Final Mid-Season Report – Special Teams

First of all, let’s start by talking about last seasons coverage units which were at or near the bottom of the NFL heap all year. So there was a lot of room for improvement. Getting Heath Farwell back from the injury list was a good start.

Also adding a few special teams players like Jasper Brinkley, Karl Paymah, Kenny Onatolu, and Jamarca Sanford, and as of late, Asher Allen. Using faster players such as this seems to be producing a faster rate of closing gaps in coverage. This tactic only works if you combine these players with speedy yet powerful linebacker types who can get themselves into position to sacrifice themselves by blowing up the return wedge. If this doesn’t happen, then the blockers would simply be able to overpower these faster albeit smaller players. The results have been good, other then the punt return for TD by the Browns in week one.

Also a Philosophical change from funneling the returner towards the sideline, to a strategy where a premium is placed on protecting the sidelines by forcing the plays back inside where they can get help has paid dividends.

Of course, having better athletes’ helps as well. So far, this is how the special teams coverage units shake out statistically:

– 15th in punt coverage avg. 7.8 per. – This ranking has been dropping almost weekly since the Cleveland game. The development of punter Chris Kluwe has been disappointing. Despite a strong leg and good directional skills, he is a disappointing 19th in punting avg.
@ 43.4.Kluwe often out kicks his coverage, and would benefit from a little longer hang time.

– 9th in kick coverage @ 21.6 per – Much improved numbers considering that Ryan Longwell isn’t especially good at kicking the ball high or deep which allows an extra step or two on coverage.

Return game –

Kick-offs –

The Vikings are currently 2nd in kickoff return avg. w/ 28.0 per. This is, of course directly a result of drafting a certain wide receiver from Florida. Percy Harvin has returned 2 kick-offs for touchdowns and has broken several others for 50 +. So dangerous is Harvin that one almost expects something special on every return. The guy is a remarkable talent who seems to be getting more dangerous each week. One of the biggest cheers from Green Bay fans last week was on the kick-off where they finally managed to tackle him just short of the 30 yard line. Good Grief ! – A

Punt returns –

The Vikings currently stand at 6th in the league on punt returns w/ 10.7 per. This is despite losing Darius Reynaud to an ankle injury. The team turned to 2nd year receiver Jaymar Johnson who has been effective in replacing Reynaud. – B +

Field Goals –

Ryan Longwell is 2nd in pts. with 68. He is13 for 14 on field goals and 29/29 on extra pts. Longwell is the very definition of consistent. So far only a blocked kick returned by the 49ers for a touchdown blemishes his otherwise perfect season so far. – A –

Below are the statistical numbers for kick-offs and Punt returns –

Player Returns FC Yds/Ret Long TD
Jaymar Johnson 16 3 8.4 24 0
Darius Reynaud 7 5 17.3 36 0
Bernard Berrian 2 0 6.5 8 0
TOTAL 25 8 10.7 36 0
OPPONENTS TOTAL 17 8 7.8 67 1

Kick Return Statistics
Player Returns Yds Yds/Ret Long TD
Percy Harvin 28 860 30.7 101 2
Brian Robison 1 7 7.0 7 0
Sidney Rice 1 0 0.0 0 0
Naufahu Tahi 1 0 0.0 0 0
TOTAL 31 867 28.0 101 2

OPPONENTS TOTAL 47 101 21.6 40 0

The remainder of the Vikings coaching staff, their positions and a brief individual biography are listed alphabetically below.

Juney Barnett –
Asst. Strength And Conditioning; born January 11, 1979, Philadelphia. Defensive back Bloomsburg 1997-2000. College coach: Bloomsburg 2001, Army 2005. Pro coach: Rhein Fire (NFLE) 2004-05, joined Vikings in 2006.

Eric Bieniemy
Running Backs; born August 15, 1969, New Orleans. Running back Colorado 1987-1990. Pro running back San Diego Chargers 1991-94, Cincinnati Bengals 1995-98, Philadelphia Eagles 1999. College coach: Colorado 2001-02, UCLA 2003-05. Pro coach: Joined Vikings in 2006.

