Bennett Booming At Developmental Camp

Increased repetitions and familiarity with the team is helping Darren Bennett's punts in his second season with the Vikings. Find out how the punter feels about his progress, along with a mixed day for first-round draft choice Troy Williamson and notes on other Vikings at developmental camp practice Thursday.

On Wednesday, the kickers and punter Darren Bennett did much of their work indoors. But on Thursday, newcomer Paul Edinger and Aaron Elling, the top two kickers vying for the starting role, were part of the full outdoor practice routine.

Even while Elling and Edinger looked good on their short field goal attempts, the most impressive portion of the whole developmental camp practice might have been the punts coming off the leg of Darren Bennett.

Even at 40 years old, Bennett is enjoying being the only punter in camp and getting the extra work, he told Viking Update. He said not getting a lot of reps during the preseason and early in the 2004 regular season really hurt his consistency.

But, by the end of the year he felt better about his performance. The numbers support that feeling. Through the first nine games of 2004, Bennett had only two games in which he averaged more than 40 yards a punt. He averaged more than 40 yards in five of the last seven games.

"We'll look to start the year like we finished last year and carry it all through," Bennett said.

Maybe that's why the Vikings didn't follow the pleas of some fans calling for the team to sign a new punter, and if Thursday's practice was any indication the Vikings made the right decision.

While he wasn't 100 percent consistent – he said he was experimenting with some techniques on a few kicks – Bennett's overall performance was impressive. And a handful of consecutive punts were downright awesome, drawing the praise of special teams coordinator Rusty Tillman and head coach Mike Tice several times.

Bennett hit a number of punts high into the air that sailed 50 to 60 yards, even with only the slightest of breezes helping him along.

"I'm a little inconsistent, but I've got plenty of power, which is sort of what I had last year. I feel a little more solid with my technique this year. … The ones where you really tune in and go for I'm hitting well at the moment," he said.

Kicker Aaron Elling also punted some during an extended special teams session to spell Bennett. Elling had a few of his better punts travel in the 40- to 45-yard range. He did punt six times with a 45.3-yard average in his one game with Tennessee last season.

CONSISTENTLY INCONSISTENT

Wide receiver Troy Williamson was getting more work with the second-team offense, but his inconsistency continued to show. In the course of three plays, Williamson mixed the good with the bad.

On the first play, quarterback Brad Johnson barked out a hard count that drew two defenders offside, but it also caused Williamson to start into his pattern prematurely, drawing a false-start penalty.

On the next play, Williamson ran a good route and made the catch. But later in the series, he ran another good route, only to have the ball slip through his hands and bounce off his facemask for an incompletion.

NOTES

  • On the Corey Chavous/Brian Williams watch: The safety and cornerback were no-shows again for Thursday's developmental camp.

  • Wide receiver Kelly Campbell, who was excused from Wednesday's practice, was back at work Thursday.

  • Running back Moe Williams, who was excused Wednesday, was not at practice Thursday.

  • Wide receiver Christopher Jones had the catch of the day on an 11-touchdown reception in which he laid out fully for the diving catch.

  • Wide receiver Skyler Fulton continued a strong spring full of practices with a few very nice catches.

  • With Matt Birk on the shelf after his fourth surgery in nine months, Cory Withrow and Kyle Schmitt continued to be the next wave of centers.

  • Wide receiver Keenan Howry, cornerback Laroni Gallishaw, safety Darren Sharper, running back Mewelde Moore and Fulton all took turns fielding punts.


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