Oct 13, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings punter Jeff Locke (18) punts to the Carolina Panthers in the third quarter at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. Panthers win 35-10. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Vikings 2013 Rookie Review: Jeff Locke


 

So far in the Vikings 2013 Rookie Review, we’ve looked at how the Vikings first four selections in the 2013 NFL Draft did in their rookie seasons.

We’ve now come to the fifth, and perhaps most controversial, rookie the Vikings selected in the 2013 Draft.

The Vikings selected punter Jeff Locke from UCLA with the 155th overall pick, making a wave that wouldn’t fully come around until the following offseason.

Draft Day

Locke was the first punter selected in the 2013 draft, which was an interesting move for the team because they already had a veteran punter in Chris Kluwe. Kluwe at the time held several Vikings franchise records for punting, including career punting average. Rumors immediately began to circulate that the team was now willing to part with Kluwe because of his outspoken views.

2013 Season

The Vikings official stance was that Locke and Kluwe would “compete” for the punting job in training camp, but just a short time later Kluwe was cut. The move made sense in that Locke was a younger, cheaper option at the position, but that didn’t stop rumors circulating about Kluwe’s untimely exit.

Kluwe later released a Deadspin piece decrying the way the Vikings handled the situation and claiming special teams coordinator Mike Priefer used homophobic language, which certainly brought Locke some unwanted publicity.

Locke opened up the 2013 season as the team’s starting punter and holder for field goals, and like most rookies he had some struggles adjusting to the NFL. His leg tended to be erratic early in the season, with some huge punts but also a few that died quickly in the air.

He had a few shaky holds on field goals as well, and he may have contributed to a few of Blair Walsh’s misses this season.

Locke finished his rookie season with an average net of 44.2 yards on his punts, which ranked him 22nd in the NFL. Now, it’s worth noting that Vikings punters are instructed to take some heat off their kicks, so Locke’s ranking isn’t completely indicative of his relative value in the NFL.

Expectations for 2014

Locke will be the Vikings starting punter in all likelihood again in 2014, as well as the field goal holder, and the key for him will now be consistency. He will have to simply work on erasing nerves and eliminating some of the lesser punts he kicked last year.

Another year working on holding for Walsh should also hopefully increase the chemistry between the two, which should lead to better production from the Vikings field goal unit.

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Tags: Chris Kluwe Jeff Locke Vikings

  • Tillman

    “The Vikings official stance was that Locke and Kluwe would “compete” for the punting job in training camp, but just a short time later Kluwe was cut.’

    ……Kluwe refused to compete with Locke in training camp and was the reason he was cut so quickly after Locke arrived. While the Vikes might have been looking to cut Kluwe, he did not help his case when he was given the chance to fight for his job and he refused.

    No position in the NFL is a given–everyone has to prove themselves.

    I am a fan of Kluwe, but his time of playing was up as are hundreds of others each year in the league…he just made more noise on his way out.

    • Daniel Laxen

      Never heard that he refused to compete…What I do know is that the Vikings, and some fans, claimed his punting had been going the wrong direction average wise, but here someone says that Locke was told to take some heat off his punts…That sounds exactly to what Kluwe was referring to in his statement about why his average suffered and nobody was buying that…Can’t be both ways…

      • Tillman

        Kluwe’s kicking was changing to increase the hang time vs distance, so in that case he is correct. He also had a few poor kicks that decreased his average.

        He refused to kick against Locke in training camp because he felt he would not be given a fair chance. Whether that is true is unknown, but his refusal did not help his case to keep him on the team.

        Then there was the case with his salary. He was to be making over a million a season and Locke would be coming in at a third of that. The “exact” same situation happened a year before when they replaced veteran kicker Longwell with Walsh. There were no complaints from Longwell about his replacement, and Kluwe did not protest.

        The situation of replacing older players for younger ones is not unique–it happens “every” season in the NFL. Kluwe just could not accept that he would be replaced eventually and was bitter at the team for doing so.

