MINNEAPOLIS — Mike Zimmer admitted Saturday he is at a loss when it comes to the Vikings’ kicking and punting situations.
Zimmer made his comments after rookie Kaare Vedvik — obtained two weeks ago from Baltimore for a 2020 fifth-round pick — missed two field-goal attempts in the Vikings’ 20-9 victory over Arizona at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Zimmer, asked about his level of concern after Vedvik missed wide left from 43 yards and wide right from 54 yards, said: “High.”
Asked what he needed to see from his kickers and punters before making a decision, Zimmer said: “That’s a good question. I honestly don’t know. Since we brought Vedvik in (Matt) Wile’s been punting good and (Dan) Bailey’s been kicking good. Then Vedvik goes out there and misses field goals. I don’t know. I’m at a loss on that.”
Vedvik can handle place kicking, kickoff and punting duties and is known for his big leg. Vedvik was 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts, including hitting a 55-yarder, in Baltimore’s first preseason game and converted two extra points. He also averaged 55.5 yards on two punts.
The Vikings have not made it clear if they see Vedvik as a kicker, a punter or both. In the Vikings’ second exhibition game, Vedvik averaged 46.7 yards (34.7 net) on three punts, putting one inside the 20-yard line, and made an extra point. Bailey kicked a 24-yard field goal and made an extra point, and Wile was used on a late punt in the game.
On Saturday afternoon, Vedvik did not punt but he handled all the kicking. He made two extra points, missed the two field-goal attempts and all four of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. Wile averaged 47.3 yards (41.0 net) on six punts, putting two inside the 20-yard line.
There was an interesting moment when Zimmer elected to go for two points after Mike Boone’s fourth-quarter touchdown gave the Vikings a 13-9 lead. Kyle Sloter’s pass fell incomplete. Vedvik did attempt an extra point after fullback Khari Blasingame caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Sloter.
Zimmer also went for two points in the Vikings’ third preseason game last year after rookie Daniel Carlson missed his first of two field-goal attempts against Seattle. Zimmer admitted at the time it had nothing to do with getting his first-team offense work on two-point conversions. “Just let him (Carlson) know that if he’s going to miss them (field goals), I’m going to go for two,” Zimmer said at the time.
Carlson, drafted by the Vikings in the fifth round, lasted only two games into the regular season before being cut after missing three field-goal attempts in a 29-29 tie at Green Bay.
Zimmer said Saturday his decision to go for two, instead of having Vedvik kick, had nothing to do with sending a message. “No, that was analytics,” he said.
Vedvik, who was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Marshall last year by the Ravens, said his misses were caused by different things.
“It’s just small things,” he said. “There were slightly two separate things, so it gets different hashes, different angles. Good trajectory, good height, just about playing your angles a little better. Make sure it goes the direction you want it to go.”
With the Vikings closing the preseason on Thursday night in Buffalo, and set to open the regular season on Sept. 8 against Atlanta, the question becomes whether the Vikings would cut a guy for whom they just traded a fifth-round pick and keep Bailey and Wile?
“I do have high expectations of myself,” Vedvik said. “I don’t like to not perform the way I want to perform. But that’s a part of being a gamer. You’ve got to come back, you’ve got to bounce back, you can not drag that stuff into your next one regardless of what happens. You’ve got to be able to come back, keep a calm head and execute the way you want to execute.”
Wide receiver Adam Thielen and safety Harrison Smith sat out Saturday’s game, despite the fact it was the last exhibition contest in which veterans will see action before the regular season.
Zimmer said Smith had a cut that got infected and that while he could have played there was no need to take any risks. Thielen practiced all week and could have played but was “a little sore.”
Nose tackle Linval Joseph (offseason shoulder surgery) and right tackle Brian O’Neill (right arm) also continued to sit out preseason games. Zimmer expects both to be back for the opener but added, “I’m not the doctor.”
Rashod Hill replaced O’Neill replaced on Saturday and Jaleel Johnson started in place of Joseph.
Could Blair Walsh return to beat the Vikings in 2019?
We might soon find out.
Walsh, out of the NFL last season, signed with the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday and will compete with Giorgio Tavecchio. Tavecchio has missed four of eight field-goal attempts for Atlanta in the preseason. With the Falcons opening the season at U.S. Bank Stadium against the Vikings, it will be interesting to see what happens if Walsh wins the job.
Walsh, a sixth-round pick by the Vikings in 2012, was released by Minnesota in 2016 after missing eight kicks in nine games. That came after he missed a 27-yard field goal against Seattle in January 2016 that cost the Vikings a playoff victory.
Walsh spent the 2017 season with Seattle and missed eight kicks in 16 games. He tried out for the New York Jets two weeks ago but wasn’t signed.