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As Cuts Approach, Emphasis Should Be On Special Teams

Well, I finally got a chance to fully review the Rams preseason game, and there was a lot of good stuff to report (which most of you already touched on in the comments sections).  The offense created some highlights despite the absence of the star players and the defense allowed the Rams absolutely no points.

The one major break down that is worrisome came on special teams when the Vikings gave up a 93 yard punt return for a touchdown.

Special teams coverage is something that the Vikings have struggled with in recent years.  Of the things that caused the Vikings to “just miss” going to the Super Bowl, this is one that can be included in that list.  So, while many players are enjoying the feeling of being a lock to make the roster, the few remaining spots will almost certainly be gobbled up by those that can prove themselves on special teams.

On that touchdown play, Husain Abdullah blew a golden opportunity to tackle Amendola for no gain and meanwhile Asher Allen was getting abused by blockers two yards out of bounds.  After Abdullah inexplicably missed the tackle, Amendola was able to streak right through the lane that should have been covered by Allen.  Allen looked as if he had simply given up once he was pushed to the sideline.  Heath Farwell made the best effort, but the special teams ace cannot bring down the return man by himself on every punt.

In fact, watching Asher Allen’s special teams performance in the first preseason game goes a long ways towards explaining why we was inactive for the first six weeks of last season.  Now, however, Allen is establishing himself as a bright spot in the starting defense and does not have to worry about earning playing time via special teams like he did last year.  Plus, his 11 yard punt return suggests that he may be a special teams contributor in that area should Darius Reynaud be cut this preseason.

Speaking of Reynaud, I have to say that of all of Adrian Peterson’s backups, he impressed me the most.  On a couple of occasions I saw him do a serviceable job of picking up a blitzer (not quite as good as Albert Young did, however) and his nine yard reception showed some really good effort.  Reynaud has already shown this team that he is to be trusted as a punt returner, and I think this fact can combine with his multiple talents in the offense to earn him a spot on the team.

Things start to get really tricky when you start looking at who will serve as the backups to Sidney Rice, Bernard Berrian, and Percy Harvin at receiver.  Greg Lewis would be a shocking cut as he has been a solid receiver and is a good blocking receiver with the ability to contribute on special teams. 

That essentially leaves Jaymar Johnson, Logan Payne, and Marko Mitchell battling for one (maybe two, but doubtful) remaining spot.  Payne and Mitchell impressed the heck out of me on offense, but one has to suspect Johnson gets the job because he can contribute as a return man.  For me, it will be hard to watch Payne and Mitchell get cut considering the Vikings questions with Rice’s hip and Harvin’s migraines, and not to mention Berrian’s tendency to get hurt.  However, there is no mistaking that the Vikings want their backups to be able to help this special teams take a step in the right direction.  The hope is that Payne or Mitchell get pushed through to the practice squad before another team scoops them up.

The last and perhaps most interesting question revolves around the kicking position.  Ryan Longwell and Rhys Lloyd are assumed to both be making the squad after statements made by the team, but Lloyd needs to prove he can make a few kickoffs unreturnable before the Vikings will dedicate a roster spot to carry a second kicker.

As Sunday approaches (yes, there will be a live chat this time around) be prepared to watch the special teams reps with a close eye.  When cuts roll around, these plays will go a long ways towards deciding the remainder of the Vikings 2010 roster.

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6 Responses to “As Cuts Approach, Emphasis Should Be On Special Teams”

  1. Fragile Freds says:

    Sorry GP, but your boy Ashley gave up on that punt return. Let’s hope the coaches had a little conversation with the Georgia boy. He had plenty of opportunity to get back into the play and he, chose to go belly up. Ashley better figure out that he MAY need to make a living out of special teams if he gets beat out at corner. Dude was an embarrassment during that play.

    For those of us who travel to dumps like the middle east, please know that we live in the greatest country in the world. Especially if Favre decides to retire.

  2. bigjohnny84 says:

    Cmon Freds it was one play that he was double teamed. Yes he could’ve tried harder but he did make some very good plays also.

  3. Fragile Freds says:

    So as a rule giving up because of a double team works for you BJohnny? Nothing wrong with getting beat. but giving up a TD as a result of shutting it down is a bad deal. Oh AP had a great NFC championship game exept for the fumbles.

    • bigjohnny84 says:

      Not saying that Freds, it’s never ok to give up but Asher’s not the one that missed the tackle either. There’s 10 other guys on that play too.

  4. Fragile Freds says:

    He didn’t miss the tackle because he gave up on the play and was not in the same neighborhood. Freds didn’t miss that tackle either. Remember your comments the first time your guy Brian Mc kinney gives up on a play.

    • bigjohnny84 says:

      Apples and oranges Freds. I would think you would be in a good mood after your first “happy dance” in 6 months. Pre season or not the happy dances began Saturday night.

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