This 10-part series focuses on the biggest questions facing the Vikings as they head into Mankato for their training camp festivities. Be sure to answer the first six questions HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.
We only have three questions left, and this one is complex because it is hard to directly answer it without directly answering some others regarding roster makeup. Still, I have a sneaking suspicion that a Vikings special teams battle or two could end up being the talk of Mankato, and that a surprise is as likely there as anywhere else on the roster.
Before getting to the question (and the all-important poll), I wanted to take a quick look at the main guys on special teams as it stands… at the guys that currently have jobs to lose.
Hope for a renaissance at the receiver position has never been higher for fans of Patterson, which I count myself as one, and our voters already pegged him as the most likely to make the roster among Adam Thielen, Charles Johnson, and Moritz Bohringer. Part of the reasoning there, I assume, is that he is one of the most valuable kick returners in the NFL. However, the NFL is constantly making kick returners less valuable and the Vikings are entering their final season of commitment to Patterson… if he doesn’t make serious progress as a route runner then it is easier now than ever to part ways with the young speedster.
The local fan favorite has been one of the most consistently productive punt returners for years now. Sherels has plenty of critics when it comes to his performance in the secondary, a group that has some serious talent these days, but there is no denying his value to the special teams unit from a number of angles. His abilities within the coverage unit should not be ignored even if they are overshadowed by his return man skills. However, some might speculate that Stefon Diggs could be the guy that finally sends Sherels packing if given a legitimate chance at the punt returner gig.
The guy revived Gary Anderson’s 1999 chart topper entitled “Wide Left” to end the Vikings season in 2015, but he also managed to become a bit of a celebrity and fan favorite (for some) after the hate mail faded into the past. Walsh has received tons of support (in addition to that nice pay raise last year) and there is no indication that he’s a serious candidate to lose his job this season… even if some would still prefer to see him go. The prevailing theory is that Walsh has somehow learned from the experience and is better for it while also benefiting from the move into U.S. Bank Stadium for home games.
It cannot ever be said that Chris Kluwe is an easy act to follow, I guess, and many fans wish the Vikings would find themselves a new headliner at the punter position. They snooped around some offseason options, particularly during rookie tryouts, but Locke still remains the lone punter on the roster. That could change during the preseason, though, and the only thing working in Locke’s favor is perhaps a lack of true field-flipping punters available on the open market. Locke needs to improve this year, or he needs to be replaced, so the biggest question here is just how much leash he has left.
[Insert Long Snapper Analysis Here]
Yeah, McDermott seemed to capably replace Cullen Loeffler last year, but I’ll admit I can really only recognize atrocious snaps… so maybe you all have better perspective here than I. There are no other long snappers on the roster and Mcdermott seems plenty safe at the moment.
CAMP QUESTION #8 – Which Vikings Special Teams Battle, If There Is One, Is Most Likely To End Poorly For The Incumbent?
Right now, Patterson and Sherels have the most amount of competition for their special teams jobs currently housed on the Vikings roster. However, they also have the advantage of providing some depth and value at multiple positions. The true specialists only really contribute to one phase of the game and we saw last postseason just how important that can be. So, tell us, which of these has the best chance to lose their job in Mankato this year?