The Minnesota Vikings hope to avoid Sportscenter during the offseason so that they can be the talk of the town in the postseason.
Mike Zimmer talked to gathered media about his goals for the Vikings’ joint practices with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and how exactly he intends to accomplish them.
First, no fights.
“We had a good meeting with their coaching staff last night,” he said. “Today we’ve got 12 of our players and 12 of their players that are going to get together before practice and kind of talk about respecting each other and doing this thing the right way.”
Zimmer has mentioned over the past several days his desire to avoid fights in practice, an issue that has come to the forefront after the Washington Redskins and New York Jets held a joint practice that broke out into an all-out brawl this week, followed shortly by the Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers doing the same.
The Jaguars internally have had their own issues with practice brawls after defensive ends Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue got into it on the practice field — an incident that led to the Jaguars suspending Fowler for the week, alongside cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who criticized media coverage of the fight.
Stefon Diggs echoed Zimmer’s sentiments about the fights in a presser he held Wednesday. “We came here to work,” he said. “That’s the number one thing. We came here to work. We came here to get things done. So as far as anything extra, we’re not interested.”
The second goal of joint practices: take advantage of novelty and intensity.
The Vikings will be happy to knock themselves out of the rut of late-summer training camp, where monotony can be just as sapping as the sun. Zimmer pointed out the benefits of practicing against someone new. “At some point you’ve been going against yourself for 12 days now or something and you know it starts getting a bit stale and you get the same routine … I think the intensity level will be up a bit because guys are going against each other.”
That newness isn’t just seeing a less-friendly face, it will be exposure to a different set of tendencies and techniques that will, hopefully, jolt some life into the workouts. “We’re going to see different techniques, different plays, how we react, plays that we haven’t prepared for really, blitzes we may not be prepared for, [and] see if our rules hold up to all those things,” Zimmer said.
Diggs sees the opportunity to play another set of players as a unique learning experience. “It’s exciting to go against somebody else,” he said. “You know, going against your same defense, it doesn’t get tiring, but you kind of get repetitive. You want to get some good work based off of going against somebody else. You know, learning things as far as like going against somebody else gives you a different outlook as far as like asking them questions as far as like what they see.
“You know, going against your defense they see the same stuff year to year. Just going against somebody else you can really get a good grind out of it and a learning experience to kind of start working your things and making sure that everything is there and you’re doing everything right. ”
Adam Thielen couldn’t agree more.
“After going against the same defense, the same schemes, the same players every day, at some point it gets a little old. So I think it will be good just to kind of break up and see different faces, see different schemes, a different defense and compete at probably a little bit more of a pace just because you’re going against a different colored jersey.”
Changing the tempo will be big for the Vikings.
“I think the biggest thing is the intensity is going to be a little higher than probably a normal practice, and that’ll be part of it. I don’t think it’ll be game-like speed, but up-tempo,” said Zimmer.
“It’ll definitely be ramped up a little bit just because they’re going against somebody they haven’t seen before and that’s just part of sports. You get out there against somebody else you wanna compete, and we want to compete. ”
The third goal is theft.
The Jaguars were indirect competitors with the Vikings for the title of the best defense in the league. Near the end of the season, they would trade off between first and second place for defensive accolades — in yards allowed, points allowed, DVOA, what have you. But the two defenses operate pretty differently.
“Well, they’re a four-down front, but they’re different defensively, you know their defense is very similar to Seattle’s and San Francisco and a lot of the team’s we’re going to play this year. Fast. The defensive line, I think, led the league in sacks last year.”
Those different schemes will be a big part of the learning process because it will allow players to focus inward on repeatable fundamentals more than winning against specific tendencies of an opponent they’ve seen for a week straight, but it also means that the Vikings could learn about what the Jaguars do.
“We’re definitely gonna pay attention to what they’re doing and how they’re doing things,” said Zimmer. “We can always learn and figure out a better way to do stuff. That’s really what the whole offseason is for, you’re going to study other teams and they’re going to study you if you’re good.
“We’re not above stealing.”
If the Vikings can accomplish all three goals, they should be able to use this novel opportunity to propel themselves deep into the postseason, just like last year.