Like having Randy Moss and Adrian Peterson in almost back to back careers (in Purple and Gold), the Vikings have also lucked out as of late when it came to their kick return game (Using the word “Luck” just to bother fans of Slick Rick). Between Percy Harvin and Cordarrelle Patterson the Vikings have had nearly a decade of great kick returners and the field position that comes with that. So with Patterson leaving for the soon to be Las Vegas Raiders, the Vikings are looking for his replacement this off-season. The difference this time is that they don’t really have a go-to player to fill that spot so the question becomes, who will the Vikings entrust to return kicks for them in 2017?
The Vikings did add receivers Rodney Adams and Stacy Coley in last month’s draft, with either having a shot at the position. In addition to Adams and Coley, the Vikings also have punt-return stalwart of the past few seasons Marcus Sherels and/or supposed fastest man alive in receiver turned corner Terrell Sinkfield. Other sites have floated the idea of Stefon Diggs or Adam Thielen could also get the job, neither of which will end up getting the gig (They’re too important, and Diggs is too injury prone). So, let’s look at what the Vikings have said about the position recently and then attempt to figure out who the Vikings will end up putting back at the position that the NFL hates more than Fred Smoot in missionary.
In an interview with the Vikings Entertainment Network, Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Preifer had this to say:
“We’ve been fortunate to have some very talented returners who have played for us here in Minnesota. I think when you have a good returner, that makes everyone else around them better. They listen more attentively during the meetings, they study harder. I think we do a good job of teaching the finer points of the return game. At the end of the day, there’s been a lot of talented guys that have been here and they’re fun to coach, but we’re going to find someone that’s a pretty special kickoff returner.”
Preifer has never been the most nuanced guy, so I feel like he’s putting some messages out there for his prospective returners before training camp begins. Them being, whomever does the most work will most likely end up getting the gig. So, while this message reads as pretty transparent, there is obviously some truth there. Despite the fact that I can’t really picture Cordarrelle Patterson or especially Percy Harvin attentively sitting at team meetings, those guys were physically gifted, not necessarily mentally gifted. So, while obviously trying really hard is super important to success in any sport, or showering, a lot of what makes an amazing kick returner is just that next level physicality. The issue right now for the Vikings is that they don’t have that stand-out guy, physically, so perhaps that’s why they’re saying… Maybe we’ll give it to the hardest worker? Or, perhaps they’ll give it to everyone?
“Maybe it’s by committee … we have several candidates and I’m excited about that, we drafted two guys who could do it. We’ve got guys on the roster that want to do it.”
The two guys they drafted, again, are Rodney Adams and Stacy Coley. Beyond those two you do have Sherels, who has been one of the (if not the) best punt returners in the NFL over the past few seasons. While punt and kick returning isn’t a 1:1 copy, there are obvious similarities between the two. Sherels does seem suited for punt returns more than kick returns, as he’s on the small side, is quicker than he is fast and relies more on his vision and juking than finding his blocking lane and just going for it with top-end speed. I really can’t imagine Thielen or Diggs doing it, either, as again they’re both too important and while they’ve had experience returning kicks in their past again I can’t imagine the Vikings using their number one and two receivers returning kicks (Even if Diggs showed signs of brilliance doing so while in college). I could really see Diggs doing it if he was able to stay healthy, but that’s not the case so of course they’re going to do everything possible to keep him as healthy as possible. I mean, just watch that glorious bastard.
I really do think it will come down to Adams or Coley. So, as opposed to telling you which I think has the edge (Because I honestly don’t know), I’ll just show you a highlight from each and then you guys can let us know which you think should get the gig… Because, here at purplePTSD.com we’re all about doing as little work as possible!
Up first, is Rodney Adams, from his time at Southern Florida.
Man, that blocking! You barely see any defenders near him for most of the return. That’s college football for you. Next up? Stacy Coley and a return he had against Duke.
My vote goes too… Man. I miss Patterson already. But, Adams. He’s got the size and is more known for his moves than Coley is. I also don’t think that Coley will end up making the team, as I discussed earlier this week. I think that Adams was drafted for this reason, and so he’ll end up getting more of a shot than Coley as well and if you know anything about Coley, you’ll know that he’s got some “passion for football” issues and I feel like that’s completely incongruent with what Preifer said he was looking for above.
Either way, this “battle” will be one of the larger narratives during training camp this year and for the first time in our history, purplePTSD.com will have a reporter on the ground at camp (Every day… I typically go once or twice). That person is our newest writer, Nick Gjerde. So, check out his articles on the site and stay tuned for more kick return coverage (Pun?).