A key component to the Vikings 7-1 record through 8 games in 2009 has been improved play from the special teams unit, specifically the coverage units and the return game. Those improvements, along with continued solid performances from both P Chris Kluwe and K Ryan Longwell, have helped the Vikings produce a more complete performance from all 3 phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams.
So far in 2009, the Vikings rank 2nd in kickoff return (up from 20th in 2008) average and 8th (up from 24th) in punt return average. Also, the Vikings rank 10th in average yards allowed per kickoff return (up from 21st in 2008).
Certainly individual performances have contributed to this improvement. Rookie Percy Harvin has jolted the kick return game and the return of LB Heath Farwell to the kick coverage units has infused experience, leadership and talent to the group.
But Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said on Monday that although players such as Farwell, Harvin and special teamers Kenny Onatolu and Karl Paymah have done well with their roles, the big difference is the collective attitude from the entire special teams group.
“I just think there has been great buy-in,” Childress said. “Brian (Murphy) and Chris White (assistant special teams coach) have done a great job of teaching those guys and that goes through the whole offseason.”
The Vikings special teams unit received a face-lift following the promotion of Murphy to special teams coordinator this past offseason and the subsequent addition of White and Jason Glenn as Murphy’s assistants. The special teams staff is in its 1st year together, but you wouldn’t know it from the progress that’s been made since the offseason.
“I just think they have been able to get their arms around those guys and have them have great understanding,” Childress said. “That is what you see, great understanding and awareness. Murph and his guys have done a nice job and the players have great buy in. The players are doing are great job of getting it on the field.”
Tags: Heath Farwell, Percy Harvin
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