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EAGAN — The Vikings continued their offseason parade of press conferences by introducing their three new coordinators Thursday afternoon.

Veteran coach Ed Donatell, along with first-time coordinators Wes Phillips and Matt Daniels, spoke to reporters about their respective journeys and philosophies. Here were the main takeaways:

Another Cousins quote

Thus far, head coach Kevin O’Connell has been non-committal about declaring Kirk Cousins the team’s long-term quarterback, even going as far as avoiding a direct question on WCCO Radio about whether Cousins would be the team’s quarterback in training camp.

O’Connell, though, has remained complimentary of Cousins’ skillset independent of his status on the roster, and offensive coordinator Wes Phillips doubled down on that with some positive words of his own — some that even seemed farfetched.

“Well, I worked with Kirk in Washington, had a great relationship with Kirk, and I’m really excited to work with him,” said Phillips. “He’s got great arm talent. He’s athletic. He can throw from all kinds of different platforms. He can throw off drift. Incredibly accurate quarterback. He’s a real pro to work with. He grinds at it. He’s in the building, and the guys know it. So I’m really excited about him.”

Accuracy and arm talent? Sure. Athleticism and throwing off platform? Not so much.

Phillips was tight ends coach in Washington for Cousins’ entire run as a starter, so the two are familiar. Say what you will about the truthfulness of Phillips’ platitudes, but if the Vikings’ front office is taking calls on Cousins, any statements that bolster his perceived value are probably welcome.

No longer “fear-based”

A theme of the day was connecting personally with players, which O’Connell stated was important to him in his press conference on Feb. 17.

Just six weeks ago Eric Kendricks dropped his bombshell “fear-based” comment about the team’s previous leadership. Phillips mentioned the word fear a couple of times Thursday as something he’d like to avoid as a coach.

“There was a time when you could probably walk up and kick a player in the butt, and that was accepted,” Phillips said. “I’m glad we’ve changed in some of those aspects. There was coaching from fear in a lot of ways, but really, even my family, my grandfather, was like, ‘I’d rather have a guy who wants to do it than who was scared and scared of me and try to make him do it.’ These guys understand the ‘why.’ Really, all we’re trying to get these guys to understand is why we want to do it, and if they understand the ‘why’ most of the time that means they’re going to be performing better. They’re going to be playing better for themselves, for their team and ultimately we’re going to win more games.”

Phillips’ grandfather, of course, is the legendary Bum Phillips, one of the most quotable NFL coaches of all time. Phillips claims he doesn’t have his grandpa’s wit, but it sounds like he’s learned a thing or two from the revered coaching legend.

Offensive line traits

The Rams offense succeeded last season in part because of the No. 1 pass-blocking offensive line in football. The Vikings, inversely, have prioritized run blocking in their draft approach the last several years, which hurt their ability to protect Kirk Cousins (see: Pat Elflein, Garrett Bradbury, Ezra Cleveland).

That may not fly under the Vikings’ new offensive system.

“We want great feet, a big guy who can anchor,” Phillips said. “We want a guy who can reach in the zone game and come off the ball and power a guy off on a base block or a drive block. But there’s a lot of different traits when you’re talking about tackle, guard, center, but ultimately I think we want a guy who is well-rounded enough to where he’s not only a run blocker and he can’t pass protect.”

That last line from Phillips is fairly telling and accurately describes the struggles for former first-round pick Garrett Bradbury, who likely enters the final year of his deal in 2022.

Phillips proceeded to expound on a couple more qualities the staff will be looking for from its blockers.

“Obviously, intelligence is a critical part, from the center out,” he said. “Things happen a lot faster at the center-guard position than sometimes from the tackle position. So those guys have a little different traits. Obviously, you want length on the outside to be able to take on the outside linebacker, long defensive end guys who are rushing. There are just a lot of different traits you’re looking for and sometimes we can get away with having one thing if he’s exceptional in another thing.”

4-3 or 3-4?

Moving on to Ed Donatell, there’s been a lot of debate about the shape of his scheme after Kevin O’Connell indicated it would be primarily a 3-4 last week, but as O’Connell also alluded to, Donatell claims his defensive fronts will be more of a blend.

