EAGAN (FOX 9) - It's Day 2 of Training Camp for the Minnesota Vikings, and we're already talking about kickers.
The Vikings' history of kickers missing field goals in key situations is well-chronicled. It goes back for most Viking fans to Gary Anderson in the 1999 NFC title game.
The Vikings had the Atlanta Falcons beat, up 10 points in the fourth quarter if Anderson could make a 38-yard field goal. Instead, wide left. It was his only miss of the season, and the Vikings lost to the Falcons in overtime.
Fast forward to Friday's Day 1 practice at TCO Performance Center. It was Dan Bailey's first real chance since OTAs and mini camp to get out on the field and work with his field goal unit. He connected for made kicks from 33 and 36 yards out, then missed wide right from 41 yards out.
In an end-of-game scenario near the end of practice, Bailey missed from 47 yards out. He finished his first Training Camp practice 4-of-7. It should be noted that the wind at the training facility was between 10 to 20 miles per hour Friday, but seven of the Vikings' 16 regular season games this year are in outdoor stadiums.
Vikings' fans tend to watch kickers in end-of-game situations with one eye shut given the track record, but Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maloouf isn't worried. At least not yet.
"Yesterday was Day 1, you've got two long snappers, you've got to get used to a couple different things. It wasn't all on Dan, we've got to clean up the operation," Maloouf said. "It's just so early. Ask me again in a week and hopefully I'll have a more detailed answer for you."
It takes a good snap and a good hold to keep a kicker comfortable, and that's just the start. The kicker himself also has to be in a solid frame of mind.
Blair Walsh lasted nine games into his fifth season with the Vikings, but his downfall started with a missed 27-yard field goal against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Divisional Playoffs at TCF Bank Stadium on a bitterly cold January Sunday. He was released by the Vikings in 2017, and landed in Seattle. He finished that season 37-of-38 on extra points and 8-of-12 from 40-49 yards.
Then there's Daniel Carlson, whom the Vikings invested a fifth-round pick in last season. He lasted just two regular season games before being released. The Vikings had to settle for a 29-29 tie at Green Bay in Week 2 after Carlson missed three field goals, two in overtime. He missed wide right from 35 yards out as time expired, and if the Vikings win that game, they're a playoff team.
Carlson played the last eight games of last season with the Oakland Raiders and finished 17-of-21 on field goals. He was also a perfect 24-of-24 on extra points.
Bailey is one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, and even he had his struggles with the Vikings last season. In 14 games with Minnesota last year, Bailey was 21-of-28 on field goals and 30-of-31 on extra points.
One of the most intriguing Training Camp competitions that might go largely unnoticed is at long-snapper. Kevin McDermott is entering his seventh NFL season, and fifth with the Vikings. Minnesota used its final pick of the 2019 NFL Draft on Austin Cutting out of Air Force. The Vikings have worked out an agreement with the service academy to give Cutting a chance to make the team while having him serve as a local recruiter.
He'll at least get a chance to win the job.
"It's so early, it's going to depend on a lot of things. Who's better in situations, they're both talented long-snappers. I said in the spring that we have two NFL long-snappers. That's going to be a good competition," Maloouf said. "Austin is going to have to work for it, and the good thing with Kevin is he's risen to the competition. Any time you bring somebody into compete with somebody, all of a sudden their game steps up big time."
Mauloof is also looking for a new punt returner with Rochester native Marcus Sherels signed with the New Orleans Saints in free agency.
So while we don't like to see kickers miss, fans need to breathe. It's early in Training Camp, but the kicking game is certainly something to monitor.