Personnel Analysis: Week #2 (Special Teams)

Here's a personnel analysis from the Vikings 20-17 overtime loss at Detroit in Week #2. This edition: Special Teams.

Kicker Ryan Longwell could have been the hero of the Vikings stealing a game on the road if he could have squeaked a plenty-strong 52-yard field goal attempt inside the left upright.  Instead, it doinked to the left, allowing the game into overtime, where the Vikings could no longer overcome their mistakes.  Otherwise, Longwell had a good day.  He was perfect on his other FGA (a 32-yarder) and both extra points.  His kickoffs were strong, with all four coming down well inside the 5-yard-line (2, 0, 2, TB).

Kickoff coverage was outstanding, with returns of just 17, 22 and 10 yards as the Lions started at their own 19-, 22-, 12- and 20-yard-line.  The exceptional kickoff coverage was led by Cedric Griffin, Heath Farwell and Vinny Ciurciu.

Punter Chris Kluwe had another very strong game for the Vikings.  He averaged a whopping 57.5 gross punting average on 4 punts (52, 56, 61, 61), with a net of 42.8.  He dropped one punt inside the 20, but one of the 61-yarders resulted in a touchback.  To some degree, Kluwe outkicked his coverage a bit as ex-Viking Troy Walters averaged 13 yards per return.  Farwell, Charles Gordon and Chad Greenway made tackles on punt coverage.

The Vikings averaged 35.3 yards on 4 kickoff returns.  Wide receiver Troy Williamson has to be the worst dangerous kickoff returner there is.  Despite a 56-yard return, he does not look comfortable or natural fielding and returning kickoffs.  If the seam is there, fine.  But he really does not show very good vision or any ability make defenders miss.  He’s strictly a home run speed guy on returns.  His other two returns were for just 8 yards and 17 yards.

Rookie Aundrae Allison looks much more comfortable on kickoff returns.  His lone chance was for a fast 60 yards early in the second half.  He had to take a touchback 5 yards deep on the other kickoff he fielded.  Allison needs to become the team’s regular kickoff returner.

Bobby Wade looked shaky on punt returns, with 2-of-3 looking like an adventure.  He fair-caught 2 chances – one without drama, one with some hesitation – but he fumbled the other punt return opportunity he had.  Fortunately Ronyell Whitaker was on the spot for the recovery.

Wade might have shown more shake-and-bake in training camp but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Vikings go back to the reliability of running back Mewelde Moore for punt returns.  After all, Moore has a career 10.5-yard average on punt returns with two touchdowns over the past two seasons with a career 3 fumbles on 80 chances.

Overall, special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro has to be pleased with his much-improved coverage units so far this season.  Both his kickers have also shown improvement from a year ago.  In the return game, it appears they would be better served to settle on Allison and Moore respectively.

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