Although it doesn’t carry the same high-profile nature of a signing such as DE Julius Peppers or S Antrel Rolle, the Vikings soon-to-be official acquisition of kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd is no less important.
The Vikings, of any team, surely realize the impact of the kickoff and kickoff return game. During the 2009 season, Percy Harvin averaged 27.5 yards per kickoff return and there were a number of times when a big return from the rookie sparked the offense and turned momentum around. Additionally, there were a number of times when the Vikings gave up a big return – at Chicago in Week 16 and at New Orleans in the NFC title game – that stole momentum.
While in general the Vikings special teams play improved in 2009 from 2008, I expect that the signing of Lloyd will yield even better results for the Vikings in 2010. Specifically, Lloyd will register more touchbacks (TBs) than Ryan Longwell. During the 2009 season, Longwell had 5 TBs while Lloyd tallied 21. For his career, Lloyd registers TBs on 33.3% of his kickoffs (51 out of 153), which is an excellent rate and one that will make life easier for the Vikings kickoff coverage team and defense.
To illustrate the importance of forcing opponents to start at or inside their own 20-yardline, consider this: During the 2009 season, Vikings opponents scored on 28.1% of their drives (53 out of 188). But when Vikings opponents began drives inside the 20-yardline, they scored just 18.2% of the time (8 out of 44).
Lloyd has been efficient at registering TBs during his career and he’s been spectacular when kicking indoors. During the 2008 and 2009 seasons, Lloyd tallied 15 TBs on 34 kickoffs (44.1%) while playing indoors. This is a good trend for the Vikings considering they will play 10 of their 16 regular season games indoors next year.
The extra strength Lloyd provides on kickoffs will also come in handy for the Vikings 6 outdoor games in 2010. Depending on what time of year the games are played, contests in Chicago, Green Bay, New England, New York (Jets), Philadelphia and Washington can often times feature inclement weather that makes it hard on the kickoff team. With Lloyd on the roster, though, the effect won’t be felt as much by the Vikings kick coverage team.
So the addition of Lloyd won’t necessarily result in more sacks or INTs, and it doesn’t help the Vikings replace Chester Taylor, but it does give the team another weapon that will ultimately result in worse field position for the opponent. Longwell will now be able to focus solely on FGs and PATs while Lloyd will concentrate on booting TBs.
Tags: Rhys Lloyd, Ryan Longwell
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 13 Comments »