Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo is calling plays for the first time since 2015. Even after what DeFilippo called not his “best effort” in last weekend’s preseason loss to Jacksonville, quarterback Kirk Cousins said he is seeing positive early signs.
“He has done a good job with some of the injuries we’ve had, of game planning and trying to call a game that focuses on our strengths and tries to hide our weaknesses and that is the mark of a great play caller,” Cousins said Wednesday.
There was one call against the Jaguars that DeFilippo, whom coach Mike Zimmer said he can hear talking to himself often on the sideline, wants back. Cousins was sacked when Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue came unblocked off right tackle during a play-action bootleg.
“I didn’t coach that play well enough,” DeFilippo said. “[Aviante Collins] was playing right tackle and I didn’t do a good enough job of coaching that play.”
That kind of public accountability echoes well in a locker room.
“If you want to get better, you judge yourself harshly,” DeFilippo said. “I go back personally and watch the game several times and say hey, which calls did I like, which calls did I not like? Did I put the team in harm’s way?”
Wilson standing out
Zimmer isn’t happy with the Vikings’ linebacker depth, saying as much this week. One young linebacker has stood out in the thin group, though. Second-year linebacker Eric Wilson has progressed from a rookie special teams ace to possibly taking his first NFL defensive snaps this season as a coverage specialist in one defensive lineup.
The new setup often sees linebacker Anthony Barr move to the line as a stand-up edge defender with a versatile end such as Brian Robison or Everson Griffen sliding inside next to Sheldon Richardson. Wilson is inserted as one of the nickel linebackers. He’s hopeful they’ll deploy this package in 2018.
“I hope so. I hope so,” Wilson said. “But you know, it’s all about getting better every day, coming out here and doing the best I can. Just showing them what I’m capable of.”
Zylstra set for debut
Receiver Brandon Zylstra, who turned heads this spring, is set to make his NFL preseason debut Friday against the Seahawks after recovering from a lingering hamstring injury through training camp. Zylstra is vying for one of a few open receiver spots with Kendall Wright, Stacy Coley, Chad Beebe and others.
“This group of receivers is super competitive. We’re all fighting for a job,” Zylstra said. “But at the same time, we’re all helpful. We’re always pulling each other to the side, giving tidbits on what we would’ve done.”
Griffen took a step toward returning Wednesday. The veteran team captain donned a helmet during defensive line drills, but then took a seat to ice his left leg that is still apparently recovering from an infected cut. He isn’t expected to play Friday against the Seahawks.
Neither are cornerback Mackensie Alexander (ankle), cornerback Mike Hughes, receivers Stacy Coley and Tarvarres King, safety Jack Tocho, running back Mack Brown and guard Josh Andrews. All were held out of Wednesday’s practice.