EAGAN, Minn. (AP) Over his first few months on the job as offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, John DeFilippo diligently worked on developing his system around the skill-position pillars he inherited and learning the strengths and weaknesses of his new players.
DeFilippo also held some frank offseason conversations with head coach Mike Zimmer about how the Philadelphia Eagles so successfully attacked his scheme. This weekend, those tips will finally come in handy for Zimmer and the rest of Minnesota's defense.
The Vikings visit the Eagles on Sunday in a rematch of the NFC championship game that sent them home humbled after a 38-7 defeat. DeFilippo was the quarterbacks coach for the team that went on to win the Super Bowl, earning him a ring for his trophy case and a promotion with Minnesota.
Much is at stake for the Vikings (1-2-1), beyond any superficial desire for revenge. They're already behind in what promises to be another ultra-competitive NFC playoff race.
For all the proficiency that Kirk Cousins has displayed passing the ball to Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, the Vikings have had unreliable protection in front of him and also failed to run the ball with any consistency. DeFilippo, naturally, will face another critical test of his play-calling acumen on the road in one of the most difficult stadiums for a visiting team to play in.
There's more to this game than that for him, though. The Eagles, despite only serving two years under head coach Doug Pederson, were the team that raised the 40-year-old DeFilippo's profile as an up-and-coming head coach candidate. Pederson helped teach him the value of outside-the-box and aggressive thinking.
''If you were doing your job, he let you run with it, take something and make it better,'' DeFilippo said, ''and that was my goal every day.''
Don't forget that Philadelphia, too, is DeFilippo's de facto hometown. He was a star quarterback at suburban Radnor High School, while his father was the athletic director at Villanova. Going to Eagles training camp or attending Monday night games at Veterans Stadium was a standout memory from his youth. Stepping inside Lincoln Financial Field will be a moving moment for DeFilippo, for sure.
''I'm human. You know it will be,'' DeFilippo said, adding: ''Once the game starts, it's going to be like any other game. But I have nothing but respect for everyone there in that building. Just like this building, there are some really phenomenal people.''
The early returns on DeFilippo's presence with the Vikings have produced similar sentiments.
''He's done a phenomenal job,'' Thielen said. ''He just loves the game of football. He wants us to do well on the field, and that goes for everybody on offense. That's what you want in a coach. You want a guy who cares a lot about you and wants to have success as a team, not just as an offense.''
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