Changing Of The Punter: Trust The Vikings

Oct 2, 2011; Kansas City, MO, USA; Minnesota Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell (8) kicks off in the first half of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 22-17. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

It was around this time last year that the Vikings released a key Special Teams player by the name of Ryan Longwell.  The Vikings replaced the veteran Kicker with a rookie in the draft by the name of Blair Walsh.  To many Vikings fans, this was an unpopular move and left them wondering if the rookie could live up to the high standard that was set by Longwell.  Longwell had been very consistent as the Vikings Kicker, but was starting to lack the ability to kick it deep.

Jan 5, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh (3) kicks a field goal in the first quarter of the NFC Wild Card playoff game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Fast forward to the end of last season.  We discovered that Blair Walsh not only has the power and accuracy to kick field goals, but can be a master on kickoffs.  Walsh also made a couple game winning kicks which showed he has the ability to to be a clutch kicker as well as connect on kicks in the cold weather.  Some of them were from a long, long distance.  Soon, fans forgot about Ryan Longwell and started praising Blair Walsh for his impressive skills.

Sept 3, 2011; Houston, TX, USA; UCLA Bruins punter Jeff Locke (18) kicks an onside kick against the Houston Cougars during the fourth quarter at Robertson Stadium. Houston won 38-34. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

This year, we are in a similar situation.  The Vikings used a mid round draft pick on Punter Jeff Locke from UCLA.  Locke shows a lot of flexibility and promise as a player.  Locke can really do it all as a Punter.  Not only can he punt with excellent power and accuracy, but he is a fantastic holder on kicks and can even handle kickoff or field goal duties if needed.  He has all the skills to be an excellent Punter at the next level.

Oct 9, 2011; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe (4) against the Arizona Cardinals at the Metrodome. The Vikings defeated the Cardinals 34-10. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Fans are skeptical again though.  This time, the veteran that was released was Punter Chris Kluwe.  Although Kluwe is still a good punter, he had dropped to being rated as in the bottom half of the league and had a couple pretty awful looking punts last year.  Despite his struggles, Kluwe was still a fan favorite in Minnesota.  His activity on social media really helped fans embrace him.  He is well known for his political activism and outspoken nature.  Many fans are very upset to see him go.

The advice to give these fans is this:  trust the Vikings.  They made an excellent decision with Blair Walsh that paid off very well last year.  Before sending the new Punter angry tweets or over reacting about Kluwe’s release, remember that the Vikings have a direction they want to go with this team and fans should just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Topics: Blair Walsh, Chris Kluwe, Jeff Locke, Minnesota Vikings, Ryan Longwell

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  • dave

    exactly,don’t overreact..Kluwe is not the same player as the years before,plus they want to get every position younger…. It’s going to be an amazing season,and the future of this team is going to even better.. Rick Speilman and the whole staff are doing great,keep it up guys

  • robb

    Just as Walsh outshined Longwell so will Locke quickly eclipse Kluwe. Great move by Spielman. He and his staff can sure find and unlock talent.Locke will provide great field position. Spielman is molding this team perfectly.

  • Rob

    The reaction over Kluwe has really surprised me. Fans all say “He had his 2d best yards per punt average last year!” — but they don’t realize that he ranked 18th in the NFL. I don’t care how good he did compared to himself. I care how he ranks league-wide. Bottom half es no bueno. And for punts downed inside the 20, he was 31st in the league. Almost dead last. 32 punters, and he ranks #18 in one key stat, and #31 in another. I would have expected fans to be cheering the move. And last, for those people who say a 5th round pick is a waste on a punter — who else could you draft in the 5th round who is a lock to make the roster and last 8-12 years? Nate Tripplett? Chris DeGeare? John David Booty? They sure didn’t pan out too well. Incidentally, those were the last 3 players the Vikings selected in the 5th round before Locke. All are gone. Locke will stick. That’s smart drafting by Spielman. Fans also seem to underestimate the importance of a good punter. They’ll cheer like crazy when the opposing team’s offense gets called for a false start penalty or when the QB takes a 5 yard loss on a sack, but they fail to realize a good punter can get you that same extra 5 yard field position advantage several times per game — much more consistently than you can count on a sack or penalty. It was a great draft, and I’ll bet right now that Locke will silence these fans by the end of his rookie year.