Mike Zimmer said the Minnesota Vikings won't be afraid to play rookies. The head coach also believes players have to earn their spot, in the starting lineup and on the roster.
Brandon Watts can be happy about the first statement and hopeful about the second.
The seventh-round draft pick was generally working with the third-team defense but hoping to make an impression as he was learning the scheme.
"A lot of different terminology. That's different, and a lot of different alignments," Watts said of making the transition from Georgia Tech to the Minnesota Vikings. "And everybody out here is a little faster, so I'm adjusting to the speed a little bit but it's going good."
The competition on offense and defense is faster than in college, but speed is one of Watts' top assets and could be used in both coverage and blitzing during the preseason. That would seem to fit with his assessment of the defensive scheme.
"It's bringing pressure, pressure from all different angles, mixing in coverages coming from all different angles," he said. "We just mix it up a lot. We're not like a standing target. I love it.
"My speed to the ball (should transition well). My knowledge of football and being able to line my teammates up and knowing what everybody else around me has to do because it makes the defense better if everybody knows what everybody else is doing, too."
Watts ran a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash, but he realizes there is plenty of work he will have to do during training camp and the preseason to make the roster. In 48 games at Georgia Tech, Watts started 29 contests, recording 179 tackles (104 solos), including 16 for losses, with 7.5 sacks for minus-52 yards, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. In the passing game, he intercepted one pass and deflected three passes.
Despite solid statistics with the Yellow Jackets over the last two seasons, Watts knows where he needs improvement.
"The techniques are different here and guys will take advantage of those mistakes. You can get away with a little bit in college because you're probably a better athlete than everybody," Watts said.
"We harp on technique every day. We work on it every day. Fit drills on your blocks, technique in coverage, because (during one practice) we were doing some man coverage drills and I overran it. We were in man coverage and I kind of got over the top of the guy and he cut back under me. Just staying in perfect position for everything and I'll be alright."
The former three-star recruit out of high school has an uphill battle to make the team. The Vikings have a lot of young talent at linebacker, including four draft picks at the position over the last two years. Watts might have the longest odds out of them, but he also has the philosophy and coaching techniques of Zimmer in his corner.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Watts hoping to find role for his speed
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