The ‘who will replace Marcus Sherels’ question is a tale as old as time. Year in and year out, anyone who follows the Minnesota Vikings is faced with this conundrum. But despite this yearly tradition and those who are sure that THIS is the year Sherels is cut, he comes back to outwork his competition and impress the coaching staff of the Vikings.
Sherels may not be the flashiest of kick and punt returners, his numbers are consistently solid. In 2017, he had his highest yards for punting with 372 and was 7th in the league with his punt return average being 9.5 and had 271 kickoff yards. Solid numbers for someone who only played 20 snaps last season and 45 total under Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
His great playing ability has earned him a one-year contract with Minnesota this year, but with his new contact comes the talk of will he or won’t he make it? And this year, Sherels might have some stiff competition.
Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune reports that first round draft pick Mike Hughes might dethrone Sherels as the special teams guy. While Hughes was at Central Florida he returned two kickoffs and a punt for touchdowns at Central Florida last year which is what puts him on the map for that position.
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said of Hughes, “The kickoffs, he’s very natural catching the ball. Obviously, it’s a much easier ball to catch than end-over-end-type kicks. Punts, he’s come a long way since rookie minicamp. He’s never really been taught how to track a punt, how to catch a punt. We do a lot of film work, a lot of close-up film work that we go over with Mike, and all our returners for that matter, to try to hone those skills. He’s done a really nice job. He’s come a long way. He’s a great athlete, a fast learner, the sky is the limit for Mike. I think he’s going to be a very good returner on both punts and kickoffs.”
But does Priefer’s vote of confidence, and the first-round draft pick, mean that Sherels is out? Not necessarily. The one thing that Sherels has in his corner is that Coach Zimmer likes to take his time and not rush his draft picks. That doesn’t mean that Hughes won’t see playing time, but he will more than likely split time with Sherels while Zimmer and Priefer work with him to get NFL ready.
Sherels only signed a one-year contact with the Vikings, so who knows what beyond this season will bring? But if we learned over the past eight seasons he has been here, don’t count him out just yet.