Minnesota’s Special Teams Do Well, But There’s Room for Improvement

Dec 26, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings kicker Greg Joseph (1) and punter Jordan Berry (3) react after a field goal against the Los Angeles Rams during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, the Packers failed to reach their potential largely because of issues on special teams. It’s easy to overlook its importance given that offense and defense dominate the overall snaps, but it’s vitally important to a team’s success. The Vikings (and their NFC North rival) will be looking to avoid this fate in 2022. In Minnesota’s first preseason game, the special teams played reasonably well.

Let’s start with the main specialists. Greg Joseph didn’t encounter overly challenging situations, but it’s still positive to see him nail his kicks. He finished the day having gone 2/2 on field goals and 2/2 on extra points. Jordan Berry and Ryan Wright both did reasonably well punting the football. Berry’s two punts had a 54.5 yard average and Wright’s lone punt went for 53 yards. At this stage, the competition likely leans toward the veteran Berry, but the team may allow this competition to keep going.

An obvious issue for Minnesota’s special teams was the penalties. At the beginning of the third quarter, the Vikings got a penalty for having too many men on their punt return (shout out to ESPN stats and play-by-play for helping me remember the precise details). Las Vegas not only extended their drive but went on to score a TD. The mental error was costly.

Now, it’s only a preaseason game, and it’s easy to see how a depth player could get confused about whether he should be on the field. Nevertheless, this is the kind of thing that needs to get fixed during the offseason. Coordinator Matt Daniels will be looking to ensure everyone understands their responsibilities in time for the 49ers game this upcoming Saturday.

The kickoff returns were mostly a positive. Ty Chandler – a backup RB who was drafted in the 5th round – brought his lone return back for 56 yards. Ihmir Smith-Marsette had his own explosive return, but a penalty negated much of the progress. Regardless, it was good to see Chandler and Smith-Marsette do so well. Kene Nwangwu will lead the kickoff returns in the regular season, but the team has depth.

The punt returns, in contrast, need to be stronger. Smith-Marsette’s 2 punts resulted in -4 yards. In a perfect world, the Vikings defense can force San Francisco to punt the ball a lot this Saturday, allowing Minnesota to get more reps for the punt return.

Minnesota’s special teams are certainly a work in progress. Overall, the team must be feeling encouraged about what they saw against the Raiders. Moving forward, the coaching staff will be looking to ensure that the special teams maintain the explosive plays and strong kicking while eliminating the mental errors.

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