It’s that time of year where a team is loaded up on talent at many positions. Sadly, not all of those players will go on to make the 53 man roster or the practice squad. This the the tenth installment in the Minnesota Vikings position battle series and is all about the specialists!
Let’s take a look at the specialists currently on the roster:
Here’s a quick breakdown of each of these guys:
Nov 24, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh (3) kicks a field goal during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. The Vikings and Packers tied 26-26. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Blair Walsh had a fantastic rookie year as the Minnesota Vikings kicker. He broke numerous team records for accuracy and distance on field goals while tying many NFL records at the same time. Last year, during his sophomore campaign, he struggled with an injury that made him much less effective as a kicker. With Walsh returning to full health this offseason, we should be able to expect him to return to the form he showed his rookie year. The biggest challenge for him this year will be the temporary move to the University of Minnesota’s “Gopher Hole”, where he will be kicking off and booting field goals outdoors.
Sep 22, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings punter Jeff Locke (12) punts to the Cleveland Browns at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. The Browns win 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Locke was inconsistent early on as a rookie last year, showed a lot of potential at times. The former 5th round draft pick is still trying to fill the shoes of former punter Chris Kluwe, who some call the best punter in the history of the team. Locke will be acting as a the punter, holder, and backup kicke and will face a bigger challenge this year when the Minnesota Vikings home games will be played in below freezing temperatures.
Jul 27, 2012; Mankato, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings long snapper Cullen Loeffler (46) snaps the ball in drills at training camp at Blakeslee Stadium at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Cullen Loeffler has been a mainstay with the Minnesota Vikings as the team’s longsnapper since 2004. He has seen the departure and acquisition of some of the best kickers and punters in the league and outlasted many of them. This year, he became 34 years old and is entering the final year of his contract with the Vikings. It is unclear if Loeffler is ready to hang up his cleats after this year or stay in the NFL, but the Vikings don’t seem to have a backup plan after the departure of emergency long snapper and defensive end Jared Allen to the Chicago Bears this year.
Here are the players I see making the 53 man roster:
- Blair Walsh
- Jeff Locke
- Cullen Loeffler
Analysis of My Prediction
These three specialists seem to be set in stone. With no real competition to any of them on the roster, all three should be considered a locke (not a misspelling, but a terrible pun) to make the final roster. The only real question at this point is who will act as the backup longsnapper and punter in the event of an emergency or injury to the regular player.
Other specialists on this team will come from the other positions that have been covered in other articles in the Position Battle series. For example, Coradarrelle Patterson and Marcus Sherels are currently the two favorites to the be kick and punt return men respectively, but were included in the wide receiver and cornerback battles instead.