Karl Dunbar
Defensive Line; born May 18, 1967, Plaisance, La. Defensive lineman Louisiana State 1986-89. Pro defensive lineman Pittsburgh Steelers 1990, New Orleans Saints 1992-93, Arizona Cardinals 1994-95. College coach: Nicholls State 1998-99, Louisiana State 2001-01, 2005, Oklahoma State 2002-03. Pro coach: Chicago Bears 2004, joined Vikings in 2006.

Ryan Ficken
Quality Control/Offense; born February 20, 1980, Aurora, Colo. Wide receiver Arizona State 1998-99. No pro playing experience. College coach: UCLA 2004-06. Pro coach: joined Vikings in 2007.

Jason Glenn
Special teams assistant/player development assistant; born August 20, 1979, Humble, Texas. Safety/linebacker Texas A&M 1997-2000. Pro linebacker New York Jets 2001-04, Miami Dolphins 2005, Minnesota Vikings 2006. Pro coach: Joined Vikings in 2009.

Jim Hueber
Asst. Offensive Line; born August 14, 1948, Philadelphia. Center South Dakota 1966-67. No pro playing experience. College coach: Cincinnati 1974, Dodge City (Kan.) C.C. 1975-78, Wichita State 1979-1980, Temple 1981-82, Memphis State 1983, Minnesota 1984-1991, Wisconsin 1992-2005. Pro coach: Joined Vikings in 2006.

Jeff Imamura
Defensive Quality Control; born May 22, 1974, Lubbock, Texas. Attended Texas Christian. No college or pro playing experience. College coach: Texas Christian 1997-99, Northern Arizona 2000-02, Saginaw Valley State 2003. Pro coach: Joined Vikings in 2006.

Jimmie Johnson
Tight Ends; born October 6, 1966, Augusta, Ga. Tight end Howard 1985-88. Pro tight end Washington Redskins 1989-1991, Detroit Lions 1992-93, Kansas City Chiefs 1994, Philadelphia Eagles 1995-98. College coach: South Carolina State 2001, Shaw 2002-03, Texas Southern 2004-05. Pro coach: Joined Vikings in 2006.

Tom Kanavy
Strength And Conditioning; born April 8, 1970, Archibald, Pa. Attended Penn State. No college or pro playing experience. College coach: Miami 1993, Penn State 1993-95. Pro coach: Philadelphia Eagles 1995-2005, joined Vikings in 2006.

Derek Mason
Asst. Defensive Backs; born September 29, 1969, Pheonix. Defensive back Northern Arizona 1987-1991. No pro playing experience. College coach: Mesa C.C. 1994, Weber State 1995-96, Idaho State 1997-98, Bucknell 1999-2001, Utah 2002, St. Mary’s (Calif.) 2003, New Mexico State 2004, Ohio 2005-06.. Pro coach: joined Vikings in 2007.

Pat Morris
Offensive Line; born April 7, 1954, Cleveland. Offensive lineman Southern California 1972-75. College coach: Southern California 1976-77, 1983-86, Northern Arizona 1978, Minnesota 1979-1982, Michigan State 1987-1994, Stanford 1995-96. Pro coach: San Francisco 49ers 1997-2003, Detroit Lions 2004-05, joined Vikings in 2006.

Brian Murphy
Asst. Special Teams; born July 17, 1969, Elmwood Park, Ill. Defensive lineman Lehigh 1988-1991. No pro playing experience. College coach: Benedictine 1992, Wisconsin 1994-96, 2002-05, Baylor 1997, San Diego 1998, Lehigh 1999. Pro coach: Joined Vikings in 2006.

Fred Pagac
Linebackers; born April 26, 1952, Richeyville, Pa. Tight end Ohio State 1971-73. Pro tight end Chicago Bears 1974, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976. College coach: Ohio State 1978-2000. Pro coach: Oakland Raiders 2001-03, Kansas City Chiefs 2004-05, joined Vikings in 2006.