        • Daniel Laxen

          Yeah, I understand the cap relief aspect…The Vikings should have been up front and Kluwe knew it was coming. The way it was handled seemed all too familiar with how Spielman operates…Longwell was dumped, Winfield was dumped, Kluwe was dumped. I really doubt that Spielman had ANY thought of resigning another of my favorite players in Jared Allen. Griffen better start being the player we always heard he was now…Yet he’ll hang onto his turd 1st round pick in Ponder. That is all about his EGO…In my opinion Spielman should have been fired before Frazier..Again had it not been for AP’s 2000 yard season Spielman wouldn’t be dog gone. He’d be LONG GONE!…

          • Tillman

            Yeah, I wished we had made greater efforts to keep Winfield, Williams and Allen….but I also realize its a business and sentiment should not play a part. Every player should be worried about losing their position each season—it’ll only make them work harder and not take their job for granted. It looks like Kluwe thought his job was safe and did not seem to put as much effort in as he probably should have.

            Ponder was a reach and (IMO) they were looking to take Jake Locker instead. TN took him at “8″ and we chose him. To be fair, Ponder was rated by many as the “most ready” to play in the NFL and we took a shot. I don’t think we did him any favors with the play-calling of Musgrave. Of all the changes, his release was the one I wanted the most.

            On Spielman, he had made a number of poor calls, but overall, I am satisfied with his moves. I hope this upcoming draft strengthens my support of him.

          • Dylan Throldahl

            Read my comment above. Gives better detail behind Speilman but i was not aware that the vikes were interested in Locker. And J have been saying ponder has good enough skills to be a good QB never great or higher than just good. But our play call sucked. People blame ponder for only doing screens and 2 yard passes but they never gave him freedom to do more.

          • Daniel Laxen

            Ponder was so limited it was pathetic. I love how people say Musgrave was horrible, but he was handcuffed by Ponder. Then you had AP running wild. He shrank the playbook to protect Ponder. Watch those games. He called short passes early to try and give Ponder confidence. Ponder just kept making mistakes. He was such a bad decision maker when it counted. I’m not saying Musgrave was a genius by any stretch. His offense was difficult to watch that’s for sure, but when Cassel was put in in London we saw what could have been when the ball is released on time and in rhythm. Ponder couldn’t do it! He refused to trust his reads. His footwork was awful. Running shortened his run in Minnesota as he couldn’t stay healthy. Maybe he is a decent back up in this league? I’m not sold on that even…Sticking with Ponder was Spielman’s EGO at work. Then the decision to sign Freeman and play him after 12 days at the facility. Again that was Spielman and the musical chairs continued. Leslie was at least true to his word to Ponder. Spielman hung Frazier out to dry…Don’t get me started on his free agent moves either. Jennings and Carlson? There’s some production!…Spielman was responsible for that defense last year too…ZERO talent and absolutely no depth at CB, or LB. Did I mention at DT too? Yeah, there too!

          • Dylan Throldahl

            For one Spielman is one of the unknown good general managers. Do you see the vikes have any cap issues or over pay frequently on players. He is also a genius at the draft maybe not scouting but figuring out the draft he is a master. Ponder is still on the team cause it would cost the vikes the same amount of money “cap” weather they released him or keep him. How many players has spielman drafted that are on the rise still with team and are starters…. Sullivan was a seventh round pick Fusco a sixth i think. Sanford a sixth or seventh round Walsh Sixth. Wright a fourth. I am impressed with Spielman, hope he stays plus Allen didnt play well early and didnt give 100% either until the end of year, in a contract year he has skill but no more effort it was time to let him go. I do still wish they had talked to Winfield though he gave this team his all and we from what i read went about it just wrong.

          • Tillman

            The Vikes have historically been pretty good at managing their cap and have never really gotten into any major issues with players. Trading for Allen, picking AD and the last two drafts have yielded pretty good results for Spielman and I am anxious to see what he does this year. .

            Last season was hard for anyone to really play up to their standards; being a down (for him) year for Allen from a performance standpoint made any real attempts to resign him questionable. I am happy for the signing of Griffith and the others to shore up our defense and know they will have a positive affect, but that left little left to put together a deal for Allen. I am glad that he continues to play as he wants and would rather he land with the Bears instead of the Packers or Lions within our division.

