EAGAN, Minn. — The 2018 season brought multiple changes to the Vikings special teams units, including a punter/holder that was added just before the season began when Minnesota released Ryan Quigley to pick up Matt Wile, and an in-season change at kicker.
The unit dealt with injuries to top players and was forced to make multiple adjustments when injuries to defensive starters prompted the promotion of core teamers.
Here are six numbers of note on the Vikings special teams units in 2018:
10.9 to 6.1 — The Vikings averaged 10.9 yards per punt return and allowed opponents to average just 6.1 yards per punt return. Minnesota’s average by its return team ranked sixth in the NFL, and the Vikings coverage team ranked fifth in the league.
18 — Jayron Kearse led the Vikings with 18 tackles on special teams, including 14 solo, by excelling in his role as a gunner. Ben Gedeon had 13, and Kentrell Brothers and Eric Wilson each had 10 special teams tackles.
25.2 — The Vikings average starting field position after kickoffs was the 25.2-yard line, just barely past the 25 that is awarded on kickoffs resulting in touchbacks. Coincidentally, that was also the average starting field position after kickoffs for Vikings opponents. Minnesota was the only team in the NFL to have the same average as its opponents.
42.9 percent — On field goals from 40-plus yards, the Vikings were 6-for-14 on the season for a success rate of 42.9 percent. Opponents finished the season 13-for-15 from 40 or longer for a success rate of 86.7 percent. Daniel Carlson was 1-for-3 on kicks from 40-49 yards before he was released two weeks into the season. Dan Bailey jumped into the fold in Week 3 and was 4-for-9 from 40-49 and 1-for-2 from 50-plus.
70 — Marcus Sherels had a season-long punt return of 70 yards against the Dolphins. It marked the sixth season since 2011 when he became Minnesota’s punt returner to have at least one punt return of more than 50 yards in a season. He finished 2018 with an average of 12.0 yards per return that ranked fifth in the NFL.
71.3 percent — Minnesota fielded 80 adjusted kickoffs (does not include onside kicks or kickoffs on the final plays of halves), and 57 of those resulted in touchbacks. That touchback percentage of 71.3 was the sixth-highest in the NFL. The Vikings played nine games indoors in 2018 (eight at home and one at Detroit). The five teams that had a higher touchback percentage (Dallas, 82.2; Indianapolis, 78.2; Detroit, 75.3; Houston, 72.9; and Arizona, 71.8) all play their home games in covered/retractable roof stadiums.