Vikings punter Ryan Wright has only played six career NFL games, but his previous outing captured attention from around the league — and the science world.
Wright has 27 punts this season for a total of 1,216 yards, which ranks 19th in the NFL. Of those, 15 have been inside the 20-yard line (tied for third).
During the Vikings game against the Miami Dolphins, Wright recorded 10 punts, averaging 44.1 yards per attempt. But his most impressive punt came in the first quarter on Minnesota's second possession.
With the Vikings on their own 7-yard line, Wright delivered a booming punt that grossed 73 yards. Dolphins returner Tyreek Hill caught the ball at the Miami 20-yard line but was tackled by Vikings safety Josh Metellus for a loss of 2 yards.
Wright's outing in Week 6 earned him NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. Matthew Coller of Purple Insider recently said Wright has been "a legitimate weapon" for Minnesota this season.
More than 50 [percent] of [Wright's] punts have pinned the opposition inside the 20-yard line and the Vikings are third in the NFL in average return yards allowed. They have also improved nearly two yards in net punting average (despite one 15-yard punt faux pas).
To gain a better sense into Wright's success and his impressive leg, Coller spoke with Dr. Tim Gay, a physics professor at the University of Nebraska.
Gay's first assessment of Wright's 73-yard punt was his physical attributes.
Wright is listed at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, making him the second heaviest punter in the NFL behind Pittsburgh's Pressley Harvin III, who is 6-foot, 255 pounds.
"There are two things that matter: The mass of the guy's leg — so a bigger player has an advantage there — but it's also the foot speed," Gay told Coller. "The mass helps you. But the bigger mass of a big guy over that of a small guy's leg helps you only if you can get that foot speed up to the same value … it's a complex intertwining of foot speed and leg mass."
Gay also said in order to have a 73-yarder, kickers and punters need to find the "sweet spot" of the football.
On a football, that point is 5.5 centimeters below the center of the ball. Gay points out that the reason kickers changed to soccer style kicking with the side of their foot is to increase the surface area and better their odds of hitting the sweet spot.
"I think if you miss it by half a centimeter you're probably OK, but if you miss it by two centimeters you're probably not OK," Gay said.
Gay then addressed the components of power and flight of the ball.
Coller said with quarterbacks, a deep pass has the nose of the ball pointing up at the beginning of its air travel before facing down on its way to the receiver. A punt, meanwhile, can have the nose facing up and continue spinning on its descent.
"You'd expect a ball that turns over (nose down) to go farther in general because it has less air drag on it," Gay said.
[Gay] estimates that elite punters can get the ball to spiral — with either the nose up or nose down — about 75 percent of the time.
Coller wrote another factor that Gay points out is the human component.
"The most talented kicker will be the one who can get his leg moving the fastest in a kinesiological way, but it's talent, it's heart, it's the desire to win, there's a great human component to it," Gay said.
All in all, Gay said it was an impressive punt by Wright.
"That's a heck of a punt," he said. "I'd love to have a good side view so you could measure the speed and altitude and really characterize the trajectory. It's a very complicated problem."
Pro Football Network ranks top offensive lines
There are several driving factors to the Vikings success so far this season, including the solid play of their offensive line.
Dallas Robinson of Pro Football Network recently ranked the top offensive line groups in the NFL. Robinson listed the Vikings at No. 12, sandwiched between Green Bay and Denver.
Credit to first-year Vikings Offensive Line Coach Chris Kuper, who's gotten the best performance out of a Minnesota line in years. Christian Darrisaw and Brian O'Neill look like a long-term tackle pairing, and while right guard Ed Ingram is giving up too much pressure, growing pains are expected for rookies.
Robinson placed Minnesota's next opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, at No. 20.
The Cardinals have struggled without center Rodney Hudson and left guard Justin Pugh in recent weeks. Pugh is out for the season after tearing his ACL, but Hudson should return at some point. Arizona's line will need an injection of youth during the offseason.