Kyle Rudolph will have to step up his game if he wants to fend off the challenge from a pair of young tight ends on the Vikings roster.
Veteran Kyle Rudolph will be the Vikings’ #1 tight end when the season begins, but will Rudolph still be the main man at that position come game #16?
Last year the Vikings added tight end MyCole Pruitt, a physically imposing player who potentially is a more versatile receiving threat than Rudolph.
This year Minnesota drafted David Morgan, a man with a reputation as a great blocker. The assumption was that Morgan was being picked up to replace the injured Rhett Ellison, but reports on Morgan have been so glowing that perhaps he is in line for a bigger role than anticipated.
It’s no surprise that Morgan has impressed coaches with his blocking ability, but it is maybe a small surprise that he possesses legitimate skills as a receiver.
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Mike Zimmer seems to have been taken somewhat aback by Morgan’s abilities as a ball-catcher (via Minneapolis Star-Tribune):
"“He has little subtleties in his game that help him get open,” Zimmer said. “He catches the ball good, especially in traffic.“I’m a little surprised that he’s as nifty as he is in some of the condensed areas.”"
Scoff if you will at the possibility of Morgan and/or Pruitt taking snaps away from Kyle Rudolph. If you’re being honest, you have to admit that Rudolph has been a little bit of a disappointment for the Vikings.
Rudolph’s issues haven’t always been his fault of course. Injuries have gotten in his way, and last year his opportunities to make plays were limited as he was forced to stay in as a blocker to help out the offensive line.
The thinking is that, with the Vikings’ offensive line hopefully getting better, Rudolph will be freed up to make more plays. That sounds good, but Rudolph still has to go out and actually make the plays.
If Rudolph doesn’t make the plays, there are now two men on the roster who are willing and may be able to take snaps away from the veteran.
Looking down the road, maybe Rudolph ends up having to re-do his contract if he wants to stay. Rudolph has three years left on his deal but starting next year the dead money goes way down, making the contract more team-friendly.
With two solid young tight ends on the roster, Rudolph might become someone the Vikings think of as expendable.
Reality on Rudolph? He’s an okay receiver and frankly an average blocker. He is not the red zone weapon he should be given his size. And he has never shown consistent ability to make big plays up the seam.
MyCole Pruitt potentially is a better receiver than Rudolph and Morgan already is a better blocker and may have sneaky receiver skills. Don’t be shocked if Pruitt and Morgan end up seeing the field more than expected.