Last year’s Vikings season, well, it lived on clutch kicks.
5 of the 11 one-score victories were won on the boot of Greg “The Leg” Joseph, including a monstrous 61-yard winner against the New York Giants in Week 16. This mark was good enough to tie the NFL record for game winning kicks in a season.
The Vikings already had the NFC North wrapped up by then, but that took nothing away from the disbelief that emanated from the right sole of Joseph. It was as fitting a Christmas present the team could give us fans.
While Joseph shined in the clutch, he was a different kicker when The Vikings weren’t depending exclusively on him... Missing an NFL-high 13 kicks.
Joseph was ultimately 26-33 (78.6%) on the season on FGs, but a more worrying stat, and one that put The Vikings in some perilous waters at times, was his 40-47 (87%) on XPs.
Joseph finished the season only 19th in FG% among kickers with at least 30 attempts, and that (honestly, pretty bad) 87% on XPs was well below the league average of 94.6%.
But, I don't expect Vikings fans to be up in arms about it. After so many seasons of good-to-great kicking all for naught by way of a terrible miss (looking at you Daniel Carlson and Blair Walsh), it was refreshing to have a kicker rise to the occasion time and time again when it really mattered.
Well, the team felt the same way I do, and offered Joseph a 1-year deal worth 2 million ($1.7 guaranteed), down slightly from his previous contract of 1yr/$2.43 mil. Joseph signed on March 14th.
Who is is competition in training camp you ask?
None other than reigning SEC Special Teams Player of the Year, Jack Podlesny. Coming out of college unsigned, “Hot Pod” started 3 out of his 5 years for the Georgia Bulldogs and comes to the Vikings on the heels of 2 straight national championship victories.
His college stats and accolades are pretty remarkable, but they have to be when kicking for the best team in the land.
2022 - 73/74 on XPs 26/31 on FGs, Longest 50 yds. 1-3 on 50+.
2021 - 71/72 on XPs, 22/27 on FGs, Longest 49, 0/0 on 50+.
2020* - 38/38 on XPs, 13/16 on FGs, Longest 53, 3/3 on 50+.
(*- Played 10 games instead of 15 after winning the starting role)
In the 2021 Peach Bowl, Podlesny hit his career-longest 53 yarder with :03 seconds left, winning Georgia the game and himself the Peach Bowl MVP.
This kid is used to winning, and doing so in a high pressure environment. He’s played all the primetime games, and he’s played well in them.
Podlesny was named to the 2022 AP and Coaches All-SEC First Team, and even had a solo tackle against TCU in CFP National Championship. In the 2021 CFP National Championship, Podlesny his his longest of the season (49 Yds) against Alabama.
While it is widely expected that Joseph will return for his 3rd season as the starting kicker for the Vikes, Special Teams Coordinator Matt Daniels didn't rule anything out.
“It is a kicking competition,” said Daniels to reporters. “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.”
With the position of Kicker a fickle occupation at-best in the modern NFL, I hope that Joesph holds on long enough for Podlesny to get his leg strength up to the NFL level, and from there take over the reigns once that time comes.
A kicker with as much pedigree as Podlesny is hard to come by, and he has a great chance to take the time to develop appropriately so that one day he might be a star for the Vikings.