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The Vikings special teams rotation is troubling

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Maybe it’s the instability

Jacksonville Jaguars v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Good morning kids. I hope the weekend was good to you, and Monday wasn’t cruel. Unfortunately, it was a weekend to forget for a couple of Vikings special teamers, and once again, the special teams unit is undergoing another upheaval.

On Sunday, the Vikings informed long snapper Kevin McDermott that they were going to release him in favor of rookie seventh round draft pick Austin Cutting, second lieutenant, United States Air Force.

I just want to say for the record I have no ill will towards Cutting, and I hope he has a long and prosperous career. It was obvious McDermott’s days were numbered when Minnesota used a draft pick on Cutting, but I’m still trying to understand the ‘why’.

We’ll let Mike Zimmer explain the reasoning for the switch. From his press conference yesterday:

Q: What was the thinking on letting Kevin McDermott go and Austin Cutting winning that job?

A: Honestly, we thought about doing that. We figured we had to get the battery down so we weren’t using two snappers in and out because we’ve got to work on this operations of the field goal and things like that. It really wasn’t anything that Kevin (McDermott) did. Kevin was a terrific team guy here, unbelievable person and it’s just the way it goes sometimes.

Q: What did Austin Cutting do to cement himself in that job?

A: A lot of times it’s being younger. He’s got a little more velocity. He’s a little bit more athletic. Like I said, Kevin (McDermott) didn’t do anything wrong.

Oh. So it wasn’t the current level of actual, you know, experience and talent. They just went with a cheaper, younger player. It happens all the time in the NFL, I get it, but consider: the Vikes are counting on a second lieutenant to not screw up. Based on my experience...that’s a solid plan.

Let’s move on to kicker. Mike Zimmer inherited Blair ‘Legatron’ Walsh when he took over in 2014, and Walsh seemed to be the guy for years to come. He set an NFL record for most 50+ yard field goals in his rookie season in 2012, followed that with another stellar season in 2013, but started to struggle in 2014. And then...you know. Sigh.

He seemed to rebound in 2015, though, and had a good year. But something happened in 2016, and he was released in favor of Kai Forbath about halfway through the season. Forbath was generally money on field goals for the Vikings, but had a baffling penchant to miss extra points. In his season and a half with Minnesota, he missed six field goals, and eight extra points. He was shown the door after the Vikings drafted Daniel Carlson in 2018, which was a surprise to me. The reason I thought Forbath was going to stick around?

No reason, really:

SB Nation

That’s right, Forbath’s last field goal for the Vikings was a 53 yarder in the divisional playoffs against the Saints, which gave Minnesota a 23-21 lead with under two minutes to play. It’s overshadowed by the miracle, but it’s the most clutch field goal in playoff history for this franchise.

And for his efforts, he was released in favor of Carlson.

Oh, Carlson? He lasted two games, and after missing three field goals in a week two tie at Green Bay, the Vikings cut him for Dan Bailey. When the Vikings signed Bailey, he was the second most accurate kicker in NFL history.

He is now the fourth most accurate kicker in NFL history. Carlson, you ask? He missed all of one field goal for the Raiders after they signed him.

After a shaky start to camp, where Bailey’s accuracy was at about 75% if I’m doing my math correctly and I didn’t miss any attempts that were reported, the Vikings pulled the trigger on a trade, acquiring K Kaare Vedvik from the Baltimore Ravens for a fifth round draft pick. Vedvik looks like the real deal, and the Vikings may finally have an answer at kicker:

The Vikings still don’t know if he will kick, punt, do both, or play guard. We do know that yesterday the Vikings were having Bailey hold, though:

Zimmer said later that P Matt Wile, the regular holder, had cut his finger in the Saints game and needed stitches, which is why Bailey was doing the holding. Still, though, that seemed pretty cold.

Oh, speaking of WIle, if he makes the roster, he will be the first punter to last more than one season since 2016. Jeff Locke was the punter when Zimmer took over, and made it through the 2016 season. In 2017, the Vikes went with Ryan Quigley, and last year Wile won the job.

As to the holder? The Vikings have tried several guys out so far in training camp, but it appears that Wile may be the guy based on the Vedvik trade. But I don’t know if that’s definitive.

So, what the point in all of this? Maybe it’s all the turnover that’s causing the instability in the kicking game. Let Ben Goessling get to the brass tacks:

Goessling also mentions that since 2012, the Vikings have spent more draft picks on kickers, punters, and long snappers than any team in the NFL. They also have, arguably, the most instability on special teams in the NFL in that time period as well.

In football, talent is important, yes, but so is stability. Each unit on the field needs time to work together to gel. We hear it all the time about the offensive line, and that’s probably the most important group that needs all five guys working as one.

I would also argue that this applies to the specialists, too. Timing is critical in snapping, holding, and kicking, and practice and repetition is important. With all the turnover at these positions, I think there may be something to this.

Hopefully, with the the long snapper decided, combined with the trade for Vedvik, means that the Vikings finally have settled on their specialists for now and the near future.

With the youth of both (Cutting is a rookie, Vedvik is in his second season), maybe this period of instability is finally over.