Will Jalen Reagor Solve the Vikings Punt Return Problems? 

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Aug 12, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor . Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

Coming into the 2022 season, the wide receiver position was an area of strength for the Minnesota Vikings. However, it wasn’t a huge surprise when the Vikings moved to bring in a new face, particularly one with history as a punt returner.

Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Jalen Nailor battled for the role, failing to impress. As a result, the Vikings looked for somebody new. Consequently, does Jalen Reagor solve the Vikings punt return problems?

The Vikings certainly hope so. They traded a 2023 7th-round pick and a conditional 2024 4th-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for his services. They then waived Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who looked locked in as the Vikings WR4 after impressing at the backend of his rookie season. Failing to consolidate the punt return role seems to have cost Smith-Marsette his job. I expected the Vikings to roster six receivers and release a player from another position. That continues not to be the case.

Understandably, bringing in a wide receiver that can field the punts made sense for the Vikings. However, a look at Reagor’s time as the Eagles punt returner is grim viewing — like the rest of his time in Philadelphia. He started by muffing his first punt return and ended his time in Philly by muffing two punts in the Eagles playoff game with the Buccaneers back in January. He’s hardly coming to Minnesota with fond memories of punt returning.

Muffed Punts

This is not reassuring if Reagor was in as the Week 1 punt returner. As a wide receiver, Reagor is a reclamation project. The Vikings hope receivers coach Keenan McCardell can enhance his growing reputation and unlock the talent that saw Reagor drafted in the first round. If he does, that would be a bonus for the Vikings. His time in Philadelphia left Reagor’s confidence battered and bruised. My concern would be that some early special teams mistakes would stop the attempted rebuild of the new Vikings receiver in its tracks.

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Jalen Reagor. © Danielle Parhizkaran / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The Vikings problems with punt returners in recent seasons have been so bad that Dede Westbrook just showing reasonable ball security was cause for celebration. Westbrook didn’t possess that “home run hit” potential and never looked likely to run one back for a touchdown. Reagor does have that in his locker; it’s just not been seen much in the NFL. He does have one 74-yard punt return touchdown against the Green Bay Packers on his resume. Worryingly, he dropped the ball and gathered it on the second attempt on that play too.

Hopefully, Reagor can put the pressure of being a 1st round pick and “the guy who got drafted before Justin Jefferson” behind him. A fresh start in Minnesota is a great chance for him to rebuild his career. Whether he solves the Vikings immediate problems at punt returner remains to be seen. It looks like he will get the first chance at it while he settles in and learns the Vikings system and playbook. 

Fingers crossed for his sake that it all goes smoothly if he’s called upon in Week 1 against the Packers. The last thing he needs is a shaky start in purple.


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