The position typically overlooked by fans on a football team are the special teams unit, with their ability to sway games by making a crucial error, or forcing one. Over the course of a season, the special teams for the Minnesota Vikings has received a partial overhaul after the Blair Walsh debacle last season, along with changes on the line and the loss of Cordarrelle Patterson. New faces are on the training camp horizon for this group.
Last season, Minnesota went 27 of 31 on field goals and 26 for 33 on extra points, putting them around the middle of the road when ranked up against the rest of the NFL. On punts, Minnesota ranked 20th last season, with a 42-yard average and 39-average net. On the return, Minnesota is regularly a tight unit that averaged 27 yards a game on kickoff and punt return, and only gave up 25 yards on opposing kick returns. But on punt coverage, they let up 27 yards, which was fairly egregious. Now some change is happening to what was overall a very solid movement.
At kicker, the young Marshall Koehn has the leg for the team and now needs to
gain the experience of pressure kicks during preseason play. What the Vikings really need is someone to come in and stay consistent throughout the season, whether that is Koehn or the veteran Kai Forbath. The battle should be closely followed during camp and into the preseason.
Punt return specialist Marcus Sherels should continue to handle most of the punt-returning tasks, but rookies Rodney Adams and Stacy Coley have both done a fair share of returning early in camp. While Coley is the more naturally smooth return man, his
commitment to football has been a question since the draft and Adams has established
himself as the better receiver.
“I feel good right now, going through the motions,” said Coley, who has looked good at the return man spot. “I feel like we just go out there and make plays, everyone competing for a job, just out here competing, and the best man win. I played [returner] in college so I’m going to play it.”
If Adams can become more polished on both fonts and be the dual-threat guy the Vikings would like to see, he will secure a roster spot. In the kick return game, Adams also can make an impact with his burst and has more time return on a kick, which offers a lower learning curve.
“My relentlessness to not be tackled and I just don’t blink in the face of a corner or
linebacker,” said Adams on what skill set is specific to him. “[return drills] have been
really good, expect for the wind making it a little tough, but I’m just out here to compete
and what the coaches want me to do at whatever position I’ll go out and do it.”
As far as the punters, the Vikings bringing in Texas Tech rookie Taylor Symmank has given the Vikings a different option outside of the veteran Ryan Quigley. Both will be up for the spot, especially after some solid days from Symmank, despite the wind conditions.
“Everything is going fast right now, there’s no time to waste right now,” said Coley
of getting season-ready. “Wherever they put me at, I’m going to do what they ask of me and I’m going to help the team.”
That seems to be the motto of this young unit mixed with some seasoned veterans.