Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ryan Quigley

Image courtesy of Vikings.com
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Vikings Training Camp Preview

In just 11 days, the Minnesota Vikings open training camp on the Minnesota State, Mankato campus. Rookie practices begin on Monday, July 24th and full team practices start Thursday, July 27th.

As usual, this time of year has brought optimism to the Vikings and their fans. But this year, things seem different. There’s good reason to be excited, as the offseason resulted in refreshing roster replacements, an influx of young talent, and a promising outlook on lovable quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

To recap the offseason moves, Minnesota added free agents Latavius Murray, Riley Reiff, Datone Jones, Michael Floyd, and Mike Remmers.

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A Uniquely Vikings Problem
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

In a perfect world, field goal kickers don’t miss kicks. They relegate themselves to a side field during practice, grab a bucket of balls, and spend hours taking reps from different spots on the grass. Their sole purpose is to turn the swing of a leg into three points, but the outcome isn’t always guaranteed.

Rarely do NFL kickers finish a year with a perfect field goal percentage. Sending a tiny, leather sphere through relatively narrow goalposts isn’t a surefire proposition; factors such as rushing defenders, wind, and the ‘yips’ often turn chip shots into near-impossible tasks for the kicker.

Still, fans expect perfection — even if perfection is rarely the outcome.

I do not. I’m a lifelong fan of the Minnesota Vikings, so I’ve grown accustomed to the inexplicable woes of place kickers. From Gary Anderson to Blair Walsh, I’ve seen, er, sobbed through it all. I no longer take a simple extra point for granted, and after the events of the 2016 season, the other few phases are suddenly a reason for concern.

Forget the offensive line — improved through free agency and the draft — or the quarterback situation; it’s special teams as a whole that could make or break the Vikings’ upcoming season.

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WARNING: Do Not Draft Kickers & Punters

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Minnesota Vikings find themselves in a bit of a special teams quagmire with the NFL draft quickly approaching.

Blair Walsh, a sixth-round pick in 2012, was notably released this past November and subsequently replaced by former undrafted free-agent kicker Kai Forbath. The Jeff Locke roller coaster, which began with the Vikings selecting the former UCLA punter during the fifth round in 2013, came to a decisive end when he bolted for Indianapolis during free agency this offseason. He has since been replaced on Minnesota’s roster by a pair of previously undrafted punters in Texas Tech’s Taylor Symmank and Boston College’s Ryan Quigley.

Forbath, who connected on 15 of 15 field-goal tries and 11 of 14 extra-point attempts after joining Minnesota ahead of Week 11 in 2016, offers — at the very least — a short-term solution to the Vikings’ kicking situation. Symmank and the recently-signed Quigley, on the other hand, are set to battle it out for the punting job vacated by Locke, but — similar to Forbath — do not necessarily represent definitive long-term options.

Point being, Minnesota is potentially (still) in the market for an upgrade at kicker, punter or both — and the Vikings should refrain from investing any of their very limited draft capital on either special teams position during any round of the 2017 NFL draft.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Back in early February, Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee announced his retirement from the NFL in order to join Barstool Sports. This set off a chain of events, which ultimately left the Minnesota Vikings without a punter following Jeff Locke’s decision to join the Colts during free agency.

Locke bolting for Indianapolis left the Vikings without a battle-tested punter on their active roster  — until now. According to the team website, Minnesota has agreed to terms with former New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals punter Ryan Quigley:

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