Zimmer experiences erratic install on defense

The Vikings are throwing a lot at their offensive and defensive players as they install new schemes. As head coach Mike Zimmer attests, sometimes it comes together and other times it unravels early in the process.

Mike Zimmer is feeling the erratic nature of a team trying to learn on the fly.

One day a defense comprised of a lot of different players to complement a changing scheme is on top. The next day, the offense gets the best of the defense.

"I think defensively we've improved quite a bit … understanding fundamentals and understanding concepts and those parts of the game," Zimmer said after Wednesday's practice. "Offensively, they've been going pretty hard and they're working a lot on different things, which is good for the diversity of what we're trying to do offensively. I think this last week we've improved a little bit defensively."

Then came Thursday, when Zimmer wasn't as pleased with his defense.

"I was least impressed with the defensive red zone this morning. It wasn't very good. We've got to get a lot better there," Zimmer said.

The Vikings' main emphasis on Thursday was working on the red zone and in the two-minute drill. Quarterback Matt Cassel was 2-for-2 in the red zone with a touchdown toss to Jarius Wright, and Teddy Bridgewater was 3-for-3 in the red zone with a touchdown to Jerick McKinnon. Christian Ponder didn't get any work during the red zone period.

In the two-minute drill, Cassel was 4-for-6, Ponder was 3-for-4 and Bridgewater was 2-for-4 with a dropped pass and a defensive pass interference, so it's natural those numbers would bother Zimmer, despite an interception of Ponder by cornerback Derek Cox.

It's no surprise that Zimmer has spent much of his time with the defensive backs. It's the area of the defense he knows best and he hasn't been shy about offering his advice there.

Slowly, it appears there is a shift from teaching technique early in his on-field exposure to his new defenders to now teaching them more about concepts and recognition.

"I've got a lot of main focuses, but actually I think we've improved quite a bit back there," he said. "We're doing much better job in the coverage than early on in the first minicamp. We're understanding coverages better. We're playing a lot tighter. We've still got a ways to go and you can't play any bump-and-run in these OTAs, so that will be our next big emphasis in the back end when we finally get to training camp is working on bump and run, because we've got to be good at that."

Over the last two weeks, however, Zimmer has made a point to compliment the work ethic of his players as he gets to know them better, understanding that learning the schemes will take time.

"I think the most impressive thing overall, though, is the way these guys work, the way they prepare, the way they come out here with the enthusiasm and the emotion," he said. "(I've) been extremely pleased with the coaching staff and everything that they've done installing the systems, teaching the players. Like all coaches, I think the thing that bothers me the most is mistakes. I don't like mistakes. We got to get those cleaned up."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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