Could Greg Joseph lose his starting job to Jack Podlesny?
Training camp has been progressing quite positively in Eagan for the Minnesota Vikings. Multiple rookies are performing well with some well on their way to earning roster spots, and the starters are proving again why they are the starters. Admittedly, one name that you might not be hearing as much as the others is Greg Joseph. That should come as no surprise as kickers rarely reach the name recognition that is possessed by the likes of Justin Jefferson, Kirk Cousins, and Danielle Hunter. And yet, Joseph is facing off against Georgia rookie Jack Podlesny in a kicking competition as made clear by the coaching staff.
Part of the reason for the relative quiet on this position battle is that it has not yet seemed like a battle. As of yet, Podlesny has only received about half as many attempts as Joseph has been given during practice. Which would seem to indicate that the coaches are attempting to build up the starter’s confidence in the hope that he can carry it into the 2023 season. The same was true last year when a rookie kicker was brought in to vie for the starting job only for Joseph to retain his position. It seemed as though the same would happen two years in a row, but his performance at yesterday’s evening practice could turn this into a true position battle as Joseph missed three of four kicks to end the night while Podlesny only missed one. Could Joseph’s spot on the roster be usurped? And more importantly, should it?
The night ended with FG kicks from Greg Joseph and rookie challenger Jack Podlesny. I had Joseph 5-8, including 2 misses from 58, and Podlesny 3-4.
For camp, I have Joseph 12-15 and Podlesny 7-8.
— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) August 4, 2023
Is it really a kicking competition?
Absolutely. Running backs are learning the hard lesson that specialists have known for years: some spots on the field are easily replaced. And kicker chief among them. It was also confirmed by special teams coach Matt Daniels said so during media availability.
ST coordinator Matt Daniels speaking at #Vikings camp. Insists it is very much a “kicking competition” between Greg Joseph and Jack Podlesny.
— Sam Ekstrom (@SamEkstrom) July 28, 2023
The idea of playing the hot hand is a very relevant expression when it comes to kickers and they oftentimes find themselves replaced at the first sign of a slump. In the instance of journeyman kicker, Nick Folk, he has played for four different NFL teams and was consistently replaced when his numbers fell. He had a field goal percentage of 64.3 in his final year with the Cowboys and a 54.5 percent during his four game stint with Tampa Bay in 2017. During his first year with the Vikings, Joseph had an 86.8 FG% but dropped this past year to 78.8. In any other year, Joseph might’ve been brought back onto the roster with little resistance, but when your team leads the league in one score victories the previous season, every point counts. And that goes doubly when factoring in six missed extra points, let alone a 60 percent miss rate beyond 50 yards.
During his time playing for Georgia, Podlesny managed an 82.2 FG% and only missed two extra-point attempts in three years. As long as he can prove to the Vikings coaching staff that he can drill kicks from 50+ yards, he has a real shot at becoming the Vikings’ next kicker. But in order to successfully take the job he will need to prove he is worth nearly every penny that Joseph signed as part of his one-year $2 million guaranteed contract for the upcoming season. If the Vikings decided to part ways with Joseph and retain Podlesny, they would eat $1.7 million in guaranteed money and save $300 thousand according to Over the Cap. It would be the Vikings’ way of saying that Podlesny is worth at least $2.5 million in 2023 cap space (Joseph’s dead cap plus Podlesny’s base salary).
There’s no doubt that replacing the known commodity in Joseph with the relatively unknown in Podlesny isn’t a gamble, but it could be a risk worth taking. And if Ryan Wright’s emergence from last year’s training camp adds any clarity to the situation, it’s that all options are on the table.
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