The Vikings Shouldn't Settle For Greg Joseph

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel (USA TODAY Sports)

By releasing Riley Patterson, the Minnesota Vikings had declared their kicking competition over. The big-legged kicker’s departure left Greg Joseph as the last man standing, ostensibly handing him the starting job entering the regular season.

Despite knocking down two of three kicks against the Indianapolis Colts, Joseph’s first night on the job was an eventful one. His performance left the Vikings with a lot of uncertainty, and it’s clear they shouldn’t settle on Joseph heading into the regular season.

Joseph’s performance on Saturday looks fine in the box score. After Dan Bailey’s late-season meltdown, Vikings fans would kill for a kicker who makes two-thirds of his kicks, including one from 49 yards. But the eye test indicates that there is cause for concern.

Joseph’s first attempt was nothing special: He made an extra point after Troy Dye’s pick-six. His second attempt was from 51 yards out on the left hash, a significantly bigger challenge. Joseph lined up and had the distance but his kick sailed wide right.

Despite the miss, there was nothing to be alarmed about until Joseph lined up for his third kick. From 49 yards out, Joseph didn’t appear to get all of it and the ball popped up before barely getting over the crossbar.

The stats look great, but the Vikings would be kidding themselves if they believe Joseph is the only option they have.

On the opposing sideline, they had a front-row seat to an intense kicker battle. Rodrigo Blankenship and Eddy Pineiro have yet to miss a kick in practice or during exhibition games this summer and went a combined four for four on Saturday night.

Elsewhere, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on Saturday morning that the New York Giants were shopping Ryan Santoso in a trade. Rapoport also said that several teams see the former Gopher as “starting caliber,” but he is blocked by Graham Gano, who went 31-of-32 on field goals last season.

Perhaps the Vikings will be gun shy about trading for a kicker, but the situations in Indianapolis and New York are exactly what the Vikings should be keeping their eye on.

The Vikings might not be in as dire of a situation as in the past, because Joseph has been solid in training camp. According to writer Eric L. Smith, Joseph has knocked down 35-of-41 kicks during camp, including 17 straight heading into Saturday’s game.

The situations in New York and Indianapolis are similar to the kicker conundrum for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year. After bringing in several candidates, they settled on Ryan Succop right before the start of the regular season. The gamble paid off as Succop made 28-of-31 field goals and 52-of-57 extra points during Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl run.

The Vikings are also not strangers to shaking up their special teams personnel late in camp. Two years ago, the Vikings traded for Kaare Vedvik in the middle of camp. While the gamble didn’t pay off, it at least was a call to action that inspired Bailey to win the job.

The same thing has happened at punter. The Vikings shocked many when they cut Ryan Quigley at the end of the 2018 preseason to bring in Matt Wile, but they did it again the following year when they signed Britton Colquitt. Even this preseason, they tried out a punter after Colquitt struggled in the first preseason game.

In other words, if the Vikings aren’t comfortable with a kicker who hasn’t played in a regular-season game since 2019, they have options. The main thing is that they shouldn’t settle for Joseph if he continues to be shaky, because there could be a better one waiting in the wings.

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