When the Minnesota Vikings take the field for their first preseason game on Saturday night against the Denver Broncos, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo will be on the sideline rather than up in the booth.
“I just want to start down there and see how it goes, there might be a time during preseason that I go upstairs,” DeFilippo said. “Going to see how it goes this first week.”
One of the benefits: Getting a feel for what’s happening with his team — and especially his quarterback Kirk Cousins.
”You get to talk to the quarterbacks down there, I think you get a better feel for the pulse of the team when you’re downstairs,” DeFilippo said. “That being said, your vantage point is not as good as it is upstairs. We’re very fortunate to have some very good coaches on the offensive side of the ball who can provide information and know what we’re trying to look for.
DeFilippo was on the sideline when he was the offensive coordinator in 2015, but he noted that coordinators and quarterbacks can now communicate directly but could not previously.
Cousins said during his time in Washington, he experienced both play callers in the box and on the sideline.
“Sean McVay on ’15 was on the sidelines, in ’16 he was in the box, in ’17 Jay [Gruden] called the game for me from the sideline, Kyle Shanahan always called it from the sideline when I was with him,” Cousins said. “So my experience has been both. I think that the box gives you not only a better vantage point but also a little more sterile environment, the play call, the voice is coming in from a sterile environment, which can be a little calmer setting. Not a lot of crowd noise or static coming in the microphone. The advantage to the sideline is the communication. We can be on the same page. There’s pros and cons to both and you have to kind of give something up to gain something else.”
Saturday will represent the first opportunity for Cousins and DeFilippo to work together in a real-game setting. In Philadelphia, DeFilippo’s former quarterback Carson Wentz had freedom to ask for different play calls from Doug Pederson and star plays that he thought would work for that week. DeFilippo wants a similar relationship with Cousins.
“It’s always a collaborate effort on game days,” DeFilippo said. “At the end of the day, I always tell our quarterbacks this – you guys are the ones out there throwing it, not me. So we want them to be as comfortable as they can in everything that we do. And that starts in the middle of the week. If there’s a play that we practice a couple times that needs a little bit of seasoning as we call it, it’s out of the plan if they don’t feel comfortable throwing it. So you’re always making adjustments to the game plan in the middle of the week and in the game whether it be a route or a protection or the way you’re calling something up front. You’re in constant communication on everything.”
As far as what Saturday’s game against the Broncos actually means, Cousins noted that his former team struggled in 2016 preseason and he had his best statistical regular season. But the Vikings’ offensive coordinator still wants to see his offense looking sharp in Denver.
“Just to move the football,” DeFilippo said. “First time out with out guys, the operation being clean, getting in and out of the huddle on time, myself getting the plan in on time, limit pre-snap mistakes, not jumping up offsides, lining up correctly, laying motion landmarks, all those things. That’s what we’re looking forward to seeing from Kirk and all of our offensive guys.”