The Vikings kicking game has been an area of concern after a rough preseason for Blair Walsh. Walsh went 5-for-11 on field goals during five preseason games and also missed an extra point, this following a season in which Walsh finished last among qualified kickers by connecting on only 74.3 percent of his field goal attempts.
Walsh had a Pro Bowl rookie season in 2013.
“I think Blair is a good kicker,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “I know he didn’t have the best preseason, but he’s thumping the ball now. The ball sounds better now coming off his foot. I’m anticipating he’ll be good ol’ Blair.”
Walsh went 26-for-35 last year on field goals, but he received a four-year extension during training camp worth up to $14 million with $5.25 million guaranteed. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer felt Walsh was analyzing things too much this preseason.
“Any time you have a few misses in the preseason, you start overthinking things,” Priefer said. “What we tried to do is try and slow him down a little bit in terms of his approach and his thought process. I don’t want him thinking as much, because he’s a real smart guy.”
Blanton to start
For the second consecutive year, Robert Blanton is slated to start at strong safety. The position was a Vikings weakness last season, but defensive coordinator George Edwards said Blanton has improved.
Blanton started a career-high 13 games last year, recording 72 tackles and his first career interception. He was inconsistent, however, and didn’t start the final two games once he recovered from a left leg injury. Blanton has worked with the first team throughout the offseason and during all five preseason games.
“Robert’s a very smart guy, very conscientious in what we’re trying to do schematically,” Edwards said. “He understands what offenses are trying to do to us. He does a good job communicating with the different splits of receivers and what we’re trying to get done. Those are things that he brings to the table. Whether it’s in the run or in the pass, the things we’ve asked him to work on you can tell he’s worked on.”
Used to the night
The Vikings have a late kickoff against the 49ers, at 9:20 p.m., as the second game of the “Monday Night Football” doubleheader. Zimmer opted not to tinker with the team’s practice schedule, however, because it played five night preseason games.
“We would have thought about it differently if we had day games all this time, but I think it’s going to be more of a challenge on the next week, just because we get back at 6:45 a.m. on Tuesday,” Zimmer said. “Our guys are pretty much used to the night game schedule. It’s a little bit later, but as far as here, it will be more difficult for the fans, they’re going to have to make sure they stay up and sleep in that morning or don’t go to work the next day. I’m not asking them to do that.”