Coaches Q&A, Part I: Knox Talks DBs

Vikings coverage coordinator Chuck Knox, Jr., talked about the unique problems the Carolina Panthers present, facing another team coming off its bye week, the use of the 3-4 defense and the effectiveness of Fred Smoot.

Chuck Knox, Jr., is in his sixth season with Minnesota and enters his first season as the Vikings coverage coordinator. Knox spent the 2003-04 seasons as the Vikings secondary coach, the 2002 season as the defensive backfield coach, the 2001 season as the outside linebackers coach and the 2000 season as the defensive quality control coach. Despite being only 40 years old, Knox is already working with his fourth NFL team.

Knox was Green Bay's as defensive assistant/quality control coach in 1999, where he assisted both defensive coordinator Emmitt Thomas and linebackers coach Johnny Holland. Prior to that, Knox spent four years with Philadelphia (1995-98) as a defensive assistant/quality control coach.

Knox began his coaching career with the Los Angeles Rams in 1993 as an offensive assistant/running backs coach, working for his father, Chuck Knox, Sr., who was head coach of the Rams from 1992-94.

Knox played running back at Arizona from 1984-88. An all-state running back at Bellevue (Wash.) High as a senior, Knox moved to Washington after his father was named head coach of the Seahawks. He attended Orchard Park (N.Y.) High his first three years and earned all-state football honors.

Knox earned a degree in history from Arizona. He and his wife, Andrea, daughter, Hannah Marie, and son, Charles Robert, live in Eden Prairie, Minn.

Q: The Vikings have implemented the 3-4 defense and been successful the last two games. Does the use of the 3-4 change how the secondary covers guys?

You can still run all of the same coverages out of a 4-3 in the 3-4. You can run the same type of coverages and the same defenses. The one thing that changes in a 3-4 is personnel. That fourth linebacker sometimes becomes a defensive end.

Q: This is the second straight week you'll face a team coming off the bye. As a defensive coach, do you notice it takes opposing offenses a little longer to establish a rhythm coming off a bye?

I don't think so. They have two weeks to prepare for you so they can really gear up and run a lot of things. I think as a defensive coach your challenge is that they're going to throw something new at you early that you haven't seen. You just want to make sure you cover all the bases with your players. A lot of times when you're facing a team coming off a bye you have to do a lot of extra film study to make sure that they don't run something that's not in your (film) cut-ups.

Q: What are the specific challenges Carolina presents to the pass coverage?

For one thing, they have a number of formations. They do a lot of movement and they won't line up in an empty backfield. The challenge that brings us is they put their receivers in the backfield to get different formations and get the match-ups that can sometimes be a problem. The quarterback gets the ball off really quick so you have to be lined up and have tight coverages.

Q: With the results you got Sunday against Green Bay — Donald Driver getting just two catches in the second half — does it appear like shadowing the opponent's best receiver with Fred Smoot might be a long-term strategy?

I'm not going to answer that because I don't want to tip my hand. A lot of things we other teams get from us, they read in newspapers, so I'll keep that to myself.

Q: Has Smoot performed at the level you envisioned when the Vikings signed him in February?

Yes. Fred's doing an excellent job.

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