Punter Jeff Locke’s strong performance in the Vikings’ victory at Carolina on Sunday came with a dynamic supporting cast.
Gunners Cordarrelle Patterson and Marcus Sherels — who also had a punt return touchdown — downed punts inside the 10. Patterson, making his NFL debut in the position, also tackled Ted Ginn for a 1-yard loss after a 50-yard kick. Locke averaged 48.4 yards on seven punts, with a net of 45.6.
“One of my better games, overall,” Locke said Friday. “First one I could have hit a little better, but then got on a roll for the next six, and had guys like CP and Sherels just showing up all day [as] gunners, which helps with a guy like Ginn.”
Teams might pay more attention to Patterson in return coverage now, but Locke said “you have Marcus Sherels, who is the best gunner in the league on the other side, so it’s pick your poison.”
Special teams coach Mike Priefer thought it might have been Locke’s best game in four seasons.
“Jeff’s biggest issue a year ago, especially at the outdoor stadium, is he would overthink the winds a lot of times,” Priefer said.
“One of the things we worked on this offseason was … on the fundamental aspect of punting, the drop, the angle of the approach, the set pattern, all the basic stuff he needs to do consistently to be a good punter.”
Danielle Hunter has sacks in each of the Vikings’ first three games. The defensive end, in his second NFL season, is still 29 days from his 22nd birthday.
“He’s starting to come out of his shell a little bit,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “When he would get a sack last year he would clap once and go back to the huddle. Now he’s flexing and things like that, so he’s talking more.
“It’s funny because I see guys like Shamar Stephen, who would never say a word, and now he’s talking to the other guys and saying stuff and Hunter is kind of like that. [Second-year linebacker Anthony] Barr, he’s changed a lot in his demeanor. A year ago he wouldn’t even say diddly, and now he’s talking a lot. It’s actually kind of fun to see some of these young guys that start to mature a little bit.”
Starting left guard Alex Boone returned to practice for the first time since leaving Sunday’s game because of a hip injury. He was limited in practice as the Vikings prepare for Monday night’s game against the Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“We’re fortunate that we have an extra day,” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. “We’ll see when we get to Monday. [Jeremiah] Sirles went in and played, did a nice job.
“Obviously, we played more like we want to play in the second half. That’s the most productive half we’ve had — 11 first downs in the second half. We need to play like we did in the second half for the entire game.
• Priefer on Blair Walsh’s missed extra point Sunday: “He needs to approach it like it’s a short field goal. That’s what it is. His mind-set has to be the same for an extra point as it is for any type of field goal. Physically he’s got all the tools. It’s between the ears right now.”
• Fullback Zach Line (knee) was also limited in his return to practice. Receiver Stefon Diggs (groin) was added to the injury report.