The Vikings showed their faith in kicker Blair Walsh by signing him to an extension two weeks ago. It is early in camp and there are five preseason games to be played, but Walsh looks poised for a bounce-back season.
Walsh has made 20 of his 23 field-goal attempts in camp, including seven of eight Tuesday night. His three misses have all come from beyond 50 yards.
“It’s going well so far,” Walsh said after last night’s practice in Mankato. “We’re hovering around 90 percent on field goals. You can’t complain.”
No, you really can’t if Walsh is able to connect at that rate in the season.
Still, it’s fair to scrutinize how Walsh has fared on longer kicks, especially when you consider that he made 10 straight 50-yard tries as a rookie.
Since then, he has made seven of 14 such kicks in games. And in camp, he has made kicks from 50, 52 and 52 yards while missing from 51, 53 and 54.
Walsh doesn’t seem concerned with the long misses in camp, and he fired off precise career numbers from 50 yards or more when asked about it.
“By the time it is go-time, it will come,” Walsh said. “I mean, I’m 17 of 24 in my career. I’m pretty good at long kicks. It is one of those things when you play outside in Minnesota you have to learn how to not make the ball move and keep it straight for a longer period of time. When you’re inside, it’s a lot easier. It’s something I continue to work on and to get better at.”
While Saturday night was pretty calm, some formidable wind gusts have blown across the practice fields at Minnesota State Mankato in camp. One day, winds exceeded 25 miles per hour. Walsh thinks that will only help.
“We’ve had some sideways winds on kickoffs, which is pretty incredible,” he said. “It got up to 20, 25 [miles per hour] the other day when we were kicking off. You had to have a holder out there to keep it on the tee and that’s almost unheard of for a camp practice. So it’s been good practice for us.”
Indeed. The Vikings will play 13 of their 16 games outdoors (assuming the Cardinals close their roof in December). The team’s final three venues? Two home games at tricky TCF Bank Stadium and a January game at Lambeau.
So Walsh will be tested again this season, especially when winter hits.