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Snap, Set, Kick: Vikings Moving Forward with Specialists

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings will enter Saturday's preseason tilt with just three specialists on their 85-man roster.

That's the lowest total Minnesota has had in the building since the end of the 2020 season after having six specialists — two kickers, two punters and two long snappers — on the team during the spring.

But as the regular season looms, there's a chance that the current trio of kicker Greg Joseph, punter/holder Britton Colquitt and long snapper Andrew DePaola is the crew Minnesota turns to in Week 1 against Cincinnati.

Colquitt was the first to become the lone player at his position, as Minnesota released Zach Von Rosenberg in mid-June. But the punter entering his 12th season was a bit shaky in the preseason opener, as he had a net average of 40.5 yards on four punts against the Broncos.

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Ryan Ficken said the Vikings have debated potentially bringing in another punter for competition, but haven't done so as of Thursday morning. Colquitt's net average in 2020 was 36.7, which ranked 29th in the league.

"Britton has been having a solid camp, and we've been excited about him. Obviously, he knows he didn't perform to the standard he wants and that we have for him," Ficken said "We've talked about that, and he's ready to press forward. He's definitely a pro and is ready for the next challenge and wants to be out there as soon as he can."

"Everyone saw that he's not happy with his performance" Ficken added.

While eyes will be on Colquitt against the Colts, DePaola will be operating as the lone long snapper for the first time in 2021.

He joined the Vikings for the final seven games of the 2020 season and won the job outright against Turner Bernard, an undrafted rookie who was released Sunday during Minnesota's initial wave of cuts.

Ficken had high praise for DePaola earlier this week.

"I've got to give my hat off to Andrew. I mean, Andrew really did a fine job, and he earned the job, won the job, and we're excited for him here," Ficken said. "The consistency and his velocity and blocking, and just the whole package of what Andrew could bring as the … veteran and the leader.

"We're excited for him, and we're happy to move forward," Ficken added. "We were very pleased with Turner coming in here and competing, but we're excited about the direction we're headed."

Joseph, a 27-year-old born in South Africa, was the last of the three to win his battle outright. Minnesota waived Riley Patterson on Monday with an injury designation. The undrafted rookie had trouble staying healthy this summer.

Joseph showed consistency in Patterson's absence, hitting a pair of field goals (25 and 34 yards) in the preseason opener against Denver.

"He was consistent. He had a great pregame and we were excited for the opportunity," Ficken said. "He did a really good job even though they were shorter kicks, of having the same mindset going in there.

"It's a kick, he's going up there to perform, and he did it. He did what we were looking for," Ficken added. "He did a great job with his [hangtimes] on kickoffs, so we were pretty excited about that. But now we have to put in another good week. Put it back-to-back and see if we can build on that."

Joseph responded well Wednesday, hitting all four of his field goals in team drills at practice. He is on a hot streak, hitting his past 17 field goals, and is 35 of 41 overall since training camp started.

But even though he's the only kicker on the roster, Joseph isn't letting up yet.

"It's still a competition … me vs. me now," Joseph said. "That's how I'm always going to view it, it's never ending. There's always work to be done and room to grow.

"I always view every opportunity as my opportunity, so I'm going to take it to the best of my ability," Joseph added. "I don't really see too much outside of my routine and I like it that way."

Joseph chatted with the Twin Cities media Tuesday and said the focus in his routine keeps him locked in.

"I'm off all media, so I'm in my zone. I don't [hear it], so I stay in my little area and my little zone," Joseph added. "I control what I can control.

"It's where I feel comfortable. I care about people close to me and how things are going with that. The rest of it, I just stay in my zone. I don't really need to see what people see," Joseph added. "I just stay in my zone. It's part of my routine that I'm in, and I'm a man of routine. That's where I get that from. … It's a mindset."

Ficken said said he's excited to see how the Vikings trio of specialists performs in Saturday's preseason outing against Indianapolis.

"We've got to make sure we get the job done, and those guys are excited for the opportunity to go ahead and be challenged," Ficken said. "We've got to make sure we put good things on tape so we're not making mistakes and we are helping our football team win games."