Zimmer has made it clear that Turner is going to be given the latitude to run the offense during the season and, just as Zimmer landed the Vikings head coaching job because of the success of his defensive philosophy, he is looking to get his players sharp by going up against the intuitive offensive mind of Turner and the schemes that he will throw at a defense.
“Norv is a very experienced coach,” Zimmer said. “He’s won Super Bowls. He’s been a head coach three times. He’s seen a lot of different things through the course of the years. He’s an outstanding offensive football coach and is demanding on the players.”
Zimmer is no stranger to Turner’s offensive game planning, having coached against him several times. Both of them were in the AFC North last year – Zimmer as defensive coordinator in Cincinnati and Turner as offensive coordinator in Cleveland.
The hope is that the work that will be done in training camp and practices over the next month will help sharpen both sides of the ball – as two chess masters who are among the elite at their craft on their respective sides of the ball square off. One thing Zimmer made clear is that he has a lot of respect for what Turner and his offenses have been able to accomplish over the years, a testament to the success of his offensive schemes.
“He’s got a very innovative mind,” Zimmer said. “He’s always been good with matchups and trying to get guys in the right place. I love the way Norv calls a game, having coached against him so many times. He’s aggressive, but he’s smart about it. He’s going to take his shots. If it’s not there, he’ll get the ball to the other spots. (He has) always had a team that, playing against him, has been very, very solid in fundamentals, technique and the combination of the confusion of the motions, shifts and play action. When you have a running back like Adrian, play action becomes very valuable.”
With the pads on and the hitting beginning, the Vikings players are started to ease into the grind that will take place over the next five months-plus. But these early camp days also serve as a chance for Zimmer and Turner to test one another’s units to see where improvement is needed and giving both of them a severe test. The first of that will be getting Turner’s receivers and Zimmer’s defensive backs matching up and showing what they can do.
“We finally get to play some bump and run today,” Zimmer said. “(That’s) good for us because we need a lot of work at it. We need to work on offense getting off the press and, with the DBs, getting techniques and doing that. Those are two big things and I’m probably looking more forward to than the contact stuff.”
What fans may be looking for is how Zimmer and defensive coordinator George Edwards match up against Turner’s offense. Their internal battles will not only test the players, but show each other where each of their units will have to improve if the Vikings are to compete for a playoff spot this season.
SUNDAY A.M. NOTES
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for 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.