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Special Teams Observations: Marcus Sherels Makes Mark, Stefon Diggs Inactive for Vikings’ Loss to 49ers

Sherels Continues to Make Plays on Special Teams

Admittedly, there were not many silver linings to speak of in last night’s 20-3 loss to San Francisco. Austin touched on a few of the larger positives from the game, but let’s add one more to the list: Marcus Sherels.

Coach Mike Priefer utilized Sherels heavily on special teams, and the cornerback came up with two nice plays. Every year, Sherels looks like he will be on the bubble prior to final roster cuts, but each season he wrestles his way onto the final 53 and establishes a role for himself.

Sherels’ Monday Night highlight came off a great first quarter defensive play by safety Andrew Sendejo, who started over Robert Blanton. Sendejo blocked Phil Dawson’s 28-yard field goal attempt, and Sherels recovered the ball, continuing for a 44-yard return deep into Vikings territory. The play looked to swing the momentum in the Vikings favor, but they found themselves unable to capitalize on Sherels’ return and came away scoreless.

In the second quarter, Sherels fielded a 49ers punt at the 23-yard line and fought his way to the 32 for a nine-yard return. Although not a huge gain, any time a player is able to avoid the fair catch and move the ball forward is a positive.

The one blunder for Sherels came exactly in that fashion: attempting a return when he shouldn’t have. With 8:57 remaining in the first half, Sherels should have signaled for a fair catch but decided against it, and he advanced nowhere other than straight into San Francisco safety James McCray. Looking back at the play, one has to credit Sherels for not fumbling after that decision.

Overall, especially considering the theme of the game, Sherels re-established himself as a very capable part of the Vikings roster and special teams corps.

Diggs’ Delayed Debut

The Vikings decided to delay Stefon Diggs’ Vikings debut, making him the only one of six receivers to not dress for Monday’s game.

Although the Star Tribune‘s Matt Vensel said there were “no surprises” in the list of inactives, plenty of people expressed disappointment that the rookie wouldn’t play in the season opener.

It was especially easy for fans to complain about Diggs’ absence from the game when things went so poorly, although a lack of receivers was not the team’s issue. During the preseason, Diggs was most utilized on special teams, and it is safe to say Vikings supporters are eager to see the rookie break out his first regular-season punt return.

During the Vikings’ Aug. 9 game against the Steelers, Diggs came up with a 62-yard return, getting tripped up just short of the goal line.

Minnesota utilized Sherels for punt returns Monday, and Cordarrelle Patterson served the role of kick returner.

When the Vikings do activate Diggs, they will have a few different options for where to use him. Priefer will most likely interchange him with Sherels and Patterson for some return work, and he offers more depth to the general receiving corps, as well.

Diggs will certainly have his time to shine—will be interesting to see when and how that happens.

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Lindsey Young

Lindsey Young (Featured Columnist) is a graduate of University of Northwestern – St. Paul and is an avid Minnesota sports fan[atic]. It’s been argued females don’t know much about sports, but she begs to differ. Her work has been featured on Bleacher Report,, and Fox Sports North. In addition to her work with VT, Lindsey is a contributing writer for Canis Hoopus, runs a bi-monthly fan feature for and is a freelance writer for You can read her blog at Making the Call and follow her on Twitter.

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