Thursday, July 19, 2012

Position Analysis: Special Teams

If the Vikings special teams group is going to be successful,
the Vikings need consistency of kicker Blair Walsh.

Today we will wrap up the position analysis series on Vikings Corner. We will take a look at the special teams group that was very consistent last season. Chris Kluwe is the centerpiece of the special teams group. He is so great at pinning teams deep in Viking's territory. He snared 22 balls inside the twenty last season. This helps our defense have a cushion to attempt a potential three and out. Kluwe is also a great holder and is very consistent at the job. I think I've seen Kluwe maybe drop or miss one or two snaps in eight NFL seasons. That is an excellent stat for a holder in this this league.

Blair Walsh is the new kicker for the Vikings this season. I believe this a major concern for the Vikings. I sit down and think about all the games Ryan Longwell had won over his time in Minnesota and I can't believe they would bring in a rookie to kick. I understand that this league is becoming more of a "touchback type" league, but field goals can be huge down the stretch of a season. In addition Blair Walsh had his statistically worst season as a Georgia Bulldog last season. He only converted on 60% of his field goal attempts last season. From 30-39 yards he was 10 of 14, from 40-49 yards he was 5-12, and from 50 yards plus he was 2 of 5. His long field goal at Georgia was a 56 yard field goal. These stats display he has a nice leg, but he needs to develop better accuracy and consistency. I feel the decision of releasing Ryan Longwell this season will hurt the Vikings in several games this season.

Cullen Loeffler was injured last season in Atlanta after he was demolished by a "dirty bird." He injured his back and missed the last 6 games of the season. Before the injury, Loeffler was great as a long snapper for the Vikings. He has played in eight NFL seasons, all with the Vikings. Many scouts have debated and stated that Loeffler is one of the best long snappers in the NFL. You could really see how great Loeffler was after he was replaced by Matt Katula. We struggled to even get a consistent snap. Hopefully Loeffler's back is recovered and he is ready for a full NFL season.

Our special teams coverage teams were much better last season after the addition of Mike Priefer as special teams coach. I remember at training camp during special teams practices how intense Priefer was. He expected perfection with every kick or punt formation. I felt our special team coverage teams were much more consistent than in years past. We allowed our fair share of big plays, but it was much improved from years past.

Overall, I feel like the only question mark on the special teams group is how well Blair Walsh will kick for the Vikings. If he can make the kicks we need and kick the ball out of the endzone, it will be a definite upgrade. If he is inconsistent on field goals, this may have been a poor decision. I hope it all goes well for a Viking team that is poised for a season as the underdogs of the NFL.

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