Sherels finds small ways to add big value
Marcus Sherels is currently in a position battle with Stefon Diggs to be the starting punt returner for the Minnesota Vikings. Every year it seems as though Sherels is a bubble player, and yet every year he makes the roster.
Both the team’s head coach, Mike Zimmer, and the team’s special teams coordinator, Mike Priefer, have spoken highly about Sherels because they like th way he goes about his business and continues to improve.
He is currently the franchise’s all-time leader in average yards per punt return with 10.5 yards a return, and is currently tied for first as the all-time leader in punt return touchdowns with two. Even though he has found success as a return man for the Vikings, it might be his ability to perform is other aspects of special teams that helps him make the Vikings 53-man roster once again.
This offseason Sherels has been performing yeoman’s work as a gunner on punt coverage. He has been able to beat his blockers and get down field to either tackle the return man, force a fair catch, or down the football himself.
“I think the longer he’s done it the more experience he has, and we always tell our gunners to have a plan,” Priefer said. “So just don’t go up there and wing it because that doesn’t work in the NFL. Marcus has a plan and he does a great job with his speed releases and he does a great job of what we call our counter releases. And when you have a plan and you study tape and you know the type of opponent you’re going against, and you execute that plan like he does, it really helps him be successful. He’s gotten better every year that I’ve been here.”
Sherels agrees that a lot of his success has come from the hard work that he has put in. Every day he tries to come out, work as hard as he can and try to pick up on all the little nuances that his coaches are teaching him.
“Just practicing hard and just taking what (assistant special teams coach Ryan Ficken) and coach Prief teach us, and just working hard each day trying to get better,” he said.
Another thing that could help with Sherels’ ability to be a successful gunner is the fact that he has so much experience as a punt returner. He knows what the returner is thinking in certain situations, which means he might not fall for a fake fair catch down near the goal line and instead find the ball and down it before it goes into the end zone.
His ability to spot the ball when it is in the air has come in handy a couple times as a gunner.
“Probably yeah in plus-50 situations,” Sherels said when asked if being a return helps him as a gunner. “It’s easier to look up and track the ball a little bit because I do it every day.”
It is still too early to tell whether or not Sherels will be on the 53-man roster when all the cuts are done, but the odds definitely seem to be leaning in his favor, not just because of his skills and reliability as a return man, but because of his ability to make an impact in nearly every phase of special teams.
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