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Will The Vikings Actually Have A Kicker Competition This Year?

Can Jack Podlesny beat out Greg Joseph in training camp?

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

On May 5th 2022, the Minnesota Vikings agreed to terms with undrafted free agent kicker Gabe Brkic. The expectation was that he would compete against the incumbent Greg Joseph in training camp for the starting job. That never came to fruition, because one month later the Vikings waived Brkic and Greg Joseph won the starting job unopposed.

Greg Joseph would go on to have a very inconsistent season for the Vikings. On one hand, it was a career year for Joseph who made a series of clutch field goals in close games. He made a chip shot field goal against the Washington Commanders, capped off the largest comeback in NFL history against the Indianapolis Colts, and most prominently, Joseph nailed a record-breaking 61 yard game winner against the New York Giants in the regular season.

On the other hand, Joseph made just 78.8% of his field goals last season, which ranked in the bottom 5 of starting kickers in 2022. What was even more infuriating was that Joseph only made 87% of his extra points, which ranked as the 3rd worst in NFL that season. Greg has this penchant for making the easiest kicks look impossible, while simultaneously making the most insanely clutch kicks from long distance look easy. He kind of reminds me of Blair Walsh before he missed the 27 yarder, because watching them both was like being on an emotional rollercoaster.

Fast forward to 2023, the Vikings have once again brought in some competition at kicker via undrafted free agency. The competition in question is former Georgia Bulldogs kicker Jack Podlesny who spent three seasons with the Bulldogs. Podlesny is similar to Greg Joseph, in that they both have plenty of experience kicking in big games where the stakes are high. Unlike Greg Joseph, Jack Podlesny struggles kicking from range, making a mere 54% of his field goals from over 40 yards out.

Podlesny’s lack of range, accompanied with the fact that he’s going against someone who has pre-existing chemistry with long snapper Andrew DePaola and punter Ryan Wright, makes it highly improbable that he beats out Greg Joseph for the starting job. That’s disappointing, because this is the second consecutive offseason where the Vikings haven’t fully invested in signing a kicker who is at least top 3 in his draft class. CBS Sports has Jack Podlesny ranked as the 4th best kicker in the 2023 draft class behind Jake Moody, Chad Ryland, and B.T. Potter.

The Vikings shouldn’t be afraid of drafting another kicker with a Day 3 pick. Daniel Carlson’s success with the Las Vegas Raiders proves that being in the right environment surrounded by coaches who are patient and uplifting makes a huge difference. The Vikings have a coach like that in Kevin O’Connell. Last season there were times when Greg Joseph wasn’t fully confident in himself after missing some kicks, but ultimately the team had his back and rallied around him. After the regular season win against the Giants Joseph received a game ball. More importantly, Kevin O’Connell showed his confidence in him and gave him the positive reinforcement that he needed to hear from his head coach.

“You know what though G, that goes all the way back for every single time we let you work. Throughout training camp, every week in practice. Your teammates are always around you. They watch you hit those things in practice over and over, week after week. From that moment right there, game ball for Greg Joseph!”

Greg Joseph was holding back tears of happiness, because he finally had a coach who supported him. One can only imagine the impact Kevin O’Connell would have on a rookie kicker who’s trying to settle into the NFL. Which is why the Vikings should still look for someone who can actually challenge the veteran kicker knowing that the current coaching staff can bring out the best of them. Just like they’ve been doing with Greg Joseph.