Presser Points: Zimmer on Kickers, Punt Coverage and Defensive Linemen

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings have settled on their kicker.

Minnesota announced Monday they released Kai Forbath, leaving rookie Daniel Carlson as the only kicker on the Vikings roster.

Carlson, a rookie fifth-round pick out of Auburn, has made both of his field goal attempts and all five extra point tries in preseason play. His kicks include a 57-yarder against the Broncos in Denver.

“Probably his leg strength, he’s got a really strong leg,” Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said when asked about what he’s been impressed with about Carlson. “Kickoffs are really good, been pretty accurate on the field goals.”

Zimmer added that he’s not worried about handing over the reins to the kicking job to a rookie.

“He’s been pretty calm all along. Time will tell on that,” Zimmer said. “It was nice to see him in Denver go out and kick those.

“It’ll be a little bit different when we’re playing San Francisco [in Week 1], I’m sure,” Zimmer added. “So, we’ll just see how it goes. You make your decision and you live with it.”

Forbath, who had been with the Vikings since November of 2016, made 47 of his 53 career field goals with Minnesota. He was 45 on 53 extra points during that time.

“Well, we just figured it was getting close to the last couple preseason games,” Zimmer said of the roster move. “Kai did a great job while he was here. He’s a good kid. We just decided to go with Daniel.”

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

1. Cleaning up punt coverage

The Vikings have allowed two lengthy punt returns in two preseason games, including one for a touchdown.

Minnesota’s punt coverage unit allowed a 78-yard scoring return in Denver, and gave up a 56-yard return against Jacksonville that led to the go-ahead touchdown.

Zimmer broke down the big returns on Monday.

“They’ve all been to our right side. They’ve all basically been with young guys, but we need to get that fixed,” Zimmer said. “We had a guy start in the right place and then comes back when he thinks the guy is going the other way, so we’re going to have to fix that.”

Zimmer later added that he appreciated the effort, but the technique and timing could be a little better.

“They’re trying to get to the ball, and then they’re over aggressive jumping to the inside and that’s not their responsibility,” Zimmer said. “It’s just more of a timing thing. They get down there and they see the guy inside, and so they’re going to try and work back to the inside and not to the level of where they need to be. They can’t go inside until they get to where they have contain on the football.”

2. An update on Aruna

The Vikings placed defensive end Ade Aruna on Injured Reserve on Monday after the defensive end suffered a leg injury in Saturday’s game against the Jaguars.

Zimmer said that although Aruna won’t be on the field, he thinks the Nigerian native can learn the intricacies of the league in the classroom going forward.

“He’s a very, very talented kid. It’ll set him back some but on the same token, we’re going to keep him here for all of the meetings, rehab and do that,” Zimmer said. “I think that part will be good for him because the change to the NFL game was probably his biggest adjustment to make.

“He’s really talented in everything he can do that way,” Zimmer said. “It’ll be exciting to get him back next year.”

Aruna had a dozen career sacks at Tulane.

3. Praise for the offensive line

The final numbers in the running game from Saturday’s game were positive for the Vikings.

Minnesota had 128 total rushing yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, good for an average of 5.3 yards per attempt. Rookie Mike Boone did most of the damage with 91 yards on 13 attempts.

Zimmer said the push started up front and credited the offensive line group for opening holes for the running backs.

“I thought we had some good runs in there. One of Latavius’ [Murray] fumbles was a pretty good run,” Zimmer said. “Yeah, I thought we moved the ball well that way. [Mike] Boone got a couple, that was with the second group.

“Yeah, I think they’re coming off the ball well,” Zimmer said. “We need to continue to get better, pass protection, work on some of those things. They blitzed us a good amount, so we need to shore up some of the blitz stuff a little bit.”

4. Mixing and matching

Vikings defensive lineman Ifeadi Odenigbo was all over the field — and the defensive line — on Saturday.

Odenigbo played both defensive tackle and defensive end, and led the way with a pair of sacks.

Fellow lineman Jaleel Johnson also had a strong game, playing at both defensive tackle spots — nose tackle and the three-technique.

Zimmer said the versatility those players bring to the roster are an added bonus because they can slide to multiple spots on the line and not miss a beat.

And, Zimmer noted, they’re more valuable when the Vikings get in a pinch like they did Saturday.

“Yeah, it’s important,” Zimmer said. “For a guy on game day to be able to play three or four positions, that’s important.

“A lot of things happen like [injuries] the other day,” Zimmer added. “We have to be prepared for all of those scenarios.”

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