Leslie Frazier appeared to be the Vikings' leading candidate for defensive coordinator from the time Mike Tomlin bolted to become the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In Indianapolis, Frazier learned under head coach Tony Dungy, the Vikings' former defensive coordinator and a well-respected man throughout the league. But Frazier's defensive ideals have been shaped throughout his NFL playing and coaching career.
On the coaching end, that included stints at Trinity College, the University of Illinois, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cincinnati Bengals and finally the Indianapolis Colts. But as a cornerback with the Chicago Bears from 1981-86, Frazier had the opportunity to be part of a winning Super Bowl team and learn from a defensive innovator like Buddy Ryan.
Still, when it comes to his defensive philosophies, he appears ready to remain true to the principles of the Tampa-2 defense and not implement too many aspects of Ryan's 4-6 scheme that was so effective in the 1980s.
Frazier would prefer to see pressure applied on the quarterback by his front four rather than exposing his secondary by blitzing too often.
"I think there is an appropriate time for blitzes and some of it has to do with your personnel in the back row. I've played in a system where we were a heavy blitz team as a player. I have coached in a system with Jim Johnson (in Philadelphia) where we were a heavy blitz team, but a lot of it had to do with the guys in the secondary. Having a Troy Vincent or a Bobby Taylor, or even when I played the people that were rushing made a difference," Frazier said. "A little bit of it depends on your personnel. Ideally, you would like to be able to rush four and play some Cover-2 and not have to expose your guys in the secondary. A little bit of it will depend on what we are able to do.
"There is a reason that the pass defense suffered a little bit a year ago, and we're going to try to improve in that area, and part of it will be in getting a guy like (defensive end Kenechi) Udeze to increase his sack totals, hopefully getting Erasmus (James) back on the field, hopefully being able to see Brian Robison on the field. I would prefer if we could rush four and play Cover-2 all day long if it was up to me, but it doesn't always happen that way."
Linebacker Ben Leber said he hasn't seen any signs yet of Frazier implementing concepts from the 4-6, but it is still very early in the installation phase of the defense.
But there is another person of influence in Indianapolis who is also another former Vikings coach. Offensive coordinator Tom Moore has also left an impression on Frazier.
"What I learned from Tom Moore was this was a person with a wealth of knowledge. … Probably the biggest thing I learned from him was just watching how he organized the offense and just being able to keep things relatively simple, even for a mind like Peyton Manning," Frazier said. "Just from an organizational standpoint, the way that he went about his business and then having confidence in being able to communicate with ballplayers. Not so much schematically, because the biggest thing with Tom was do what the players can do best, and if there is anything that I've taken away from my time with him, it would be that.
"He had tremendous talent in Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin (James) and Joseph Addai and all of the guys we had with Peyton throwing, but as opposed to some would try to stir it up and have a thousand types of things, Tom was just the opposite. He just shrunk it down and said, let's let these guys do what they do best. That's why you see Marvin Harrison always line up on the right side of the formation. Part of it is simplicity, so if there is anything that I got from him and tried to pass on to Brad (Childress), it's just that. Now, how that affects the Minnesota Vikings, who knows?"
YOGA FOR UDEZE
After a sackless season last year and a wealth of defensive ends pushing for playing time in 2007, former first-round draft pick Kenechi Udeze needs any advantage he can get. With improved flexibility being a focus, he has turned to yoga.
"For him, flexibility is still critical. That's an area that he has to improve at, along with just being able to body position and control his body," Frazier said. "That's part of being a good defensive player, being able to play under control but sometimes out of control. At times he wasn't doing a very good job of that, but hopefully now because of what he is doing with yoga and some of the other things that Tom Kanavy, our strength coach, is doing with him he will be able to use that strength that he has at the right time. Be more explosive, but yet be under control at the same time, and that is what he is hoping that yoga will provide, so we'll see."
JACKSON STILL LEARNING
If it is supposed to take a quarterback three to five years in the NFL to reach his stride, the Vikings are hoping second-year quarterback Tarvaris Jackson can accomplish that in three to five games. As for now, Jackson said the game is starting to slow down for him.
"Yeah, because last year I was just struggling trying to learn what I had to do first. Now I'm kind of tuned into what everybody has to do, what the defense is doing, and whatever the coaches want," he said.
Jackson almost seemed to wince at the thought of repeatedly watching tapes from his two starts at the end of last season, when the entire offense struggled and he threw more interceptions than touchdowns. Still, he admitted he has to watch them to eliminate his miscues.
"Just try to learn from my mistakes, learn the things that I can do better and just try to learn as much as possible from it," he said. "Sometimes it's hard to look at, but at the same time I make myself watch it because it's only going to make me better and stronger."
Childress indicated that Jackson is doing a solid job communicating plays in the huddle.
"I didn't see any communication issues in terms of him stepping into the huddle and looking what's going on. It's a whole lot different when you've got five guys thundering down and you're trying to peak and see than it is in a seven-on-seven drill or a one-on-one throwing," Childress said. "Those are the things, those snaps behind those five offensive linemen that you can't put a premium on."
The Vikings' first-round draft pick, running back Adrian Peterson, could offer Jackson some assistance with improving the offense. While others point to last year's Super Bowl entrants as successful teams that used two running backs effectively, Jackson referenced another team that added a rookie back in 2006 to complement a hard-charging veteran.
"He's going to add another dimension to our team. We can put him and Chester (Taylor) in the backfield at the same time and just do different things like the Saints did with Deuce (McAllister) and (Reggie) Bush," Jackson said.
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