Hartman: Zimmer likes what Vikings have done so far

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 16, 2014 - 12:44 AM
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Mike Zimmer has liked the defensive additions but said the unit still needs work: ‘‘I think there are holes at every level of the defense.’’

Photo: Michael Conroy • Associated Press,

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Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said things are progressing nicely with the team being so active in free agency.

“Everything’s going on a whirlwind,” said Zimmer, “and we’re starting to get our feet on the ground and continue running.”

The Vikings have improved the defensive personnel immensely. The addition of Giants nose tackle Linval Joseph, cornerbacks Captain Munnerlyn and Derek Cox, along with the re-signing of defensive end Everson Griffen, has been a great start for Zimmer’s defense.

And after filling some of the defensive holes, there is a better chance of the Vikings taking a quarterback with their eighth pick in the first round. But with the re-signing of veteran Matt Cassel, it’s still a long shot that they’ll take one first because Zimmer said they still need defensive help.

“We have to make sure we get everybody on the same page,” Zimmer said. “We have to make sure that we understand everything that is going on. We have to play real hard. I think there are holes at every level of the defense that we’re going to have to get better at.”

Zimmer was asked if there was a specific plan in place to improve the team’s defense late in games, where the Vikings lost several close contests in 2013.

“I don’t know what those situations were, but we’re going to try to do a great job of coaching situation football and make sure that the players understand what causes them to lose games and what causes them to win games,” he said.

Quarterback is key

Zimmer was a big fan of re-signing Cassel.

“He’s really excited to be here,’’ Zimmer said. ‘‘I’m also excited to get him on the field, get him working, see the things that he’s really good at and fit the system around him and everybody else, really.”

Zimmer also said he is curious to see what Christian Ponder brings to the table.

“I’m actually excited to see Ponder,” Zimmer said. “I want to see him come here and compete, and I want to see him work out in the field and see him show me all the athletic ability that he has. I think it will be a great time when we get him out there on the field.”

Zimmer made it clear he isn’t giving up on Ponder.

“I’m not,” he said. “I’m actually excited about him, and hopefully he can prove me right.”

Keys going forward

Zimmer said that there still will be a huge transition for the Vikings, with a new staff and many new players coming in.

“I think any time there’s change [in coaches] you’re going to have a lot of different system changes for you, and we have to improve in some of the areas,” he said. “We’re going to try to be a little bit more man-to-man coverage in the back end, so we’re going to try to look for some more man-coverage players. With the division that we’re playing in we’re going to need some guys that can cover with linebackers and pass rush guys. That is part of the area we need to improve on. Offensively I feel good about a lot of the different pieces that we have.”

Zimmer said another player who may help the Vikings at linebacker is free agent Jasper Brinkley, who played for Arizona last year after starting for the Vikings in 2012.

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