Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 6 other subscribers

MN Vikings Tweets

Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: How long will Vikings be willing to put up with Walsh’s struggles?

By Judd Zulgad

Four days after Teddy Bridgewater suffered a season-ending knee injury, the Vikings’ brain trust sent a message to the players: Our expectations have not changed.

That was made clear when general manager Rick Spielman traded a first- and conditional fourth-round selection to Philadelphia for quarterback Sam Bradford.

Bradford had been slated to be the Eagles’ starter, but Spielman was willing to pay a significant price to pry him away because the Vikings had every intention of giving themselves the best chance possible to defend their NFC North title and make a playoff run in their first season in U.S. Bank Stadium.

Bradford is likely to make his first start for the Vikings in Sunday’s home opener against the Green Bay Packers, the team likely to provide the stiffest competition for the division crown. This will come a week after Shaun Hill got the start and played well enough to help the Vikings earn a 25-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans.

The 36-year-old Hill might have been good enough to keep the Vikings in contention this season, but Spielman and Zimmer did not think having a veteran journeyman starting at quarterback would give their team the best chance to succeed.

This is why it will be so interesting to see how much longer the Vikings will stick with Blair Walsh as their kicker. Walsh’s wide-left miss on a 27-yard field-goal attempt in the closing seconds of the Vikings’ playoff game last January against Seattle at TCF Bank Stadium cost Minnesota the chance to advance to the second round.

Walsh did nothing to ease concerns in the first game of his fifth season on Sunday, missing his first field-goal attempt from 37 yards, also wide left, and then sending a 56-yard attempt toward a different zip code at the end of the first half. It got worse when Walsh missed an extra-point attempt wide right in the third quarter.

The veteran ended up making second-half field goals from 50, 33, 45 and 30 yards, but how could anyone honestly say they had confidence in Walsh as he lined up to attempt those kicks?

It wasn’t that Walsh wildly hooked a kick from 56 yards – although he was a perfect 10-of-10 from 50 or more yards during his brilliant rookie season in 2012—as it was he missed two kicks he knows he has to make and that could have cost the Vikings a win.

While Walsh’s miss against Seattle is the one everyone will remember, and the one he likely can’t forget, Walsh’s inconsistency is not a new thing.

He missed nine field-goal attempts in 2014 – hitting on 26 of 35 for a career-low 74.3 percent success rate – before making 34 of 39 (87.2 percent) during the regular season last year. But with the extra-point try moved to 33 yards last season, Walsh was 32 of 36.

The Vikings have done everything in their power to make Walsh as comfortable as possible, despite the fact his job means he has to thrive under pressure. A sixth-round pick out of Georgia in 2012, Walsh received a four-year, $14 million contract extension that included $5.25 million in guarantees just before training camp last season, despite the fact he was coming off a subpar 2014.

Walsh also doesn’t face competition in training camp, meaning he would have to be awful in the preseason to lose his job. The fact Walsh was drafted by Spielman certainly gives him more security than if he was signed as a college free agent, but there has to be a point at which the Vikings decide they can no longer hold their breath every time Walsh’s foot approaches the ball.

It’s hard to believe Zimmer would allow this to happen.

While there has been no indication that Spielman and Zimmer are considering a change, they are presented with an interesting alternative. Veteran Robbie Gould remains a free agent after being released by Chicago this month following 11 years with the Bears.

Gould, 34, isn’t perfect, he had end-of-game misses last season against San Francisco and Washington and struggled at times in training camp, but his presence on the market is intriguing.

This much is certain.

The Vikings have invested far too much in the 2016 roster to let it slip away because they don’t want to sever ties with a struggling kicker.

The post Zulgad: How long will Vikings be willing to put up with Walsh’s struggles? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>