I did a week or two ago on Vikings new Special Teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf, and how he might take a more aggressive approach to the special teams units.
And with the recently acquired Kicker / Punter Kaare Vedvik and the release of Kevin McDermott, it looks like a complete review as well.
Out with the old guard, In with the younger and more dynamic
Last season, the Vikings had 31-year-old Marcus Sherels returning points, sometimes kicking. A job he had managed to hold for several years. This year, it may be a mix of 26-year-old Ameer Abdullah, 25-year-old Chad Beebe and possibly 25-year-old Jeff Badet or 22-year-old Bisi Johnson taking over this information.
Last year, 29-year-old Kevin McDermott was a long-snapper for the Vikings. This year, 21
And last year, 31-year-old Dan Bailey was kicker. But after trading with 25-year-old Kaare Vedvik, his days as a Viking seem to be numbered.
Even 27-year-old Matt Wile is at risk, as Vedvik has produced better statistics recently as a punter.
And in just a few days, the average age of the Viking specialists can decrease by about 6 years. But the reason is not just age, as kickers are one of the few positions that have produced quality artists in the 40s.
Just like all other positions, specialists are rated for performance – and unless you perform at a high level your job is at risk in the NFL.
For a long-snapper, snap speed, accuracy and consistency are the most valued characteristics, followed by size, athleticism, blocking and coverage ability. The faster you can get the ball to the player or holder, the more time they have to get the ball away. Every second counts. But just as important is accuracy and consistency – to place the ball in exactly the right place, with the cords in the right way each time and at the same fast speed each time. Just like a well oiled and calibrated machine. If speed and / or placement varies too much, it can throw a kicker's timing or contact a little – which can make the difference between 3 points or a turnover decline.
Austin Cutting has better speed on his snaps than McDermott, and on his pro day was not only praised for it, but very consistent ball placement and even rotation so the tips are always consistently away from the kicker.
For kickers, it is about two things: accuracy and distance.
In terms of accuracy, 85% + is acceptable for field goal attempts, and pretty much 98% + for extra point attempts.
Dan Bailey is 6th in the zero career field goal percentage of active kickers, but he only hits a 75% cut in the last year or so, including in training camp this month. It's just not good enough.
Kaare Vedvik, although still unproven as he has not played in any regular season games, has done over 90% of his field goals in pre-season games back to last year, and did so in training camps as well.
The second aspect of kicks is distance – both "makeable" range as field goal kicker and distance at kickoffs.
For Dan Bailey, his available range is within 50 meters at this time, as he has gone 7/13 from the 50+ range over the past three years. Even the 40-49 yard area is more problematic, as he only went 4/9 from that interval last year.
In terms of average kickoff distance, Bailey & # 39; s average kickoff landed on the 2 yard line last season, with a 4.01 "hang time.
By contrast, Kaare Vedvik has shown better range in his field goal attempts, as he scored all his goals for the 50 meter spring season, including all 4 from the 40-49 yard range, while he scored 1-2 on 50+ goals in the field.
And in terms of kickoff distance, Vedvik's kickoffs are on average about 4 meters deep in the end zone. It's six feet longer than Bailey, and that difference makes a big difference in the number of touchbacks.
In both important dimensions – accuracy and distance – Vedvik looks like an improvement over Bailey in recent years. He is still unproven when it comes to regular season action, but he has clearly shown the ability to surpass Bailey, he just needs to show that he can do it in real games and in pressure situations.
For players, it is about distance and hanging time, with directional points and points within 20 points also important. Generally, 44 yards with a 4.4 ”hanging time, or better, is what the team wants from a punter. These two statistics together, when they are achieved, usually do not result in many points recovery as the coverage units can get there in time to prevent a lot of returns.
27-year-old Matt Wiles statistics last season were "it's a shame – 45.2 yards per pound gross, with a 4.43" hang time.
Vedvik had two points last week in the spring period averaging 55.5 yards and a 4.56 "hang time. That represents a significant improvement over his season average of 46.8 yards per point and a hang time of 4.27". Hard to say if the extra distance has come from training over the past year and will continue – he had some distance in 2018 too – or if it was just a couple of positive throws.
It's hard to say if Vedvik is a better directional putt than Wile, or if he's better at landing points deep inside in 20 than Wile, but these two skills are also important for players.
If Vedvik's newer out-performance proves to be sustainable in continued pre-season action, it could create a bit of a dilemma for the Vikings – if they should join Vedvikin both roles – with greater injury risk – or settle for slightly worse points to minimize the risk.
There is also a third option: keeping Wile as a backup pitcher (and kicker as well) and holder. Wile may then be trained and used as a more specialized punter (for example, points deep inside 20), and a holder that can perform forgeries. Not sure he has what it takes for these roles, but that's a thought.
