The Vikings begin training camp Wednesday. We're previewing camp with a look at each position group. Today: Specialists.
Kickers: Greg Joseph, Riley Patterson
Punters: Britton Colquitt
Long snappers: Andrew DePaola, Turner Bernard
In: K Greg Joseph, K Riley Patterson, LS Turner Bernard
Out: K Dan Bailey, STC Marwan Maalouf
Nearly every part of the Vikings special teams needs improvement. The tasks fall on longtime assistant Ryan Ficken, who enters Year 15 in Minnesota, but his first as coordinator replacing Marwan Maalouf. The to-do list is long. Last year's special teams were dismal, ranking average, at best, in key categories like kick return average (16th), punt return average (last), punt coverage (23rd), kick coverage (24th), field goal percentage (last), and extra-point percentage (29th). The work began this spring with rookies Kene Nwangwu and Ihmir Smith-Marsette fielding kicks and punts as part of the returner competitions. Receiver K.J. Osborn, running back Ameer Abdullah and receiver Chad Beebe are also in the mix.
Journeyman kicker Greg Joseph, the former Buccaneers backup, signed with the Vikings in February, a month before the team released veteran Dan Bailey after a disappointing December. Joseph is the frontrunner with undrafted rookie Riley Patterson also on the roster. Joseph last made all 18 extra-point tries and a field goal for Tennessee in 2019 before being replaced by Stephen Gostkowski. He also hit 17 of 20 field goals for the Browns in 2018, but was replaced by a draft pick the following year. Patterson, an undrafted rookie from Memphis, will start camp on the active/Physically Unable to Perform list, meaning he has a football-related injury that's preventing him from practicing. Patterson missed the end of the spring offseason program with an undisclosed injury. Incumbent long snapper Andrew DePaola, who replaced Austin Cutting in the middle of last season, will compete with undrafted rookie Turner Bernard.
Veteran Britton Colquitt agreed to a pay cut to stay this offseason and is the only punter rostered. The Vikings released undrafted rookie punter Zach Von Rosenberg in the final week of spring practices.
Kicker. Bailey was a consistent leg for the Vikings, making 36 of his first 39 kicks last season before going 3 of 10 in back-to-back games against the Jaguars and Bucs. The December collapse brought yet another kicker competition to Minnesota, where this time the Vikings have little invested in their current options. Whoever wins the job will be the team's fifth different kicker in the last six years.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Joseph. He's on his sixth NFL team, but the 26-year-old kicker has his clearest path to a starting job so far. But there's no shortage of pressure to perform for a team with plentiful weapons on offense and a restocked defense. He has the leg up over Patterson, who needs to be medically cleared to practice before returning.
ONE BIG QUESTION
How many of the questions will be answered? Just about everything is up in the air on special teams, from the team's carousel at kicker and punt returner, to new tasks of replacing running back Mike Boone, a special teams standout, and the leadership of linebacker Eric Wilson and safety Anthony Harris. New names will need to emerge on all phases, and there are many young prospects – Osborn, Smith-Marsette, Nwangwu, receiver Dan Chisena, cornerbacks Kris Boyd and Harrison Hand – with opportunity ahead.