Cleveland challenge prepared John DeFilippo for Vikings OC job

EAGAN, Minn. -- New Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo has been around his players in an official working capacity only since April 16. But even in that short time, they've quickly grasped parts of his personality and what he's after.

Stefon Diggs described how his energy resonates with his offensive coordinator and keeps him locked in on the field. Kendall Wright noted the creativity of DeFilippo's scheme, filled with so many unique and new elements that the veteran slot receiver struggled to find an overarching theme that defines the Vikings' offense.

"He puts new stuff in there every day," Wright said. "He's really excited when he's putting it in. Sometimes I think he's more juiced up than us to go out there."

At the start of OTAs, DeFilippo is still discovering the tendencies and traits of his new crop of talent in Minnesota. The OC was "shocked" when he got an up-close look at Diggs' route-running ability and lauded the receiver for the way he tracks the ball in the air. Even after all the research he did on Kirk Cousins, DeFilippo noted that the ball jumps out of his quarterback's hand faster than he expected.

By the end of the Vikings' offseason program, the second-time coordinator aims to leave with a better feel for his players and what they do well. Of course that sounds simple, but finding ways to put his players in the best position to succeed is a philosophy that starts with Cousins and stretches across 10 other positions on the offensive side of the ball. It's a credence DeFilippo has always held in high regard, notably during his first stint as a coordinator in Cleveland.

"... find out what our playmakers do well and do those things over and over and over again so they can get great at them no matter what the coverage is. They're going to know how to run the route or block the play," DeFilippo said in 2015.

Though his time in Cleveland lasted only a season after a 3-13 finish, DeFilippo believes the experience paved the way to where he is now. While the knowledge he gained coaching Philadelphia's quarterbacks during the Eagles' Super Bowl LII win is invaluable, DeFilippo credits his year in Cleveland and the bumps and bruises he experienced along the way with preparing him for his new journey.

"What really helps is I've done the job before," DeFilippo said. "Done the job on a team where you really had to manufacture yards and find ways to get guys open. Was it a great situation at the time? No. Was it perfect? No. At the same time, I think it really helped to prepare how to coach. When you do get that opportunity, when you do have guys that maybe are the next step up in terms of ability, I think it helps to take some of those ideas to manufacture yards and feed the ball in their hands. I think more so the fact that I've done this job before helped more than anything."

There are countless differences between his two offensive coordinator jobs from a roster and talent standpoint, and arguably the biggest is the situation at quarterback.

For one, DeFilippo isn't inheriting a passer in Minnesota. After he was hired in February, he was an integral voice in the organization's decision to go after Cousins. This time around, DeFilippo gets to install an offense around an established quarterback who understands and has seen a variety of protections, passing concepts and schemes. He also isn't entering the season with multiple quarterbacks competing for a starting job.

As with any new offense, there will be growing pains. DeFilippo knows and accepts it. More importantly, he expects it -- even with a seasoned veteran like Cousins.

"There's an adjustment any time you change offenses," DeFilippo said. "Any time someone else is teaching you, any time somebody else is snapping you the football. There is always a learning curve when it comes to those things. Throwing to new wideouts. I wouldn't say we were rusty (Tuesday) offensively, but it wasn't our best effort. The thing about it is I liked the fact that there were no balls on the ground today in terms of the snaps with the first group. I don't think we had a drop. I have to go and watch the tape. I thought the protection again two days in a row was really, really good. Sure, there is going to be an adjustment any time you have all those new factors involved."

The Vikings' offense will likely keep its training wheels on over the next several months as DeFilippo continues to install new wrinkles in his playbook. As his players learn his scheme, he will draw on the experience from his first go-around as an offensive coordinator to build his system in Minnesota by following the core principles of what drove him before, and what prepared him for this job in the first place: trying new things, finding what works and eliminating what doesn't.