Imagine how different this season would have been had the Vikings lost the first game of the season. A loss to the lowly Jaguars? I know at that point in the year we didn’t know how bad the Jags would actually turn out, but the whole outlook on the season would have changed. I’m sure we would get a lot of “ughh…Here we go again. Another brutal season”. So what if the Vikings had kept Ryan Longwell and never drafted Blair Walsh? When Longwell was a Viking, he missed 6 field goals from 50+ yards out. In Walsh’s first NFL game he booted a game tying 55 yard field goal to force OT with the Jaguars. Longwell only hit ONE field goal from 55 yards out. Does Longwell make that kick? Assuming the space-time continuum remains the same, I don’t think he hits it. The Vikings start the year 0-2, low on confidence, low on hope. Walsh has changed all that, the 4-2 Vikings are full of optimism, and the playoffs are within reach.
So far on the year, Walsh, a 6th round draft pick out of Georgia, has only missed one field goal in 17 tries. The rookie has taken many people by surprise, he’s currently 3rd in NFL scoring with 60 points (16 FGs, 12 XPT). In training camp, I had a hunch he was going to be something special. After finishing the preseason 1 FG off the league lead, I took him with my last round pick in my fantasy draft. I was called crazy, but I knew. Boy have I been right, fantasy gold! Number one scoring kicker in my league!
Walsh’s contributions do go deeper than the scoreboard. Every time he kicks off, the Vikings defense gets a boost. Walsh is currently tied for the league lead in kickoff touchbacks with 24 (5 games in), while only kicking it off 34 times. (In comparison, the most touchbacks Ryan Longwell ever had in a season was 19). Of those 10 times Walsh has failed to kick a touchback, opponents have been kept inside their own 20 four times, meaning opposing teams have only started outside of their own 20 a grand total of 6 times! That makes it incredibly difficult for the Vikings rivals, as driving 80 yards on offense is a very tall task.
How much does Blair Walsh mean to the Vikings? From pinning opponents inside their own 20, nailing extremely clutch 50+ yard field goals when called upon, and reliably hitting other 3-pointers, I’d say he’s more vital than you think. The Vikings future is bright with “Legtimus Prime”, this 22 year-old can kick.
Follow Jack Arfin on twitter : @VikingsSundays