One day before the Vikings report to training camp and the Pioneer Press has unveiled a tell-all interview with Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer.
Brian Murphy spent four hours chatting with the coach at his home in northern Kentucky. It's a wonderful chat in which Zimmer reveals that he's "by far" more optimistic about this year's team than he was as a rookie coach last season.
"Two areas we did well in: We didn't turn the ball over on offense, hardly any fumbles, and we didn't give up a lot of big plays defensively. I'm more optimistic about the talent we have on the team now than I was a year ago, by far, even though they might be the same guys. They've proven to me they can play.
We lost four games by a total of seven points. That really determines your season. You win those you're 9-7 or 10-6."
Zimmer has plenty of reason to be optimistic about the season, which officially begins when players report to training camp in Mankato on Saturday.
Despite going 7-9 and missing the playoffs in his first year as coach, Zimmer's defensive mentality helped take the Vikings from one of the worst defenses in the NFL in 2013 to 14th in total defense in 2014 and 11th in scoring defense (21.4 points allowed per game).
But Minnesota regressed in rushing defense, going from 16th in the league in Leslie Frazier's final year as head coach to 25th under Zimmer. Stopping the run will be a critical point made during training camp, according to the Vikings' official website.
Year two under Zimmer could do wonders for Minnesota. According to 1500 ESPN, Zimmer's second year as defensive coordinator with Dallas in 2001 and Cincinnati in 2009 resulted in both teams finishing with top five defenses.
Check out the full training camp schedule here. Sunday's morning walk-thru begins at 10:30 a.m. and will be followed by an afternoon practice starting at 2:30 p.m.