Every year, NFL teams churn the bottom of their rosters, relying on draft picks, undrafted rookies and low-profile free agents to fill out their squads.
And every year, special teams coaches are tasked with taking all those new guys and integrating them with the returning special-teamers who haven’t performed well enough to become too valuable to risk in that phase.
So once again, Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer has spent another spring sorting through the new faces and seeing how they can help out.
“That’s the nature of the beast in the NFL,” he said yesterday. “You’re going to have young players come in to replace some of the veteran guys. … [Last season] good football players and young guys stepped up and played really well in their absence. I would expect the same thing again this year.”
While Cordarrelle Patterson, Marcus Sherels and the return teams could not produce any touchdowns in 2014, Priefer thought they were a block away from popping one on a few occasions. The return teams also showed improvement. And the Vikings scored on two blocked punts in one game.
This year, Priefer is taking a new philosophical approach with his players.
“One of the things that we’ve been talking about all spring is going along with the identity of our team that Coach [Mike] Zimmer has established for us — the toughness, the passion for the game and being a smart football player. … What Coach Zimmer talks about as our identity, we are also taking on that identity as our special teams unit,” Priefer said. “We’ve talked a lot about it, I think our guys are buying into it and we’re excited about the end of spring going on into training camp next month.”
So far, Priefer likes what he sees from the group of new players that has come in this year. He mentioned tight end MyCole Pruitt and wide receiver Stefon Diggs as two draft picks who stand out. He also said that top picks Trae Waynes and Eric Kendricks can help if Priefer is allowed to use them.
Priefer also brought up rookie linebacker Brian Peters, who played in the Arena Football League and Canadian Football League before signing here.
“I think we’ve got a really good group,” Priefer said. “We’ve got a good, young group of guys that are bigger, stronger, faster than the guys that we’ve had here in the past. So I think we’ve got a good group to work with.”