Players now up to speed on new schemes

New schemes on offense and defense meant a steep offseason learning curve for players, but coordinators and players are feeling much more comfortable about where things stand now as the regular season approaches.

Repetition has its rewards.

In the process of learning new schemes, four months has meant a world of difference for Minnesota Vikings players on both sides of the ball.

As the Vikings prepare for a final preseason game in which many of the veteran starters aren’t likely to play, they have found their bodies are catching up to their brains with four months to learn a new scheme on offense or defense.

It seems there is a slightly different approach between defensive coordinator George Edwards, who is implementing head coach Mike Zimmer’s defensive ideals, and offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Two weeks ago, Zimmer said the defensive installation was nearly complete, and Edwards backed that assessment on Tuesday.

“We’ve pretty much introduced them to most of the concepts that we will be using,” Edwards said. “Just like during any season you have to adjust, so there will be things that come up that we will have to adjust to, but we feel we’re pretty good where we are with the install phase of things, as far as what we’ve got accomplished through the preseason thus far and in the training camp.”

While the defense will be much more varied in the looks it presents to opposing offenses, the Vikings offense took time for even a veteran like quarterback Matt Cassel to digest. It was the first time in his 10 years of NFL training camps that he has been immersed in a numbers-based system. He said this week he spent a lot more time this offseason learning Turner’s offense than he had in the numerous previous systems he has been asked to learn.

“Matt said it and he figured me out real fast. This is an ongoing installation and we’ve put about six or eight new things in yesterday,” Turner said on Tuesday. “They’ll get a good load of things on Saturday. It’s usually something tied in to what we’ve already been doing, but if there’s something that we like that looks good that can help us get a play in a game or help us win a game, we’re going to get enough reps on it so we can go execute it, but it’s going to be an ongoing installation and it will be a new set of things, a new game plan, each week we play, 16 weeks. Hopefully there are things that carry over – most of the time it’ll carry over – but occasionally there will be something that they really have to work hard and get the reps in a week and be ready to run in a game.”

Greg Jennings admitted early in the installation process this offseason that he, too, had a lot to learn. And now? He’s feeling much better about the routine.

“It’s been a great experience. We continue to grow. We continue to learn more and more each week,” Jennings said. “(Turner) is a mastermind, but at the same time one of the things he stresses, we have to bring out the success of the offense. What he brings to the table is a scheme, but the players are the ones to put that scheme into motion. We are the ones to make it work. If we’re not able to make it work, it doesn’t matter what he brings to the table.”

So far, the results have been promising, even if it is only the preseason.

On defense, the Vikings are fourth in points per game (15.3) and eighth in yards per game (291). Last year, they were 31st in yards per game and last in points per game.

On offense, they are 10th in the NFL in points per game (23.3) and 15th in yards per game (332.7), and they haven’t played star running back Adrian Peterson, preferring to save him for the regular season.

Turner has maintained that his offense isn’t complicated, but echoed Jennings’ sentiments that it comes down to players, not just scheme.

“The most important thing for me to do was to get them to where they see it as simple and I think they see it a lot simpler now than they did before,” Turner said. “It’s a new language; there’s a lot more variety, but when it comes down to it they are usually told what to do on every play and it’s matter of repetition and doing the same things over and over again.”

Despite some struggles during the offseason installation process with receivers lining up in the wrong spot or quarterbacks making the wrong read, Turner said there was only one time in the first three preseason games that he had to call a timeout because of confusion and that was on the quarterback.

“We haven’t had any issues in the preseason in terms of busted assignments or wrong routes or poor alignments,” he said. “… All of those things have gone much smoother than I anticipated and I’m excited about that. It shows the guys really put the time in to understand what we’re doing.

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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