After a whirlwind few months in his first head coaching job last year, Mike Zimmer stared at the Minnesota Vikings’ draft board assembled by general manager Rick Spielman and was shocked at the work that still remained.
His roster was more mesh than a solid lineup.
“Last year I can remember walking out when we had our first draft meeting and we had a board up in there and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, look at all these holes we had,’” Zimmer said this week while attending practices to scout out the talent at the Senior Bowl that could help fortify the progress of the roster.
Keep in mind that his exasperated gaze at last year’s predraft posting on the lengthy wall of the Vikings’ draft room came nearly two months after free agency. They had added a big nose tackle in Linval Joseph and a diminutive cornerback they figured wouldn’t be a full-time player in Captain Munnerlyn.
These days, the roster is in a little better shape, although Spielman admitted earlier this month that there are still eight positions they’d like to bolster.
“Rick, we’ve talked a little bit about some of things and I’ve written down the ones I think and I’ve showed him, but we haven’t really said, ‘Hey, we need to do this or that or whatever.’ I think we’re pretty much on the same page,” Zimmer said before joining Spielman for more hours together discussing what they were seeing in the next batch of prospects to be added to the NFL.
The two of them – and each of their respective staffs of coaches and scouts – attended the Senior Bowl looking at everything from first-round prospects – although those are likely to be dominated by a group of 74 underclassmen – to the late-round finds that define a championship down the line.
Zimmer and Spielman appear to be two peas in a personnel pod, as comfortable talking about the prospects and desired traits as they are about the old days when their fathers were coaching and preparing them for their current lots in life.
“I like hanging out with Rick anyway. (Tuesday) night we had dinner and we sat in the press box yesterday,” Zimmer said. “We can talk about it. We drove over to the other practice yesterday. He comes in my office a lot and we talk about things. It’s good to be able to hang out. Like (Tuesday) night at dinner, I bet we talked for two hours – things that I want to do better and his impressions on things. It was good.”
Zimmer saw some early athleticism in the linebackers on the South squad at the Senior Bowl, he said, but he admitted at the time of the interviews it was difficult to former very solid impressions so early in the scouting process.
This year, however, he is feeling more comfortable with the players already on his roster.
“I think I have obviously a better opinion of where we’re at and where we need to improve,” he said.
“We’re way ahead of where we were at that point (last year). Some of the guys we brought in last year really helped. We’ve still got some spots we’ve got to get a lot better at, but I think I feel like we’re going in the right direction.”
Zimmer, Spielman scouting together
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