Although it seems that Matt Wile can continue as a holder of special teams, other guys have been given the opportunity to test their skills as a holder. I suspect Special Teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf is looking for a more dynamic player in the position that creates more threat of a fake and can actually pull it off, but we'll see what happens. I do not know of anyone else who has received any extended representatives as holders in addition to the first test.
Still, I wouldn't be surprised if an offensive skill player is eventually trained to become a holder, because I suspect that's what Maalouf is looking for.
First and foremost, ball safety is first and foremost. For many years, Marcus Sherels proved to be exceptionally reliable when it comes to avoiding turnovers. According to PFF, Sherels had just one muffed return throughout his career with the Vikings – and five TD rebounds.
But perhaps more insightful, almost half the time he went to return a score, he demanded and made a fair catch. That means roughly half the time, the most important thing a point scorer can do is catch the ball – and not dampen it. And when you have wind and light to contend with, and big, fast athletes running with full drilling just waiting to put you out, not to mention many thousands of people who sound, and all the pressure that comes with not screwing up too If you can it is a game change, there is an extra difficulty.
Beyond that, there are the unique skills associated with point and kick returns. Vision and judgment are key, followed by good driving and difficult skills – being able to avoid and / or break tackles – and the speed to take it to the house.
Sherel's athleticism was just that, but he had the judgment and vision, along with adequate speed and difficulty, to get some good returns.
At the moment, Ameer Abdullah is listed as the foremost punt and kick return for the Vikings on depth chart. He has greater athletics than Sherel's, and maybe the same or better vision, but he has also had 8 fumbles on 327 cars (like RB) in his career. However, Abdullah has returned 59 kickoffs without turnovers. He has not yet returned a point in a regular season game.
Chad Beebe is also listed as a back-punt returner and may be similar to Sherel's in size and athletic ability. He has only returned a handful of points for the season, and only one last year (a decent catch) during the regular season, so he is not proven as well as a point scorer.
Beebe Beyond, there are more untested alternatives. Bisi Johnson is listed as a backup kick returner, along with Jeff Badet as the primary backup. Both did pretty well with kick returns against the Saints, and Johnson also had a points representative, which was a fair catch. All of these players bring increased athleticism to the job, but ball safety, judgment and vision remain unproven.
Core Special Teamers
In the Vikings preseason game against the Saints, pretty much all players who get the most reps on special teams were not on the active program list last season. Of course, there may be a good reason for that – finding out which deep guys have special teaming skills that the coaching staff doesn't already know about – but still there will be significant turnover in the central special teams units this season.
For example, Brandon Zylstra had the 4th most rehearsals on special teams last season – but looks increasingly likely not to make the playlist. Anthony Harris had the 6th most, but will likely be removed from the special teams service now that he is a starting safety. Holton Hill had the fifth most snaps, but will miss the first eight games of the season. George Iloka had the 8th most and is no longer in the team. C. J. Ham had the 2nd most, and there is at least a chance he doesn't make the team either. All stamped, and including other special teams that are no longer part of the team, probably about 1,200 snaps on special teams must be done by new players. This means that about half of the special team's players are new to the job this season.
The good news is that Holton Hill, Brandon Zylstra and George Iloka were separated on special teams last season, so they can be replaced more easily. However, Ham and Harris were two of the best practitioners, so it would be harder to replace them.
In any case, there are still a lot of new special coordinator Marwan Maalouf's sign for the next three weeks before Atlanta comes to town.  Bottom Line
There are many staff changes in special teams this year, in addition to having a new Special Teams coordinator. At this point, all the main specialists could be new this year, and most will be. In addition, about half of the other players in special teams may also be new to the job this season.
That's a lot of change, and as Ted wrote, it can be a little worrying. That change can provide improvements where it is most needed for special teams – kicking the ball through the stays – but it can also cause (or continue) random errors that have plagued Vikings special teams sometimes, especially recently.
There is also the chance of maybe a bigger playlist for special teams, depending on how good things are with new players, and the various units overall. There is some risk in all this, including the possibility of reusing it.
Maalouf has a pretty good track record, or at least Dolphins special teams units for which he was assistant coach for the past few seasons. And that includes getting good production from beginners and players. Rookie Jason Sanders scored 90% of his field goals last year for the Dolphins, and Cody Parker made 91.3% of his kicks in Miami before moving to Chicago and ending his season last year.
Kaare Vedvik seems to do everything you can to ask for a kicker who has not yet played in a regular season game. Accuracy and distance both well above average. Austin Cutting has a better ability with long batting than McDermott, so there's no reason he can't do as well or better. And the rest of the new special laws can prove to be an overall improvement – who knows.
But there is a lot of coaching and learning to be done and many moving parts. Hopefully, everything will come together in the next few weeks, and suddenly special teams will become more of an asset than a debt this season.
So far it looks good on paper, but we have to wait until the season starts to see the end product.
What do you think of all the changes the Vikings make on special teams?
Upgrades needed, better to make the changes than staying with the status quo
Too many changes – will make it worse
( 2 votes) 94 votes in total