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Vikings’ search to find stability at kicker position under Mike Zimmer continues

NFL: AFC Championship-Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs
Jan 19, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Tennessee Titans kicker Greg Joseph (7) kicks the point after touchdown during the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings will open training camp Wednesday at TCO Performance Center. This is the sixth in a seven-part series examining a topic that will impact Mike Zimmer’s team. Today, we look at the place kicker situation.

One of Brad Childress’ first moves after being named the Vikings coach in 2006 was to sign veteran kicker Ryan Longwell. Childress had little interest in playing musical kickers and knew Longwell, the longtime Green Bay Packer, would be a reliable leg he could plug in and not worry about.

It was one of Childress’ smartest moves in his four-plus seasons as Vikings coach, and Longwell remained in Minnesota through the 2011 season.

Mike Zimmer hasn’t had the same stability at the kicker position. Since being hired in 2014, Zimmer’s list of kickers has included Blair Walsh, Kai Forbath, Daniel Carlson and Dan Bailey. That list will grow by one more this season with Greg Joseph expected to replace Bailey.

Bailey was jettisoned after last season — one in which the veteran became the latest kicker to melt down under Zimmer. Bailey’s low point came on Dec. 13, when he missed three field-goal attempts and an extra point in a 26-14 loss at Tampa Bay. He finished the season 15-of-22 on field-goal attempts and 37-of-43 on extra points.

Bailey joined Walsh and Carlson as guys who were jettisoned by Zimmer after struggling with the pressure of kicking for him. Carlson, a fifth-round pick in the 2018 draft, was cut after missing all three of his field-goal attempts in the second game of his rookie season at Lambeau Field. He has since become a successful kicker for the Raiders. Forbath had issues on extra points, missing eight over two seasons, but he’s the only one didn’t seem to collapse under the pressure at some point.

Bailey arrived in Minnesota as Carlson’s replacement after spending seven seasons with Dallas. The feeling likely was that the veteran would have a better chance of succeeding under the demanding Zimmer than Carlson did.

That makes the choice of Joseph an interesting one. Joseph was signed after spending last season on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad. He has not attempted a field goal since the 2018 season when he was with the Cleveland Browns.

Joseph was 17-of-20 that season on field-goal attempts, with a long of 51 yards, and 25-of-29 on extra-points. Joseph, 26, made 9-of-9 extra-point attempts with Tennessee in 2019. He also handled kickoff duties over those two years, and had 47 touchbacks on 69 kickoffs in his season with the Browns.

Joseph’s layoff from kicking in games is one issue. Another is how he will handle Zimmer’s glare after a key miss? Then there is the question of will Joseph be in a kicking competition or does he basically have the job locked up?

The Vikings signed undrafted rookie Riley Patterson from Memphis — the same school that produced Eagles kicker Jake Elliott and longtime kicker Stephen Gostkowski. Patterson, however, has been placed on the active/physically unable to perform list by the Vikings and isn’t eligible to practice until he is taken off the PUP. Patterson, who made 64-of-82 field-goal attempts in 51 games at Memphis, missed both of the Vikings’ practices in mandatory minicamp in June but the team has not revealed his injury.

That makes the soon-to-be 27-year-old Joseph the favorite to open the season as the Vikings kicker. That’s assuming he doesn’t struggle in training camp or preseason games, something we’ve seen guys like Carlson and Bailey do under Zimmer. Remember when the Vikings sent a fifth-round pick to Baltimore for Kaare Vedvik during training camp in 2019 after Bailey faltered and then didn’t keep Vedvik?

So what’s the best advice for Joseph? Let’s start with this: Keep that lease month-to-month.