Viking Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer has had a great deal of success in his brief time working with rookie K Blair Walsh. Through three regular season games, Walsh is a perfect 7 of 7 on FG tries and his 15 touchbacks this year are already approaching the Vikings total (19) from all of last season.
Walsh has made routine kicks – he’s 3 of 3 from within 39 yards. Walsh has made long kicks – he’s the first kicker in franchise history to have a FG of 50+ yards in 3 consecutive games. And Walsh has made clutch kicks – a 55-yarder to send the game into overtime and a 38-yarder to win the game in overtime against Jacksonville in Week 1.
Things are definitely looking up for Walsh in his young career. But how great can Walsh be? We don’t know, yet. The Vikings 6th-round kicker has only played in 3 games. But the Vikings opponent this week – the Detroit Lions – have a kicker on their roster whom Walsh should admire – Jason Hanson.
Priefer himself pointed this out, paying perhaps the highest compliment possible to a NFL player.
“Nothing he does any more surprises me,” Priefer said. “He’s kind of like a Hall of Fame-type guy to me. I know they haven’t had a lot of great teams in the past there. He’s been on a few good ones and obviously, lately, very good. But to me, he’s a Hall of Fame-type performer.”
Hanson, who turned 42 in June, is now in his 21st season and is the Lions all-time scoring leader with 2,053 points. He is only the sixth player in NFL history to connect on 400 career field goals and the eighth to make 600 PATs. With a 50-yarder vs. San Diego in December of 2011, Hanson became the first player in NFL history with 50 FGs of 50+ yards. He holds the NFL record for the most games played by one player with one team (310), and he is the first player in NFL history to play 300 games with one franchise.
The superlatives on Hanson could go on and on. Even so, Hanson managed to do something last week that even he, in 20+ NFL seasons, had only done 12 times before – he punted. Ben Graham, who was the Lions punter, was injured during last week’s game and was forced out of action. The Lions called on Hanson to fill in, and he stepped up to the challenge.
“He’s amazing,” Priefer said. “What an athlete, too. To come in and punt the ball like he did last week with those three punts. And I read somewhere he didn’t think they were good punts. I thought they were outstanding punts. They were high, short, really un-returnable, fair catch balls, and had one inside the 20.”
Vikings fans should be excited about their young kicker and the success he’s had through three games. And while it’s too early to start comparing him to all-time greats or even current solid professionals, it is exciting to see what Walsh is doing when you consider the kind contributions Hanson has given to the Lions over the course of two decades.
Tags: Blair Walsh, Mike Priefer
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