Despite the struggles of kicker Blair Walsh this year, Minnesota Vikings coaches and general manager Rick Spielman continue to support their kicker.
Walsh started his career connecting on 92.1 percent of his field goal attempts as a rookie in 2012, including all 10 of his attempts from 50 yards or more. But since then he has experienced a decline in accuracy.
In 2013, he dropped to making 86.7 percent of his kicks and was 2-for-5 from 50 yards or more. Last year, the team’s first year playing home games outside at TCF Bank Stadium, he made 74.3 percent of his kicks and was 5-for-9 from 50 yards or more.
This year, he struggled in the preseason, making only five of 11 field goals, which makes his 6-for-8 performance in the regular season more concerning – especially since he has had only one field attempt longer that 40 yards, which he missed. He also missed an extra point.
“Blair is going through a little bit of a slump here right now, but I think there’s no question that he is our kicker,” Spielman said Tuesday. “I know Coach Zim made that statement and Blair is working extremely hard at trying to get through this. We’re doing everything we can with (special teams coordinator Mike) Priefer on our end to get through this.”
Walsh missed a 38-yard attempt in Sunday’s 23-20 loss to the Denver Broncos and Zimmer acknowledged his feelings on that.
“It’s disappointing. He needs to make those kicks,” Zimmer said. “It’s disappointing.”
Asked about his preseason struggles before the start of the regular, Walsh cited the overall body of work in his career and his ability to hit from 50 yards and beyond.
“Hell, I’m 17 out of 24. I’m pretty sure a lot of teams would take that percentage, to be completely honest with you,” he said. “They’re not automatic and we haven’t played in the greatest of conditions, but, hell, I’m making a good amount of them. I wouldn’t exactly worry about that.”
He hasn’t attempted a kick longer than 44 yards yet in the regular season.
Walsh said before the regular season started that confidence is not an issue. Spielman declined to say whether he thought Walsh’s issues of late were more technique-related or mental.
“You’d have to ask Blair that. I have my thoughts, but I’d rather have Blair and coaches share that,” Spielman said.
Whatever the reason for his decline in accuracy, even with the bye week upon the Vikings, Spielman was resolute in his support of Walsh.
“People forget a couple years ago he’s a young kicker that was in the Pro Bowl. Sometimes these guys go through issues,” Spielman said. “All of the sudden Jeff Locke had some struggles last year and he’s punting lights-out right now and the way he’s been punting. Part of having a young football team and young players is sometimes you’re going to have to get them through some of that adversity. But, no, Blair Walsh is our kicker.”