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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Vikings make the right call by not punting on kicking competition this time

By Judd Zulgad

Blair Walsh wasn’t happy last Friday when he claimed some of his former Vikings teammates taunted him after the Seattle Seahawks kicker made a couple of 52-yard field-goal attempts. “I didn’t appreciate getting really yelled at by guys who I’d been friends with for five years,” Walsh told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Walsh’s response to the Vikings’ taunts came as no surprise given the fact that during his time in Minnesota the kicker had become used to being coddled by the franchise.

This was especially true in one area.

The Vikings’ refusal to bring in training-camp competition for a guy who desperately needed it was baffling. Walsh arrived at camp last year having missed a late 27-yard field-goal attempt against the Seahawks that cost the Vikings a chance to win their first-round playoff game.

That miss was hanging over Walsh’s head when he showed up in Mankato and everyone knew he likely would continue to be affected by it. Everyone except the Vikings. General manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer should have insisted on testing Walsh’s mental toughness but decided against it.

This was a mistake but not a complete surprise.

In 2014, Walsh missed on nine-field goal attempts and saw his success rate drop from 86.7 percent in 2013 to 74.3 percent. What did the Vikings do? Did they bring in another kicker the following year? Nope. They rewarded the 2012 sixth-round pick with a four-year, $14 million contract extension.

The Vikings finally came to their senses last November and released Walsh after he missed his fourth extra-point of the year.

Veteran Kai Forbath was signed for the final seven games of 2016 and made all 15 of his field-goal attempts but did miss three extra-points. The Vikings brought back Forbath this year but they did not make the same mistake they did with Walsh. This was probably because Forbath, unlike Walsh, wasn’t drafted by the Vikings and no one will have egg on their face if he loses the job.

Former Iowa kicker Marshall Koehn, who was with the Dolphins in training camp last year before being released, has been competing with Forbath. The Vikings have two exhibition games remaining, including Sunday against San Francisco, and a decision on a kicker is unlikely to come until just before the regular-season opener against New Orleans.

“Because the competition is so close, I think what we’re going to do is hopefully go through four preseason games and then have that 11-day period prior to the New Orleans game to finalize that,” special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said Thursday. “The good thing is that they’ve been working together since May. I know we’ve had different competitions. They don’t have the same amount of reps as they would in a regular season week but we’ll get there. We’ll have plenty of time to get that work in.”

Forbath has hit from 36 and 51 yards in his only two preseason field-goal attempts. Koehn’s only field-goal attempt, a 29-yarder at Seattle, also was good. Forbath is 1-for-1 on extra-point tries and Koehn is 2-for-2.

Priefer acknowledged that Koehn has the stronger leg and that makes him attractive on kickoffs.

Forbath, though, is likely to win the job, given the fact he has more experience and spent time with the team last year. “Because the competition is so close, I think it’s more important we make the right decision,” Priefer said.

The right decision already was made when the incumbent kicker wasn’t simply gifted the job.

The post Zulgad: Vikings make the right call by not punting on kicking competition this time appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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