NFL: Sherels, Patterson likely to keep return jobs
By Chris TomassonSt. Paul Pioneer Prees EDEN PRAIRIE -- Rookie Stefon Diggs has been impressive, but the job of returning punts for the Vikings most likely will stay with Marcus Sherels. Sherels has been Minnesota's primary punt return the past f...
By Chris Tomasson
St. Paul Pioneer Prees
EDEN PRAIRIE - Rookie Stefon Diggs has been impressive, but the job of returning punts for the Vikings most likely will stay with Marcus Sherels.
Sherels has been Minnesota’s primary punt return the past four years; he finished second in the NFL in 2013 with a 15.2-yard average. The safety has looked good this preseason, returning two punts for a 21.5 average.
That’s still not as good as Diggs, a receiver who has returned five punts for a 24.2-yard average. Still, Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer said Wednesday that Diggs has benefited from better blocking and he’s leaning toward Sherels keeping his job.
“Marcus Sherels will more than likely be our (punt) returner if everything works according to ... what I would like,” Priefer said. “Obviously, he’s our good punt returner.”
Minnesota’s incumbent at returning kickoffs is third-year wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who led the NFL in 2013 with a 32.4 average. Patterson only has two kickoff returns this preseason because Priefer has wanted to look at Sherels, DuJuan Harris and Joe Banyard in that role.
It would be a huge surprise, though, if Patterson isn’t returning all kickoffs to start the regular season. For now, he’s been given a lot of latitude to run the ball out from deep in his end zone.
Patterson, who has a 25.0 average on his two preseason returns, returned one to the 19 from seven yards deep and another to the 18 from six yards deep. Even though the Vikings started from inside the 20 both times, Priefer isn’t concerned.
“We’re a very aggressive team; we always have been whether we had Percy Harvin or Cordarrelle Patterson, whoever has been back there,” Priefer said. “We feel like we can make a big play anytime that we have that opportunity.
“I think when it’s seven or eight yards deep and it’s real, real high or if it’s more in one corner or the other, that’s when we should take a knee, and we haven’t in the past. That’s where we’ve changed our philosophy a little bit. But we’re still going to be an aggressive team.”
The Pioneer PRESS is a media partner of Forum News Service.