Presser Points: Priefer Talks Kicking Competition, Altitude & Hughes

EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said a plan regarding reps on Saturday night in Denver for kickers Kai Forbath and Daniel Carlson remains to be determined.

It is likely that both kickers will get a chance to showcase themselves if the opportunity presents itself, as the battle for one spot on the roster is heating up.

Both Forbath and Carlson nailed all four kicks in Saturday night’s practice, with each hitting from 33, 41, 46 and 53 yards.

Priefer was asked for an update on the position battle between Forbath and Carlson and said that neither player has the upper leg at this point in training camp.

“They both have done a nice job in field goals, and they’re both 12 of 14,” Priefer said. “On kickoffs, as you would expect Daniel is a little bit stronger, Kai would have to use his finesse in figuring out how to place the ball, et cetera, using his veteran savvy.

“It’s very close right now. They’re both working really hard. They help each other, they’re both pros,” Priefer said. “Kai has been and done this before, and Daniel has done a nice job of fitting in with the group and saying, ‘Just because I was drafted, doesn’t mean I have a spot on this team.’ He’s going out and working every day. It’s been a really good summer in that regard so far, and I hope that continues.”

Forbath has been Minnesota’s kicker for the Vikings past 23 regular-season games, and has made 47 of 53 field goals during that span, which is good for an 88.7 percent clip.

Carlson is a rookie fifth-round pick out of Auburn. He made 92 of 114 career field goals (80.7 percent) in college with a long of 56 yards.

Here are four other takeaways from Priefer’s podium session Monday:

1. Kicking at altitude

The spotlight will already be on the kickers Saturday night, but even more so since the game is in Denver.

Kickers have usually enjoyed a boost in the Mile High City, where the ball tends to travel a bit farther than normal.

Priefer, who was the Special Teams Coordinator for the Broncos in 2009 and 2010, said he’s aware of the reputation about playing his Denver.

Priefer’s advice to his specialists? Kick the ball like normal.

“Well, I was there for two years before I came here. You have to avoid the trap of going out there and trying to kill the ball because the altitude … is going to help you,” Priefer said. “It does make a difference, the 4.6 [hang time on a] punt might turn into a 5.0 punt, it does make a difference.

“But they still have to go out and do what they’re supposed to do, kick how they’re supposed to kick, not do anything different than they’ve been doing at pretty much sea level. It will be exciting,” Priefer said. “I’ve had punters and kickers go crazy because it’s in Denver, and other guys, you have to kind of reign them in a little bit. I think [punter Ryan] Quigley will be fine, Kai will be fine. Daniel, we’ll have to reign him in a bit because he’ll want to kick the ball into the stands on kickoffs. We just have to do what we do and do it the best we can every time.”

2. It’s evaluation time

The action is a little quicker and the lights are a little brighter once the preseason starts.

Dozens of players on the Vikings roster will get a chance to make an impression on coaches and teammates in the first preseason game of 2018.

Priefer said he looks forward to game action since he can evaluate anything and everything that has to do with special teams play.

“You get to [evaluate] all four phases [of special teams]. Saturday night [at practice] we just had punt return, punt and field goal. Today, we had some kickoff and punt return. Tomorrow, we’ll have kickoff, kickoff return and some field goal,” Priefer said. “We’re going to continue on with training camp because, obviously, the ultimate goal is to get ready for that opening day in September against San Francisco.

“With four preseason games to work on all our stuff and to evaluate these players and figure out who the best guys are going to be at the right spots, that’s going to be huge for us,” Priefer added.

Priefer said he’ll have a close eye on a handful of specifics as the Vikings go against another team for the first time this summer.

“I’m looking more for fundamentals, technique, effort, being where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there and doing it that way every rep,” Priefer said.

3. Hughes standing out

Count rookie Mike Hughes as a player who has impressed Priefer during spring practices and training camp.

And be on the lookout for the rookie cornerback on special teams in Denver, especially at the gunner position.

Priefer said Monday that he believes Hughes has lots of potential at the spot that charges down the field to cover punts.

“Oh yes, very much so. I see potential for Mike Hughes doing anything he wants to in this game,” Priefer said. “He’s very talented, he’s very intelligent. He’s very quiet and unassuming. You guys have probably all talked to him, but there’s a drive in there that you can see.

“I’ve been around a lot of young people, and I think he’s one of the guys that really understands what he needs to do to get better,” Priefer added. “He knows he hasn’t arrived yet, even though he was a first round draft pick. I love his attitude, I love his effort, and he’s improving every day.”

Priefer also added that he believes there is a chance Hughes will likely get punt return opportunities on Saturday. Earlier in camp, Priefer said Hughes will have an opportunity to return kickoffs.

4. Keeping things simple

Wide receivers are usually key special teams players because they are athletic enough to get around the field quickly, but also big enough to block opponents when needed.

Priefer dove into detail on how he helps that position group learn blocking techniques on special teams, and said he tries to keep as much carryover as possible for players as they help out in the third phase of the game.

“I try to carry over from offense and defense to special teams techniques. I try to use some of the same buzzwords,” Priefer said. “Obviously, it is a little bit different in terms of the dynamics that each play.

“At the end of the day, I try to use the same buzzwords that their position coaches use so it doesn’t confuse them, then, ‘Now I have to worry about two different words meaning the same thing.’ I try to keep as much carry over as possible,” Priefer said. “If you can block on offense as a receiver, as a running back, as a tight end, you have a chance to do a pretty good job on special teams. If I do my job and put them against the right person, the right matchups for them so to speak, that gives them better opportunities to be successful.”

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