The Vikings are often described as “a team with a lot of talent,” with names such as DE Jared Allen, QB Brett Favre, RB Adrian Peterson and DT Kevin Williams often used to justify the description. When you add in the fact that the Vikings had 10 Pro Bowlers a year ago, the description becomes even more accurate.
The names mentioned in the above paragraph are deployed primarily on offense or defense. But according to Vikings special teams coordinator Brian Murphy, his side of the ball has talent to boast of as well.
“Coach Childress, Rick (Spielman), George (Paton), Scott Studwell and those guys have done a very good job of loading our roster, not only on the front end but those guys that you play with on special teams,” Murphy explained on Monday. “We’ve upgraded every year, that talent pool. I think for the most part we’re consistent this year and have most of the guys back, which I think is a plus. But the way the 53 shook out, it’s a real credit to those guys and the work they put in to make sure every phase has their share of talent.”
Several recent Vikings draft picks have been or currently are core members of Murphy’s special teams unit. From the 2009 draft, Asher Allen, Jasper Brinkley, Percy Harvin and Jamarca Sanford all contributed significantly on special teams. Letroy Guion, Jaymar Johnson, Tyrell Johnson and John Sullivan were all taken in the 2008 draft and have been important members of the special teams unit. And from the 2007 draft you have players such as Brian Robison and even Peterson who’ve been special teams contributors over the years.
But it’s not just draft picks brought in by the Vikings personnel staff that have become key special teams players. Undrafted free agents who’ve recently joined the team and have become important special teams players include Husain Abdullah, Eric Frampton, Erin Henderson and Kenny Onatolu.
The accumulation of talent has produced more than just a long list of names who’ve remained on the Vikings roster over recent seasons. Statistics show that the Vikings have made special teams a priority when it comes to making personnel decisions. In 2008, the Vikings ranked 21st in kickoff return average allowed and in 2009 Murphy’s unit improved to 15th. The Vikings were ranked 32nd in punt return average allowed in 2008 (14.9 yards per return) and in 2009 that ranking jumped up to 12th (7.9 yards per return).
On the other end, the Vikings jumped from 20th in 2008 to 13th in 2009 in kickoff return average and they jumped from 24th in 2008 to 12th in 2009 in punt return average. Harvin earned a Pro Bowl berth as a returner last season and Heath Farwell joined him as a special teams Pro Bowler as well.
Credit goes to the Vikings personnel staff for bringing in players who’ve become special teams contributors. But credit also goes to Murphy, who has been able to take a collection of early-round draft picks, late-round draft picks and undrafted rookie free agents and turn them into a special teams unit that has improved in key areas over the last couple of seasons.
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 18 Comments »