all cylinders running, but we still have to iron out some details in our short-yardage and our goal-line defense.”
One of those details for Williams will be where he stations himself during games. When he was the defensive backs coach in Indianapolis, he tried being in the booth and on the field. As the first-year coordinator in Minnesota, he will start on the field for the preseason opener in San Francisco. If there are no problems with that setup, he’ll continue to use it.
“It will be not only a first-time run-through for players, it will be a first-time run-through for our staff in terms of working together and communicating,” Williams said.
Williams said he reviewed all the games from last year’s Vikings defense. Despite finishing 21st overall, 26th against the pass and generating only eight interceptions, he said improvement will come down to executing details that were “a little bit off.”
“There’s nothing glaring, just a little bit off here, a little off there,” he said. “In the NFL, if you’re off just a little bit everyone is so good that they can exploit being off just a little bit. That’s what I was saying when I first came up: we want to iron out the details and be detail-oriented about what we do.”
Musgrave will have a similar challenge. The Vikings offense finished 18th overall and 28th in passing. His first-team offense presumably will be going against many of the members of the 49ers defense that finished fourth overall and first against the run.
“They’ve got a lot of good people on their defense. We’ve got a lot of good people on our offense, too, so it will be enjoyable to watch,” Musgrave said.
“Regardless of what the outcome is, we want to play our best football. We want to play better than we practice today or Wednesday.”
Both coordinators will limit to varying degrees how much they show to the 49ers since the two teams face each other again in the third regular-season game.
“I want to see that they execute, that they hustle at a high level, that they play fast and physical. I want to see that they can finish plays,” Williams said. “I’ve mentioned before that they can operate in the scope of the defense – alignment, assignment and technique. And then I want to play situational, smart football. Every situation is different and we’ll see if they will recognize the situation they’re in and can they operate in it.”
Despite being in his first year with the Vikings, Williams said he won’t play his first-team defenders any longer to get an extended look at them.
“It’s not about me. It’s about us and the team. I don’t need to evaluate anyone any more or any less,” he said. “We’ll take a look at the tape as a staff. Our staff is very familiar with the guys we have. The older guys, we’ll evaluate them and then we’ll evaluate our younger guys and make decisions from there.”
NO CHILDS UPDATE
Despite a representative of Greg Childs saying he expected a “full recovery” after the fourth-round draft pick underwent surgery to repair both of his patellar tendons Monday, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said he had “no idea” about Childs’ long-term prognosis.
“He worked tremendously hard to get back from his initial injury and now he’s faced with going through it again, which is a very daunting task,” Musgrave said. “Our hearts are with him and we were counting on him as well from a football standpoint, but that’s secondary right now.”
Offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz tweeted Tuesday that his surgery for a sports hernia was successful. “Thanks for the awesome outreach. Ready to be back to help the #Vikings make it to the 'bowl,’” he tweeted Tuesday morning.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson wasn’t out on the field during Tuesday morning’s walk-through after appearing in a Houston courtroom Monday morning to begin the process of defending himself against charges of resisting arrest in July.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.