Matt Daniels Is a Self-Confessed Flower Grower
Speaking to the media on Thursday for the Vikings weekly press conference. Minnesota Vikings special teams coordinator Matt Daniels said he was a flower grower. No, he wasn’t talking about his love of all things horticultural. He was referring to his role as the leader of the Vikings special teams unit.
He likened his role to that of a flower grower or florist. He nurtures young, often rookie players. Daniels said, “I’m the guy that’s laying the dirt, building up the roots, watering the plants. Eventually, they bloom and go off and do better things.”
The hope for the players and the team is that they blossom into starting-caliber players. At this point, Daniels waves them goodbye, as they become too important to continue in his unit.
Of the players on the Vikings roster that play on special teams, Daniels singled out DJ Wonnum as one he expects to become a starting outside linebacker. Barring injury, he isn’t going to displace Za’Darius Smith or Danielle Hunter this season, but he has proven he is capable. He was a regular starter last season for Minnesota, in only his second year in the league. After Hunter and Everson Griffen had their seasons cut short, Wonnum’s time will come, whether in Minnesota or elsewhere.
One thing that has been clear this season is that Daniels has got the players to buy into the importance of special teams. The Vikings success this season has largely been down to complimentary football. That means all phases of the game are backing each other up. For some players, special teams are as good as it gets. That was the case with Daniels, who went undrafted in 2012 and only played in three defensive snaps, all in the same game during a four-year NFL playing career.
Nobody dreams of being a special team guy, so getting that buy-in is essential — even more so for the rookies who were high draft picks and stars in college football. Some players, like star wide receiver Justin Jefferson, will never see special teams duty. Most will have to serve their time on special teams, and all of this year’s rookies have played their part, including first-round pick Lewis Cine before his injury.
With leaders like CJ Ham, Kris Boyd, and Josh Metellus, the Vikings have core special teamers who set the standard. The rest of the group follows their lead, which is why big plays are happening on special teams week in and week out. To win games in the NFL, you must find every little edge you can. That’s what the Vikings have been doing this year and why they have a 6-1 record after seven games.
Greg Joseph Kicking Woes
The one concern on special teams right now is Greg Joseph. The Vikings placekicker is enduring an indifferent campaign. He has missed his last five field goals from over 50 yards. Kicks from that distance are by no means easy, however, Joseph has proved those kicks are within his remit. Five misses in a row are disappointing but not cause to hit the panic button because Joseph has been perfect from under 50 yards.
What has been concerning is missed extra points, with Joseph having missed three already this season. It’s a habit that rolled over from last season, where the Vikings kicker missed four. He also missed four when he was a starter for Cleveland in 2018. Missing long-distance field goals is one thing. Regularly missing extra points is a cause for concern.
With the spotlight shining on the Vikings kicker after a missed extra point last week — one which made a possible two-score game into a one-score game, thus making the end of the game more nerve-wracking and stressful than it perhaps should have been — a trip to FedEx Field isn’t an ideal one. The home of the Washington Commanders has come under fire for a poor playing surface and had a reputation for being difficult for kickers.
Matt Daniels has said he’s not worried about Joseph, suggesting they are working on his technique to ensure every kick is always the same. Joseph needs a couple of clean games to settle everything down. If misses continue or worsen, the Vikings will have a decision to make.