Vikings Have Real Competition at One Infamous Roster Spot

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

If you’ve attended Minnesota Vikings training camp any summer since Blair Walsh’s demise, you’ve probably caught some semblance of a kicking competition.

Vikings Have Real Competition at One Infamous Roster Spot

That’s how the world works, as the club has failed to nail down a long-term, consistent kicker since Walsh’s blunder in the 2015 postseason. Walsh manned the kicker’s job wonderfully for four years before the shady and frigid moment versus the Seattle Seahawks at TCF Bank Stadium in that January Arctic fest.

And even though incumbent Vikings kicker Greg Joseph was cold-blooded last year, connecting on five game-winning kicks, the man is embroiled in an honest-to-goodness kicker battle this July and August.

Source? The special teams coach.

Particular Defender Turns Back the Clock + Week 16 Takeaways
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Vikings special teams coordinator Matt Daniels told reporters last week about the kicker job, “It is a kicking competition.”

There is no interpretive flair to be gleaned from the comment — there’s a kicker battle.

Competition at One
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“Last year, we had Jordan Berry, we had Mr. (Ryan) Wright. It was a punting competition. This year, we have Greg Joseph and Jack Podlesny, and it’s a kicking competition. The goal is — we’re looking to compete at every single aspect, every single level of every single position. It is a kicking competition between those two,” Daniels elaborated.

Ryan Wright, an undrafted-free-agent underdog at this time last year, won the punter job — and never looked back. In fact, within a few months, he morphed into one of the NFL’s best punters. Minnesota may be eyeing a likeminded fate for Podlesny, a — you guessed it — UDFA kicker.

We Left At Halftime
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The Vikings finally found an ice-water-in-veins kicker and should not let him go — that’s the theory held by many Vikings loyalists regarding Joseph. And to a degree, they’re not wrong. Joseph drilled those five game-winning field goals in 2022, and that cold-blooded swagger doesn’t grow on trees. The aforementioned Walsh will tell you all about it. In fact, after Joseph mind-bogglingly missed a game-winning field goal in 2021 at the Arizona Cardinals, he hasn’t let Minnesota down in a crucial late-game situation. That’s invaluable.

However, this is the Joseph paradox:

Greg Joseph,
NFL Rankings,
in 2022:

Game-Winning Field Goals = 1st
FG Conv % = 28th
Extra Point Conv % = 31st

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Joseph is ‘worth it’ if only to retain the clutch, end-of-game kicking. But the long-term dream should be finding a kicker who can always excel — not just with two minutes left.

That’s where Podlesny enters the chat — maybe.

The man kicked for Georgia, a team that routinely plays in high-stakes games. One must have an unwavering spine to stay the Bulldogs kicker. Podlesny led the NCAA in scoring last year with 151 points, so he has the ‘volume guy’ attribute on his resume. He also connected on 83.9% of field goal attempts, the third-best mark in the country. The man is accurate.

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The knock on Podlesny, at least during the 2023 NFL draft lead-up, was leg strength. But then he was booming kicks at Vikings minicamp in June, perhaps dispelling erroneous narratives. If Podlesny can show off some semblance of a big leg at training camp, he can absolutely win the Vikings kicker job.

All you must do to believe is follow Daniels’ words, especially the part about Wright unexpectedly winning the punter job over Berry last year. The Vikings have done it before and could do it again on special teams, promoting an UDFA in the place of a solid veteran.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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