One of the bigger rumblings out of training camp this year was the release of punter Chris Kluwe, so that rookie fifth-round pick Jeff Locke could have the starting spot right away. Kluwe’s departure brought with it his attitude that claimed he was released by the Minnesota Vikings because he is a LGBT activist, and was bringing unwanted attention to the team. When the storm settled and Kluwe moved on to the Oakland Raiders, it was Locke’s time to shine.
Through two preseason games, Locke has shown he was the correct punter for the team to keep, as he is averaging just under 45 yards per punt, and has even dropped five inside the 20-yard line with zero touchbacks. Locke has proven his worth in just 12 punts, and so far it seems the Vikings have found another special teams player steal in the draft.
Last year, the Vikings decided to move on from longtime kicker Ryan Longwell, and onto another unproved rookie, Blair Walsh. Walsh was relatively unknown coming out of the University ofbut quickly proved he belonged in the NFL,as he set and/or tied five NFL records, including most field goals of 50 yards or more in a season with 10.
Although Locke still hasn’t been tested through a full NFL season, he has shown early in the preseason that he is capable of being a punter with a big leg that can also drop the ball inside the 20, a crucial skill for punters. When considering the drafting of Walsh one year ago, and how that has played out for the team so far, it appears the Vikings may have found two key special teams players who could play an important role on this team for years to come.