The Vikings’ first-team offense ran 13 plays in three possessions during Thursday night’s 17-10 preaseason victory at Buffalo.
It produced 24 net yards — or 1.8 per snap — with one first down, one penalty, two three-and-outs and not a single snap beyond the Vikings’ 34-yard line.
One of the many thoughts that came to mind while watching this 2016-esque production:
Boy oh boy, the punter sure could become a mighty key player on this year’s team.
So we turned to special teams coordinator Mike Priefer for an update on the competition between veteran Ryan Quigley and the young, inexperienced Taylor Symmank. The goal of this competition is to identify someone who will offer more consistency than former Viking Jeff Locke offered the past four seasons. That bar isn’t high.
“I thought they both performed very well [at Buffalo],” Priefer said. “Quigley was 3 for 3 on his punts [in terms of them being acceptable efforts] and Symmank was 3 for 4. Symmank was more of the ‘wow’ punts. He had the higher, farther punts. But Quigley did a better job of directional punting, which really helped us in coverage.”
On paper, Symmank would appear to have had the edge in the preseason opener. He had four punts for a gross and net average of 44.0 yards, and three inside the 20, including a long of 60 that rolled dead at the Buffalo 6. Meanwhile, Quigley had three punts for a gross average of 40.7, a net of 38.7, one inside the 20 and a long of 46.
“[Symmank] shanked that one for 31 yards,” Priefer said. “And you know what that did? Buffalo got the ball at its  and went down and kicked a field goal [for a 3-0 lead]. So it’s all relative. It’s all complementary football. It’s field position. Hidden yardage. That sort of thing.”
Quigley also had a 31-yarder, but it pinned Buffalo at its 4-yard line. The Bills proceeded to gain three first downs on the ensuing drive. But even with three first downs, they still didn’t reach midfield before having to punt the ball back to the Vikings.
There is plenty of time for the Vikings to showcase progress offensively. But if the first peek is any indication of what’s to come, Quigley or Symmank is going to become a key puzzle piece.