Vikings’ Kevin O’Connell wants to be more than ‘just an offensive coach’
O’Connell replaced Mike Zimmer, who came from the defensive side of the ball and in eight seasons gave his offensive coordinator lots of leeway
Kevin O’Connell was an NFL quarterback and an offensive assistant in the league for seven years before being named head coach of the Vikings. But he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed.
“( want to) be visible to the defense, let them know that I’m learning their side of the ball just as much as they are,” the first-year head coach said Wednesday during the first week of organized team activities. ”I can complement them on detailed things they can do within our coverages, within a pressure, how we stop the run, and they can look at me as not just an offensive head coach.”
O’Connell replaced Mike Zimmer, who came from the defensive side of the ball and in eight seasons gave his offensive coordinator lots of leeway. O’Connell, who turns 37 next Wednesday, said it’s “really important” to him for defensive players and those on special teams to know he’s also invested in those aspects of the game.
With that in mind, Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks was asked if he thinks of O’Connell as more than just an offensive coach.
“He definitely knows what’s going on, but I don’t think he can fairly say that,” Kendricks said with a laugh. “He’s definitely an offensive coach. He definitely wants to light us up on defense, but that’s only going to get us better on defense.”
Kendricks said O’Connell can be valuable working with the defense.
“I notice from him watching film and him going over film on the defensive side of things, he kind of goes over what the offense’s mindset or mind frame is as he’s talking about the defense,” Kendricks said.
From Wednesday through Friday, the Vikings are hosting a diversity coaching summit at the TCO Performance Center. It is being attended by 12 young coaches, 11 from colleges, with the intention being to groom them for possible future NFL jobs.
“It’s really a chance for us to get exposed to them from the standpoint of how do they carry themselves?” said Vikings assistant head coach Mike Pettine, who is heading the summit. “We’re going to do mock interviews, film everything and give them feedback on it. They get a chance to be in our meetings. We’ll talk to them as well (about) the NFL culture and expectations.”
Pettine wanted to have such a summit when he was Green Bay’s defensive coordinator from 2019-2020 but then the coronavirus pandemic hit and then he was fired.
Among the 12 invitees is one woman, Roseanna Smith, director of football operations/running backs coach at Division III Oberlin (Ohio) College.
— The Vikings’ top three draft picks all could end up starting but O’Connell is not rushing anything. First-round selection Lewis Cine has been working behind Camryn Bynum at safety, second-round pick Andrew Booth Jr. has been sidelined as the cornerback recovers from groin surgery and second-rounder Ed Ingram is getting reserve snaps at guard. O’Connell said the Vikings have a “teaching progression” for rookies but they “can earn” spots for sure.
— O’Connell has been impressed with how second-quarterback Kellen Mond has looked during offseason drills. “Kellen’s having a good spring so far, working hard, digesting the system,” O’Connell said. During Tuesday’s second session of OTAs, O’Connell said Mond “made a couple of checks at the line of scrimmage that he wasn’t prepared play-by-play for” but that he “instinctively” adjusted.
— Tight end Irv Smith Jr., who missed all of last season with a knee injury, did some work on the field Tuesday but O’Connell said the Vikings will continue to bring him back slowly. “He’s going to be a major part of what we do,” O’Connell said. “It’s just making sure that we’re doing it in a really responsible way.”
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