            Agree about Winfield, but we made an offer and he refused it. Whether he would have accepted more is unknown. I was sad to see him retire after being released by Seattle, but the fact that he did not land elsewhere perhaps indicated that he was through with football as a whole and would not have had much impact with the team if resigned.

            Afraid Ponder may be done as a Viking after the season, but I believe he has a legitimate chance to realistically compete for his job “again” with Turner in charge. The play calling from Musgrave was cringeworthy at times and did not play to Ponder’s strengths. I see a plus for whichever QB we use under Turner.

          • Daniel Laxen

            Childress drafted Peterson. he was the guy until 2011 when it came to players. That triangle of authority thing was a way for Spielman to learn…Spielman took over after Childress was fire and they mad him GM the year after. think what you want, but that’s what happened. A coach that simply cuts a guy they just gave a 3rd round pick for wasn’t worried about anybody else. He had just received an extension.

          • http://thevikingage.com Ben Gotz

            While Childress had final authority on personnel, Speilman was the one doing all the leg-work behind the scenes. It’s fair to give him some credits for their hits while he was in the triangle of authority, just like you can give him some blame for their misses in that period. He deserves more credit and blame now with the title of General Manager, but you can’t ignore what he helped with earlier as well.

          • Tillman

            Spielman took over as GM in 2012, but has been with the Vikes since 06. His role in the scouting of players and draft preparations plays a large role in the choices leading up to the draft.

            He might not have had the final say in who is chosen (I do not know the hierarchy within the selection team) but I am sure his views were carefully considered.

            Give him some credit for personnel decisions (both good and bad) during his time prior to him being GM.

            And I’m not saying the guy is a genius or anything, just that the positives have outweighed the negatives.

          • Daniel Laxen

            He took over officially in 2012. he was running the show after Chilly got the axe…

          • Daniel Laxen

            Hahahaha! Ponder, strengths…Where are you performing this weekend…LOL…Just kidding. Don’t be mad!

          • Tillman

            Ponder, like all of us have strengths and weaknesses. A successful coach designs plays that takes advantage of that players ability. Michael Vick is not a traditional pocket QB and does not do well when asked to stay put and pass; Andrew Luck is the opposite and not nearly as effective when flushed out of the pocket and forced to run.

            Musgrave was horrible in his choice of plays and rarely adjusted his play calling as the opposing defense changed. Turner has a reputation for getting the most out of his players. Zimmerman has a the same reputation.

            I’m not a fanboy of Ponder and am looking forward to the next QB to be chosen in this year’s draft, but I’m most excited of replacing Musgrave with Turner and can see better play from our team regardless of whom we decide to use behind the center.

            We can take this to the next level if you want me to critique “your” strengths and weaknesses……..:)

          • Daniel Laxen

            You are dead wrong about Spielman being a genius. Look at the selections in the draft form rounds 3-7 and you’ll see what I refer to. He has exactly 2 starters from that segment since he’s been the man in charge up in Minnesota. That will change of course now that Allen is gone and now that they have brought Brinkley back, presuming he makes the squad and is the starter…If you would like to say Walsh and Locke are starters fine but those are cap selection and they only play special teams. Genius at drafting I think not.

            I’ve posted the results so many times it’s ridiculous. Last year the only 2 starters at one time on the Vikings from rounds 3-7 were Fusco and Robinson, or Fusco and Cole. Cole was released and resigned to be given the starting job after Henderson screwed up, AGAIN…Robinson was so bad he was benched later in the season…The selection of Ponder shows exactly how bad he was. When Locker was taken by the Titans Spielman tried to move back. His price tag for that pick was WAY too high. When that fell through he was backed into a corner and feeling the run on QBs would continue he took a HUGE leap and drafted a late 2nd, early 3rd round talent.

