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Coaches Assess Battles for Vikings Kicker, Punter Positions

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — According to Vikings Special Team Coordinator Mike Priefer, two players vying for a starting job doesn't make it a competition.

As spring practices wrapped up last week, Priefer said he was more than pleased with how the battle for Minnesota's kicker job was progressing between Kai Forbath and Marshall Koehn. 

But Priefer harped on the fact that the only reason the competition was exciting to watch was that both players were performing on the field.

"It's good when they're both doing well," Priefer said. "It's bad if the competition is such that they're both folding under the pressure, and they're not.

"If one is better than the other one, then it doesn't do us a whole lot of good," Priefer added.

How close is the battle between Forbath and Koehn?

Priefer said the pair has each kicked more than 250 field goals over the past two months. One has made 90 percent of his kicks, and the other is at 89 percent. charted field goals attempted in team drills of practices. Through 13 sessions, Forbath made 20 of his 24 kicks, and Koehn hit 17 of his 20 attempts.

"They're responding well," Priefer added. "Kai is actually a better kicker than when we got him last November, and Marshall is a better kicker than he was coming out of school."

Koehn said he and Forbath have embraced the competition while maintaining a friendship away from the field.

"Kai, he's a great kicker. He doesn't miss," Koehn said earlier this spring. "He's been great to me, so it's a great competition between us both.

"We're definitely pushing to make each other better," Koehn added. "That's what we're doing, day-in, day-out. I think it's great. It's only going to bring out the best in both of us."

Forbath joined the Vikings midway through the 2016 season and made all 15 of his field goal attempts. He has played in 58 career games.

Koehn was with the Miami Dolphins in training camp and the preseason in 2016 but did not make the 53-man roster.

Priefer said Koehn hasn't buckled even though he's never appeared in a regular season contest.

"Anytime you have game experience, it's an advantage," Priefer said of Forbath. "But Marshall kicked in preseason games for Miami a year ago and made every PAT and field goal he kicked.

"He did a pretty good job for Miami last year," Priefer added. "In fact, I thought he won the job."

In addition to the kicking competition, Ryan Quigley and Taylor Symmank are trying to win Minnesota's punting job.

Quigley has played in 51 career games with the Jets and Cardinals, while Symmank was a standout at Texas Tech.

Priefer said the punting job was wide open after spring drills, and noted that the Vikings are looking for the punter that will help them pin opponents deep at U.S. Bank Stadium.

"Ryan is an experienced punter with a couple of years under his belt," Priefer said. "With Taylor, he's got the benefit of being young … he doesn't overthink things.

"Taylor probably has a little bit stronger leg, but Ryan is more consistent right now," Priefer added. "We're looking for a guy that when we're indoors, he's very good at directional punting."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said last week that he was excited to see how the pair of jobs pan out going forward.

"The kickers, the punters have done a great job this spring," Zimmer said. "We charted everything, and it's been a very close deal.

"I think it's probably, in the end, going to come down to the games and seeing how they handle the pressure situations," Zimmer added.

Priefer agreed, adding that kicking in front of fans in training camp and during the preseason will place a bit of the spotlight on all four players. 

"This is part of getting them ready for the preseason games," Priefer said. "And the preseason games get them ready for the regular season.

"We'll see who shines in those type of situations before we have to make a decision," Priefer added. "And I hope it's a tough one. We're only taking one kicker and one punter to the game against New Orleans."

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