Whether Minnesota Vikings fans like it or not, Blair Walsh is the team’s kicker through 2019. The six-year veteran signed a contract extension last offseason, a deal that made Walsh the fifth-highest paid kicker in the league at the time. His contract, which runs through the 2019 season, pays Walsh $8.75 million over the next four years.
Despite his recent misses and struggles, Walsh is the team’s kicker for the foreseeable future. The decision to award Walsh an extension last year, even after posting the lowest field goal percentage of his career in 2014, has been and will continue to be the focus of debates as the season rolls on.
What we’re here to do is gauge our confidence in Walsh. We’ve seen what he can do — setting rookie records in 2012 — and know that he scored all of Minnesota’s points in last year’s Wild Card loss. And we know that he led the league with 34 made field goals in 2015. But last week’s win over the Tennessee Titans didn’t inspire confidence in the former Georgia Bulldog. With 15 games left in the regular season, I asked the Vikings Territory team:
“How concerned are you with the play of Blair Walsh?”
I’m as concerned about Blair Walsh as I have ever been about a Vikings kicker, to be honest. And that is saying something considering I’ve never recovered from the 1998 championship game and get nervous sweats every time I have to watch a Vikings kicker attempt anything.
I’m going to be nervous about Walsh kicking and I’m going to be nervous about anyone they sign to replace him. I’m going to be nervous about Vikings kickers, in general, until the day I die. Is Walsh to be trusted? Absolutely not, we all know that if we’re being honest with ourselves.
With all of that being said, the Vikings have reason enough to at least give until the bye to see if this is a slump he can pull himself out of. If it isn’t, then that seems like the logical time to sign another untrustworthy kicker as a replacement… or adjust the game plan to include a lot more fourth down and two point attempts.
Moderately. Don’t let that fool you, being moderately alarmed by your kicker is pretty much the peak of the scale. Yes, it’s only Week 2, but Walsh isn’t just barely missing. He’s kicking the ball off the screen and hasn’t really shown any consistency from any range, even the ‘chip shots.’
Special teams will win and lose football games (as we all know) and for a team that plays defense and field position first football, the ability to count on points from your kicker is necessary. Blair has had is struggles looking back all the way to his senior year at the University of Georgia and will need to find a way to fall back to his rookie year form.
Quite. I’m not in panic mode yet, but Walsh’s performance in Week 1 made it clear he’s not recovered mentally from the Seattle game. Kickers are the last guys you want in their own heads, and the way the Vikings are built, they’re going to need some end-of-game kicks. I did like how they kept giving him opportunities, even after the misses, and hopefully the subsequent makes help his confidence. I’m giving it until Week 5 before I panic and start yelling for Robbie Gould.
If you were to ask me this question at half time of the Titans game last week, I would have answered yes before you even finished your question. But he redeemed himself in the second half by making four field goals and helping the Vikings to their first victory of the season.
He gets an opportunity to kick indoors for more than half the season this year, so hold the phone on cutting ties with him anytime soon. Minnesota’s new home could be just what Walsh needs to get his mind back on track and not so far to the left.
They say being a kicker is the loneliest position on the team. And few jobs in any walk of life carry the the intense pressure and the extreme highs and lows of being an NFL kicker. Blair Walsh’s ability to overcome adversity and maintain a healthy level of self confidence will ultimately define his career. After early adversity against the Titans in Week 1, Walsh was able to bounce back and make some big kicks in the second half.
Walsh may always be viewed as streaky and inconsistent, but right now I think this coaching staff and his team appear to have confidence in his ability to win games with his leg. I’m not overly concerned at this point. Testing Walsh’s mental toughness with some adverse situations this early in the season just might make him a stronger more accurate kicker down the stretch.
Right now, Walsh is the equivalent of a golfer with the ‘yips;’ even the shortest of kicks will throw him off, all because he’s in his own head. It’s a freakish phenomenon that can end the careers of some golfers. Fortunately for the Vikings, I don’t see that happening for Walsh.
Minnesota continues to give him opportunities, and as Sam pointed out, trotted Walsh onto the field for multiple second half field goals against the Titans. The only way to fight through a mental block is to take more reps, and that’s exactly what the Vikings are doing with Walsh. I’m still concerned, but also understand that Week 2 isn’t the time to overreact — give me until Week 5 before I begin total freakout.