Oakland Raiders head coach, Hard Knocks legend and Frank Caliendo impersonation subject Jon Gruden spoke to Twin Cities reporters Wednesday afternoon about his team’s upcoming game with the Vikings.
Here’s what the head coach had to say about a variety of subjects, including the Vikings’ former kicker, current quarterback and new-look offensive scheme, as well as his own young quarterback Derek Carr.
On acquiring kicker Daniel Carlson after he was cut two games into his Vikings’ career:
“Obviously he’s been really good for us. He’s been kicking the ball off, getting some touchbacks now. He’s been an iceman for us. He won a game at the buzzer last year, beating Arizona. He’s been very, very high percentage in terms of making kicks. Just really been a huge addition to our team. Sometimes a change of scenery just works out. We’re excited to have him.
“I don’t coach him very much. When the ball goes through the uprights every time, I just congratulate him.
“We did our evaluations on Carlson just like the Vikings did. We liked him in college. We liked him as a kicker a lot. There’s going to be times in this league where you make the transition from NCAA to NFL where you’re going to go through some ups and downs now. I’m just telling you. These are tight uprights, it’s a completely different kicking dynamic, the hashmarks are different, you’re dealing with different holders and snappers throughout training camp and there’s a lot of pressure. Sometimes it’s a little bit much and you don’t make your kicks, but a lot of these kickers are on their second, third, fourth, fifth teams if you really look carefully, so that’s just the way pro football is, but sometimes just a change of scenery can help a guy excel and hopefully he continues to do well here. He’s been impressive for us.”
ON QB KIRK COUSINS AND THE VIKINGS’ NEW OFFENSE
“I’ve always liked Cousins. He’s a quality person, comes from a great family. Works hard at his game, man. He works hard at football. He’s had a lot of production. He goes to Washington the same year they draft Robert Griffin, he beats out Griffin. He does great, he gets a heck of a contract here to go to Minnesota. Hopefully we can find a way to slow him down and win a football game. We’ve got our hands full on both sides, we know that.
“They’ve got a new look on both sides, really. They’ve got some new fronts and some new things that they’re doing on defense, and offensively, you’ve got to really tip your hat to the creative running game that they have put together. This Cook is a home run hitter. And the young guy from Boise is no slouch either. I mean, they’ve got two good backs. They can run the ball with this wide zone scheme. They’ve got the play-action passes off of it. It’s just a matter of time before they break out, I think. This is a really good offensive team with a lot of really good players, and obviously a great offensive scheme.”
ON PROTECTING QB DEREK CARR AFTER DIFFICULT 2018
“Well, Trent Brown certainly helps. He’s a great right tackle. Kolton Miller, our left tackle who was a first-round pick last year, is healthy, he’s stronger and more experienced. He’s playing better. It’s a combination of that. Hopefully that continues. We’ve got our hands full this week with these Minnesota Vikings, they’re really good on defense.
“Obviously we’ve got some holes that we still are working through. We’re getting Incognito back, so we’ve been playing with two backup guards, and we’re still trying to find the right mix at wide receiver, but we think Carr can play at a very, very high level. We can get him the ball back, if our defense plays well. If we can run the ball a little bit and get some consistency at wide receiver, I don’t think there’s any question he’s proven he can play at a high level.”