Vikings Training Camp 2018: Previewing the special teams

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Kai Forbath - Minnesota Vikings
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Kai Forbath - Minnesota Vikings /
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Minnesota Vikings
(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Marcus Sherels /

Kick Returners:

Marcus Sherels, Mike Hughes, and Stacy Coley

As important as the kicking game for the Vikings is, their ability to tilt the field in with a return is just as vital.

Last year, Minnesota ranked third in kickoff return average (24.8 yards per return) and eighth in punt return average (9.2 yards per return). Despite the yardage, the Vikings would still like to see more success here as they didn’t have a single special teams touchdown last season.

The incumbent here for the past eight seasons has been Marcus Sherels. For years, many have predicted that Sherels’ head was on the chopping block. But he keeps making the team as one of the top punt returners in the NFC. Sherels also plays a vital role in covering kickoffs and punts while staying in his assignment.

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings /

Minnesota Vikings

Despite his success, there are some signs for concern with the 30-year-old Rochester, Minnesota native. His 9.5 yards per return were the fourth-lowest mark of his career and he may have some competition both in kickoff and punt returns heading into the season.

The main competition for Sherels will come from the Vikings’ 2018 first-round pick, cornerback Mike Hughes. While Hughes will eventually be counted on to be a key defensive contributor, Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer has usually relegated his rookie corners to special teams for their acclamation into the league.

Hughes was electric as a returner at UCF as he took two kickoffs and a punt to the house for the Knights last fall. At a minimum, he should ignite a kick return game that will need to replace the production of Jerick McKinnon (26 yards per return in 2017).

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A wildcard in this battle could be sophomore receiver Stacy Coley. Coley’s track record at Miami included just one kickoff return for a touchdown, but he has some ability to make plays in open space. This could be the receiver’s best chance to get on the field 2018.