Q&A: LBs Coach Chuck Knox Jr.

Chuck Knox Jr., who joined the Vikings coaching staff last year as a defensive assistant, was moved to outside linebackers coach for 2001. Minnesota is his fourth NFL team since he started coaching in the pros in 1993. His last few stints have been following defensive coordinator Emmitt Thomas. He has been with the Los Angeles Rams (1993-94) as an offensive assistant/running backs coach, the Philadelphia Eagles (1995-98) as a defensive assistant/quality control and the Green Bay Packers (1999) in the same role.

Before coaching the outside linebackers, his duties with the Vikings last year were mainly in analyzing game film and preparing a game plan for the defense.

His playing days included being a running back for the University of Arizona and an all-state rusher at Bellevue (Wash.) High School.

Q: How happy have you been with your players?
So far, so good. I am happy with the guys. They came into camp in shape and ready to work. Gabe (Northern) came in and got his weight down. He's doing a good job. (Strongside linebacker) is a new position for him. He's not used to taking drops, and he's doing a good job.

Q: What can Northern bring to that position? What are his strengths?
His size (6-3, 241 pounds), his toughness. He'll be good against the run. He needs to improve his pass drops and his route recognition. He's a little rusty because he has not played outside linebacker for a while. Certainly, that is an area he needs to work on.

Q: How much offseason work did you have to do in making the move from defensive quality control coach to the outside linebackers this season?
I had a good familiarity with the players. And the two other teams that I have worked for, which would be the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles, I always worked with the linebackers. I've been helping out with (linebackers) for five or six years, so it wasn't a totally unfamiliar move for me.

Q: How much do you work with inside linebackers coach Richard Solomon and try to share responsibilities?
We try to work together as much as we can because all three linebackers have to rely on each other. They have to get confident with each other and getting the keys and the calls down and knowing where they are going to fit in the defensive scheme. So we try to stay together as much as we can. Coach Solomon and I work close together trying to organize practice schedules and try to organize meeting times so we are all on the same page.

Q: How much time do you expect it to take the team to get familiar with the style of defense that will be used this season?
I guess you would hope they would have a good grasp of it now. We have been running the same stuff ... we had two passing camps, a minicamp and we have had a week worth of training camp. We would hope they have a good feel. We are improving and that's all you can ask is that every day you go out on the practice field you have to improve.

Q: How comfortable are you with the backups at the outside linebacker positions?
I'm very comfortable. I have another veteran guy in Lemanski Hall. He has been in the league a number of years. He has been predominately a backup player and special teams player, but he's a good veteran guy. A smart player who does what you ask. Then I have two young guys (Patrick Chukwurah and Fearon Wright) who are ex-defensive ends and they are doing a good job. There is room for improvement and they just have to get better. They have not really been in pass coverage at all or been standing up. There is a major learning curve there and they are doing a decent job.

Q: How long does it take for players such as Chukwurah or Wright to make that transition?
It depends on if they have had any experience at linebacker before. It's a very tough conversion for some guys. Some guys never get it, some guys get it and it usually takes anywhere from one to three years to really master that position. But it depends on the individual, it depends on how quickly they can develop, how much work they get at it in the offseason. During the season it's very tough for them to get a lot of work, but they need to work at it all the time. It can be anywhere from one year to never. Some guys just can't make that transition.

Q: How nice is it to have a veteran such as Ed McDaniel on the linebacking corps?
It's great any time you have a veteran guy who has some leadership qualities. It helps those other two (linebacker) positions. It also helps your defense as a whole because you know he's a guy the young guys look up to. VU

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