Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Lloyd to visit Vikings

Posted by: under Vikings, NFC, Percy Harvin, Ryan Longwell Updated: March 8, 2010 - 8:53 AM

The Vikings finally will get a free-agent visit.

As we reported a few days ago, former Gophers kicker Rhys Lloyd is scheduled to be at Winter Park on Monday. Lloyd, who appears to have a legitimate twitter account, tweeted on Sunday that he was "off to Minnesota tomorrow [in the morning]."

Lloyd also tweeted that he has a flight to New York on Tuesday. He will visit the Giants on that trip.

Lloyd has been a kickoff specialist for Carolina but became an unrestricted free agent when the Panthers decided not to extend him an offer as a restricted free agent.

If Lloyd lands in Minnesota, he would have an excellent chance to be used exclusively on kickoffs. Veteran Ryan Longwell is coming off a season in which he made 92.9 percent of his field-goal attempts. Longwell had five touchbacks on 98 kickoffs. Lloyd has 51 touchbacks over the past two years and had 21 on 72 kickoffs last season. Lloyd has never attempted a field goal in two-plus NFL seasons.

The Vikings' interest in Lloyd is not a surprise given that Minnesota saw what a kickoff specialist can do to a team's return game this season. With Percy Harvin providing a legitimate threat every time he touched the ball, many teams began kicking off short of Harvin and accepting the fact that they were going to give up field position.

However, teams with kickoff specialists did not have to worry about Harvin as much. That's because those kickers often put the ball so deep into the end zone that Harvin's only option was to take the touchback and have the Vikings start at their own 20.

Two examples came in the playoffs. In the Vikings' victory over Dallas, the Cowboys' David Buehler kicked off twice and both times it resulted in touchbacks. In the NFC title game, Saints punter and kickoff specialist Thomas Morstead kicked off five times and had three touchbacks. Harvin returned two kicks for an average of 16.5 yards.

The interesting thing is that when the Vikings' lost at Carolina in December, the Panthers only had one touchback and instead attempted to squib the ball at times to keep it away from Harvin. It still worked as Harvin averaged only 15.5 yards on two returns. He averaged 27.5 yards on returns for the season.

 

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