Dennis Polian
Asst. to head coach; born November 10, 1976, Bronx, N.Y. Attended Villanova and Boston College. No college or pro playing experience. Pro coach: Hamilton Tiger-Cats (CFL) 2008, joined Vikings in 2009.

Diron Reynolds
Defensive assistant/defensive line; born February 23, 1971, Aiken, S.C. Linebacker Wake Forest 1990-93. No pro playing experience. College coach: Wake Forest 1997-2000, Indiana 2001. Pro coach: Indianapolis Colts 2002-06, Miami Dolphins 2007, joined Vikings in 2009.

Kevin Rogers
Quarterbacks; born September 7, 1951, Brooklyn, N.Y. Linebacker Massanutten Academy 1969-1970, William & Mary 1971-73. College coach: Ohio State 1977-78, William & Mary 1980-82, Navy 1983-1990, Syracuse 1991-98, Notre Dame 1999-2001, Virginia Tech 2002-05. Pro coach: Joined Vikings in 2006.

Ryan Silverfield
Offensive asst.; born August 4, 1980, Jacksonville, Fla. Attended Hampden-Sydney. No college or pro playing experience. College coach: Hampden-Sydney 2000-03, Jacksonville 2005, Central Florida 2006-07. Pro coach: Joined Vikings in 2008.

Kevin Stefanski
Asst. To The Head Coach; born May 8, 1982, Philadelphia. Safety Pennsylvania 2000-04. College coach: Pennsylvania 2005. Pro coach: Joined Vikings in 2006.

George Stewart
Wide Receivers; born December 29, 1958, Little Rock, Ark. Guard Arkansas 1977-1980. No pro playing experience. College coach: Minnesota 1985-85, Notre Dame 1986-88. Pro coach: Pittsburgh Steelers 1989-1991, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1992-95, San Francisco 49ers 1996-2002, Atlanta Falcons 2003-06, joined Vikings in 2007.

Martin Streight
Asst. Strength And Conditioning; born June 20, 1969, Trenton, N.J. Attended Indiana (Penn.). No college or pro playing experience. College coach: Penn State 1994, Princeton 1995-96. Pro coach: Philadelphia Eagles 1995-96, Arizona Cardinals 1997-2003, Scottish Claymores (NFLE) 2003, Berlin Thunder (NFLE) 2004-05, joined Vikings in 2006.

Chris White
Asst. special teams; born June 29, 1967, Haverhill, Mass. Quarterback Colby College 1986-89. No pro playing experience. College coach: Syracuse 1990- 92, 2000-08, Arkansas State 1992-93, Holy Cross 1993-94, UNLV 1996-98, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo 1999. Pro coach: Joined Vikings in 2009.

Joe Woods
Defensive Backs; born June 25, 1970, Natrona Heights, Pa. Safety Illinois State 1988-1991. College coach: Muskingum 1992, Eastern Michigan 1993-94, Northwestern (La.) State 1994, Grand Valley State 1994-96, Kent State 1997, Hofstra 1998-2000, Western Michigan 2001-03. Pro coach: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2004-05, joined Vikings in 2006.

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3 Responses to “Final Mid-Season Report – Special Teams”

  1. Adam Warwas says:

    Good article Chris, I would say though that much of the Vikings percieved improvement on covering kicks may also have to do with the NFL outlawing the use of the “wedge” this last offseason. Many other teams have also seen improved coverage because the wedge has been outlawed.

    I don’t mean to say that to take something away from the players brought in who are doing a good job stepping up. Just saying… it helps.

  2. bigjohnny84 says:

    Adam so that should bode really well for our kickoff return unit, they cannot use the wedge either

  3. Adam Warwas says:

    That’s a good point, Johnny… Harvin’s full speed ahead approach to returning kicks is going to be a trend throughout the NFL with the death of the wedge.

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