From there, Donatell laid out the areas of emphasis he’ll have for the Vikings defense, which ranked 30th in yards against last year.

“You ask about the scheme we're gonna implement here; it's going to be a multiple, dictating a 3-4 and 4-3 setup,” he said. “Just know we'll have both fronts. That will make us hard to play against. Everything else we'll do will be engineered to make it hard for the quarterback. That's physically and mentally. Keystone foundation points: we're going to set edges. That's our outside linebackers, defensive ends, we're going to set hard edges. We're going to be a great tackling outfit. You look at our history as coaches, takeaways is a foundation point. That has to happen, that has to be an edge for this team -- get the ball for our offense so they can get into scoring position so they can score points so we can win.”

Taking the ball away can be a random stat, but it wasn’t a strength of Donatell’s Denver defenses from 2019-21, which ranked T21st, 29th and T26th in takeaways.

When asked how things are different for Donatell than they were 20 years ago during his first defensive coordinator stint, he said the offenses have made things more challenging.

“The evolution there, that’s where it’s changed, the quarterback in the gun, the RPOs. I’ve got to back up,” Donatell said. “When you play against Wes’ offense here, that will battle-test us. They have so many problem sets in there that you’ve got to work through that I have on my mind, but that will have us ready to play. They play with tempo, they change the width, and just multiple pass combinations that are cutting edge, so that’s how it’s changed. They’ve changed us.”

Connecting with players

Donatell, 65, was most enthused about joining what he called a “progressive” and “cutting edge” coaching staff that will empower him to connect with his players. He talked of having fun, building culture and enjoying community.

It was a different message from than the previous defensive playcaller of Donatell’s same age.

“When you can combine staying current and using your experience, then you've got something,” said the 32-year coach. “And that's my intention. So what do I do? I listen to young people. And I seek and I put energy into learning them. My sons are coaches and they're at a younger age. And they played. I ask them a lot of things, because views have changed. People, they get up here and say 'these kids have changed' and this and that. People have always been changing since the beginning of time. It's our job, as leaders, to work to relate.”

O’Connell talked about installing a new culture on the team, and Donatell sounds like a strong ambassador for that movement, almost striking the tone of a college coach looking to be a mentor.

“Message to the players: we've got a lot of work to do, but nobody's going to have more fun doing it,” Donatell said. “We're going to have a good time. We're hiring a staff of teachers, positive teachers. These guys are gonna -- they're also guys that will grow young men, not just teach the scheme. It's going to be a positive nature, we're going to have a great time and these relationships are going to be very important to our success.”

Matt Daniels’ philosophies

At just 32 years old, Matt Daniels looks like he could still make some plays on special teams. The former player is entering his first head coordinator job and says he learned a lot from his playing days.

“For me, being an undrafted guy coming into this league out of Duke University, special teams was the only way I saw myself being able to make the team,” Daniels said. “I like to consider myself a special teams demon. That's kind of what I was. I took it to heart. I took a lot of pride in it. I played with a lot of passion. That's what you'll see pour into my players. I'm very personable and very relatable. Guys can lean on me because I've done it before and been in their shoes. I know what it looks like. I know what it takes.”

While Daniels will be coaching half a dozen special teams units, most people just want to hear his thoughts on kickers and how he’ll handle their ups and downs.

“You look at a guy like Greg Joseph, for instance, who struggled in his first couple of years, kind of bouncing around, and you talk about the mental toughness that he’s shown and the progression that he’s had in his career to where he is at now,” Daniels said. “The mental toughness of the kicking game is obviously the biggest thing on a kicker, because obviously it’s lonely as hell out there, if we’re just being honest. So you look at the mental toughness, mental capacity that’s able to handle the pressure, those are the types of questions that we like to have. You really don’t want to give too many thoughts to your kicker or have him thinking too much, so we kind of always try to allow him to have a quieted mind, a stillness.”

Daniels said he hopes to have Joseph, a restricted free agent, and punter Jordan Berry, an unrestricted free agent, back next season.

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