Q&A: With Assistant OL Coach Dean Dalton
Like many of the Vikings' assistant coaches, quality control and assistant offensive line coach Dean Dalton has a previous connection with head coach Dennis Green. Dalton worked with Green's son, Jeremy, at War Room publications, which evaluates football player personnel.
Dalton became a Vikings assistant in 1999 after four years at the War Room. He was also dean of students and athletic director at Delevan-Darien School District in Delevan, Wis, for two years before going to the War Room. Previously, he worked in other capacities in high school athletics and in sports broadcasting and publishing. Collegiately, he has coached at Western Illinois (1984-85), Wisconsin (1986-87), Texas Southern (1988-89) and Purdue (1990).
Q: How are the guys doing considering all they have been through in camp with the tragic death of Korey Stringer?
A: It has been exceptionally emotionally challenging and draining. And yet I think this group has a tighter bond than most. We have always had excellent groups, but this group of linemen is really tight. I'm sure it's a testament to Korey and what his loss meant to us and how much his loss hurt us. I think this group of linemen will be a great testament to (offensive line coach) Mike Tice's style and even a testament to Korey's leadership. They finish plays, they are fighters and they are guys who are going to work hard to get the job done ... scrapping, whatever they have to do.
Q: It's tough to talk football considering what has happened, but how have the moves along the line gone?
A: Chris Liwienski moved from left guard to right tackle, which has gone pretty smooth. He did an exceptional job of making adjustments, not only in his stance and footwork and steps, but the pressure on the edge — from being a big guy inside to being out on the edge, where you have got to deal with speed rushers on occasion. Chris has done an excellent job. His technique has been impressive, all things considered. Corbin (Lacina), who started for us last year at left guard, slides right back in. It's a natural spot and he's an excellent player. He has been a starter for a long time in the league and that was relatively smooth. Dave (Dixon) and Matt (Birk) are side by side again this year and Brad (Badger) steps in for Todd Steussie (at left tackle).
Q: How is Badger doing?
A: Brad is doing really well. Brad is an exceptionally bright guy and a very good athlete. He has great recover ability and he is really working hard on being a technician. When he gets all of those things put together, he's going to have a good season. He's off to a really good start and has had a good training camp. I think he gains confidence every day in practice.
Q: What does Lacina bring to the line?
A: Corbin is an excellent football player, and he's a guy who helps to set the tone. He has taught our young guys what true professionalism is. Intensity. Professionalism is being prepared in intensity and getting your mindset right and your focus right to play the game on Sunday.
Q: Is the goal for Everett Lindsay to backup at all the spots?
A: Everett obviously knows our system exceptionally well, having been here a number of years (he spent four seasons with the Vikings in the 1990s) and then running the same system in Baltimore for a year. He steps in and is able to play any of the five positions. That's a real blessing because he can jump in at center, either guard spot — which he has played for a number of years — and he also has looked really good at tackle.
Q: Does it take time for a player such as Lindsay to readjust to the system?
A: Absolutely. If you ask Mike Tice, (Lindsay's) techniques were a little rusty because he was taught different things. In Cleveland they were doing things completely different from our style of play, and so he had to take a week or so to get that out of his system. But he had an exceptional practice and he looks really good.
Q: As a lineman, what are the toughest things to readjust to when you have been out of a system for a while?
A: Every system has different rules for the plays and protections. Everett had to get himself reacclimated to how we make our line calls and who is working with whom and how our protections are going to be structured. And also some of the changes we have made over the last two years. Then, probably the toughest thing is physically you have to get back in sync with the other four guys. Everett has the challenge of having to do that at all five positions. But he's a veteran, he's a true pro and has done a great job jumping in. His personality is a great mesh with this group. He's going to have an excellent season for us whenever he's called upon.
Q: Birk went to the Pro Bowl last year, but have you seen progress with him?
A: Yes. Matt was a leader by example, but now he has been forced to become a leader off the field and in the classroom and in other ways, too. He is working to become better and working to become sharper. Being able to identify not just the fronts, but the coverages, because that allows us to expand our protections to hopefully keep No. 11 (Daunte Culpepper) from getting touched.
Q: Any pleasant surprises among the young players?
A: All of our young guys bring something different to the table. (Left tackle) Lewis Kelly is a terrific athlete and he looks exceptional in his pass sets. He's working to learn the intensity of the game at this level. (Center) Jay Humphrey went off and played in NFL Europe and came back and got better. He's become much more consistent. (Right guard) Mike Malano broke his leg last year and worked exceptionally hard in the offseason getting himself back in the groove, not just physically recovering but mentally catching up. He brings a nice work ethic to the table and tries to overcome some other things by being a student of the game. (Right tackle) Brian Crawford is a draft pick (seventh rounder this year), so he's raw with a lot of talent. Then we have Bennitte Waddell, who is on injured reserve. He has one of those high ankle sprains. He got rolled up on and hasn't quite been able to come back from that. But he's a young guy with a lot of talent and he's 6-8. You can't coach big, and he has a really long wingspan. He is kind of a natural pass protector. So, hopefully he can mature this offseason and then be ready to contribute next year or in the future. VU
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