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Zulgad: Should Vikings panic about kicking situation? You betcha

By Judd Zulgad

MINNEAPOLIS — We interrupt the panic about the Vikings’ offensive line to sound the alarm on a fifth-round draft pick who apparently has been overwhelmed after being handed the keys to the kicking job.

The Vikings brought an end to their charade of a training-camp kicking competition last Monday when they cut veteran Kai Forbath and gave the job to Daniel Carlson. This did not come as a surprise considering the Vikings traded two sixth-round picks to the New York Jets in order to acquire the 167th pick and take the kid with the big leg in the fifth round.

The issue is having a powerful leg does not assure accuracy or being cool under pressure. Carlson showed neither of these attributes in the opening half of the Vikings’ 21-20 preseason victory over Seattle on Friday night at U.S. Bank Stadium. He attempted two kicks from 42 yards — one at each end of the field — and missed wide left both times. The first miss came at the end of the Vikings’ opening drive and the second late in the second quarter.

Carlson did not get a chance to attempt the extra point after the Vikings’ lone touchdown of the opening half. Instead, coach Mike Zimmer decided to go for two after Latavius Murray’s 1-yard touchdown run but Kirk Cousins’ pass was broken up by the Seahawks. Carlson did hit an extra-point after the Vikings scored the first of two fourth-quarter touchdowns, but the kick was drifting right and snuck inside the goal post.

When asked during his halftime television interview if he was concerned about seeing Carlson miss both of his field-goal attempts, Zimmer didn’t try to sugarcoat things. “Yes, yes definitely,” he said.

He should be.

The Vikings jettisoned Forbath two days after he missed a 41-yard field-goal attempt in the second quarter against Jacksonville on Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium. That miss was exactly what general manager Rick Spielman and his staff needed to declare the kicking competition over.

Carlson had hit on attempts of 39 and 57 yards in the Vikings’ preseason opener at Denver and also converted all four extra-point attempts. Forbath then made a 44-yard kick in the first quarter against the Jaguars before his miss.

As I wrote when the Vikings released Forbath, this entire situation is perplexing. Spielman already went down the path of taking a young kicker with a big leg in 2012 when he selected Blair Walsh of Georgia in the sixth round. Walsh had a fantastic rookie season but he joined a team that had gone 3-13 the previous season, meaning there was minimal pressure.

As the pressure on Walsh mounted over the years, his struggles worsened to the point where Minnesota finally jettisoned him in favor of Forbath in November 2016. Forbath had his issues in 2017 — he missed five of his 39 extra-point attempts — but was going after another SEC youngster, Auburn in this case, really the answer?

Common sense would say no. So would many NFL executives.

If the Vikings wanted to move on from Forbath, the draft was not the place to find his replacement. Not coming off a 13-3 finish, a berth in the NFC title game and with a season full of pressure kicks ahead. Any attempt by the Vikings to dismiss what they saw from Carlson on Friday night would be foolish. If Spielman doesn’t realize this, Zimmer is likely to tell him and also hand him a list of kickers who are or will be available.

Friday wasn’t the first time we’ve seen Carlson struggle since he arrived. There was an early training camp practice in which Carlson missed two field-goal attempts in practice and then also had some issues when he attempted to work on his issues on a side field.

The pressure on Carlson isn’t going to go down and he’s coming off a senior season that was statistically the worst season of his collegiate career. After making 28-of-32 field-goal attempts during his junior season at Auburn, Carlson made only 23-of-31 attempts last year.

So what’s the answer at this late date? The Jets worked out Forbath after he was released but he hasn’t signed elsewhere. The odds of the Vikings bringing him back would appear to be extremely low but can Spielman really afford to take a chance that Carlson is going to be fine?

If he does, this quickly could turn into the type of mess that costs the Vikings a game, or games, when it really matters. Is Spielman willing to take that risk? We’re about to find out.

The post Zulgad: Should Vikings panic about kicking situation? You betcha appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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