            Drafting talent in rounds 1 and 2 are much less of a crap shoot than doing the due diligence and making selections. Looking at the Vikings draft they have consistently taken need over best available. I don’t knock him for his 1st round picks after Ponder, but when Floyd free falls to you when he was the top rated DT in the draft by many you take that pick. Then a CB like Rhodes is there it’s an automatic. Moving back in the 1st round for Patterson surprised me, as I thought they would take T’eo, but I was OK with that pick even though it seemed as if by signing Jennings they had addressed the issue at WR. Considering Wright seemed like a perfect fit for the slot WR and Childs return would strengthen that position…We see what that pick garnered…Snake eyes and that’s too bad I had hoped that he could solidify WR on the team…

            Then there’s always paying 1st round talent after their 3 years are up and we are starting to move that way now. Don’t really like when the Vikings cultivate talent and then have to let them walk in a cap decision and that’s what is likely to happen when these #1 picks go back to the bargaining table with the Vikings…My guess is he misses again at the QB position and is relieved of his duties when the Vikings move into their new digs…

            All you have to do is look at what the Seahawks roster looked like. There are a half dozen starters on both sides of the ball from the rounds 3-7 and counting undrafted free agent rookies…The Vikings roster is the worst in the league along with the Jaguars in that area…The Browns have many more than the Vikings…

          • http://thevikingage.com Ben Gotz

            I think you’re being a little too harsh on Speilman here. While I agree that his mid-round picks have been almost all disappointing, his track record in the late rounds is actually pretty solid. Don’t forget he was in charge of personnel when the Vikings took late round guys like Sullivan and Sanford. And it’s not like most teams hit on many late round picks anyway. He has to hit his next QB pick though, or he’s done.

          • Daniel Laxen

            See the world Champion Seattle Seahawks roster!

          • http://thevikingage.com Ben Gotz

            Well if every GM had their results compared to John Schneider’s right now, we would have 31 failing NFL GM’s! Pete Carrol and his staff deserve a lot of credit too for putting their players in ideal situations on the field to maximize their skill set. Hard to argue the players Spielman has drafted have always been given the same opportunities. Once again, he’s not perfect by any means and his job security all depends on QB now, but his record in the draft is better than a lot of other GM’s.

          • Daniel Laxen

            Seriously look at the starters and depth players on this team and you will see his shortcomings…Lack of starting quality players isn’t the fault of the coach!…The players on defense the Vikings employed last season were NOT starting quality. Honestly the CB and safety situation was trumped by how bad the LBs were. That is directly the job of the GM. 30 points a game was the result. Frazier losing his job also. The fiasco that is Rick Spielman is right in front of everyone. APs 2000 yard season saved his ass. 1st round draft day hocus pocus only goes so far. Take away APs 2000 yards and you have a team that would be averaging around 4-5 wins the last 3 years…That combined with the selection of Ponder continues to haunt this organization. Those are on Spielman. He should thank Adrian Peterson every day for his employment status…

  • ap2000

    Daniel laxen give spielman three more years then judge him as almost every player and all the coaches will be hand picked by him.THEN WE WILL KNOW FOR SURE ONE WAY OR ANOTHER.

  • cka2nd

    Tillman,

    Can you cite an article or website where Kluwe refused to compete with Locke in training camp? I’ve never heard that before and I could have sworn I read that immediately after the draft he said that he was willing to compete for his job.

    The Kluwe and Longwell cuts were not exactly the same because Longwell was six years older than Kluwe when they were cut, respectively. By any reasonable standard, Longwell was at least near the end of his career while Kluwe, like many other punters and kickers, should have had five or more years left in him.

    I’m not paying for the Premium Stats at Pro Football Focus right now but before my subscription lapsed I reviewed their ratings of Kluwe and Locke. Yes, Kluwe had declined relative to the rest of the punters in the league from his peak in 2009 or 2010 but they still graded him positively overall. In fact, PFF rates players on a game-to-game basis and Kluwe had only one game rated in the red (lower than minus 1) in each of the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Every other game, if memory serves, was rated in the green (above plus 1). So, while Kluwe might have been below average as a NFL punter, he was still competently performing the job of a NFL punter.

    On the other hand, PFF rated Locke negatively for his rookie year and scored him in the red for most of his games. Few rookies come in like Blair Walsh, so Locke may very well develop into a solid pro but he’s not there yet and he’s not yet the punter that Kluwe was when Spielman cut him.

    I think you’re right about the Vikes generally handling the salary cap well. The only out-and-out disaster that I can remember was when Dennis Green re-signed Randall Cunningham to a long-term contract after the 1998 season. That crippled us for half a decade.