EAGAN, Minn. – New Special Teams Coordinator Matt Daniels carries a contagious energy.
Daniels radiated it Monday when he spoke with Twin Cities media members following the team's walk-through session.
The first-year coordinator answered questions about a variety of topics, one of the biggest takeaways being his "utmost, highest confidence" in Vikings kicker Greg Joseph.
"I'll put it on record right now and say that I firmly believe that Greg Joseph will have his best year in his career this year," Daniels said. "I'll put it out there right now. I'm sure of it."
Daniels lauded Joseph's minicamp, offseason prep and early training camp performance, saying the way he's "hit the football has been the best" work he's put on tape.
Off the top of his head, Daniels said Joseph has missed just two of 35 field goal attempts (a 94–percent success rate) the Vikings have tracked in team periods.
"The process and approach he's taking on each and every individual kick, you can just tell he's really dialed in, and I'm excited for Greg," Daniels said. "I'm thrilled to have him as my kicker. It's going to be a heck of a year for him."
Below are four other areas Daniels hit on:
View the best photos of Vikings K Greg Joseph from the 2021 season.
1. Steady Eddie … er … Greg
In addition to Joseph's athletic ability, Daniels spoke highly of his "even-keeled" personality and the way that helps him in the meeting room and on the field.
It's been a point of emphasis within the special teams unit, Daniels noted, to "stay neutral" no matter the situation.
"A lot of the greats, you look at Derek Jeter, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, they always talk about the mindset of staying neutral, never getting too high and never getting too low," Daniels explained. "That's kind of where Greg is, and I love it, honestly. That's where you want to be at when you talk about that kicker position being the man in the arena."
2. Connection, communication & reacting quickly
When rubber hits the road on game day, there isn't much time for thinking on special teams.
Daniels puts a high priority on his players' ability to react quickly, especially with Monday being Minnesota's first padded practice.
"We've had great conversations in the meeting room talking about connection, communication and, once we install our systems, we'll start talking about less thinking and more reacting," Daniels said. "That's what I'm looking for in my players. How quickly can we react? I tell them all the time, 'A slow correct decision is wrong.'
"A slow correct decision in this game is wrong. How quickly can we react? How quickly can we match and mirror movements? How quickly can we diagnose the playbook that we're putting in?" he continued. "Obviously there's new systems going in, new techniques, new fundamentals. Once we're able to completely indulge in that and completely know it in and out, that's when the real football starts. That's when the real high-key senses start to come into play. That's when we can really start to take things to another level."
3. May the best returner(s) win
Coaches are constantly evaluating, and that can certainly be said of Daniels and the Vikings kickoff and punt returners.
Kene Nwangwu, whose rookie campaign last year featured a pair of kickoff-return touchdowns, likely is safe to remain in that role, but others are always looking to challenge.
And there isn't yet a concrete answer at punt returner. K.J. Osborn, who returned four punts last season, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, rookie Jalen Nailor and free agent addition Albert Wilson all have taken reps there early in camp.
"At the end of the day, I'm looking at ball-tracking skills and your ability to catch it. What does your ball-catching look like? How comfortable are you back there?" Daniels explained. "We try to create certain scenarios as a punt returner just in terms of getting guys in their face and feeling traffic around their feet … how quickly are they able to make decisions?
"The decision making from a punt-return standpoint is vital," he added. "I can't emphasize enough what that looks like. There will be some aspects within that [area] that you can't control [in practice], and you need to see it in the game."
4. The battle at punter continues
The Vikings have just one kicker (Joseph) and one long snapper (Andrew DePaola) in the specialist group, but a competition remains at punter between Jordan Berry and rookie Ryan Wright.