Competition for the Vikings kicker job is “very close” heading into the preseason debut at Denver on Saturday, according to special teams coordinator Mike Priefer.
Veteran Kai Forbath and rookie Daniel Carlson are both expected to kick against the Broncos, which will help decide which kicker to keep. They are both 12-for-14 on field-goal attempts during training camp, Priefer said.
“Kickoffs, as you’d expect, Daniel is a little bit stronger,” Priefer said. “Kai would have to use his finesse in figuring out where to place the ball. It’s very close right now.”
Altitude in the mile-high city will factor into how each kicker approaches Saturday’s exhibition. Carlson, a Colorado Springs native, is accustom to kicking in thinner air, but the Vikings will try to prevent every kickoff of his from being a touchback so they can evaluate their kickoff coverage groups. The big-legged Carlson said he has previously kicked 75-yard field goals during Colorado practice sessions.
“You want to make sure you avoid the trap of trying to go out there and kill the ball,” Priefer said. “Daniel, we’ll have to rein him in because he’ll want to kick it into the stands on kickoffs.”
Competition from Carlson is a tall task for Forbath to topple. The Vikings traded up in the fifth round to draft the 6-foot-4 Auburn product. In college, he converted 13 of 21 field goals from 50-plus yards for a deep conversion rate that’s second in NCAA history.
Forbath has experience and accuracy on his side. The 86 percent career field-goal kicker has made 50 of 57 attempts for the Vikings, including eight of 11 from beyond 50 yards. Still, Carlson has kicked in front of nearly 90,000 fans in the Iron Bowl matchups between Auburn and Alabama, so he is also accustom to being under the spotlight.
“A lot of prayer,” Carlson said. “You kind of get used to it and embrace it. It’s part of the job.”