Sunday, November 19, 2017

kyle rudolph

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Week 1: Vikings/Saints Preview

The Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints will open their 2017 regular seasons with a bang on Monday Night Football. The primetime match up is a classic top-offense versus top-defense showdown, with a little Adrian Peterson sprinkled in.

It’s a familiar story; a well-known player that spent many years with his original team signs with a new one, and then returns to where he began his career. But this homecoming is different. Peterson was the face of the Vikings franchise for a decade. Not only that, he may be one of the top-five Vikings of all time. The reception Peterson receives from the home crowd will be noteworthy.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Wow, what a fun day! Lots of action. With roster cuts already in progress, here’s a last-minute Vikings 53-man roster projection, which includes Friday’s trade for cornerback Tramaine Brock:

Quarterback
  • Sam Bradford
  • Case Keenum
  • Teddy Bridgewater (PUP)

The Vikings rolled with two quarterbacks last year and I don’t see that changing this year. Taylor Heinicke is practice squad eligible and I don’t see teams lining up to snag him off waivers. Plus, there’s always Mitch Leidner.

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Bucky Hodges on the Rise

Historically, the Minnesota Vikings have lacked a one-two punch at tight end. The last time the Vikings had two tight ends catch more than 30 passes in a season was in 2013, when Kyle Rudolph missed eight games due to injury. That season, Rudolph had 30 catches and John Carlson had 32. Before that, the last occurrence was in 2002, when Jimmy Kleinsasser had 37 receptions and Byron Chamberlain had 34.

Fast forward to 2016. Starting tight end Rudolph enjoyed a breakout season, catching 83 passes for 840 yards and seven touchdowns. But Rhett Ellison, the team’s number two tight end, caught only nine passes.

This offseason, after Ellison signed with the New York Giants, the Vikings attempted to add another weapon to their tight end arsenal. Free agent Jared Cook, known for his downfield pass-catching skills, came to Minnesota for a visit, but he ultimately joined the Oakland Raiders.

Enter rookie Bucky Hodges. The raw-but-talented receiver that plays tight end may be just the player the Vikings have been searching for. Realistically, it’s too early to predict a 30-plus catch season for Hodges in 2017, but if he can make strides developing his technique, the sky is the limit for the 22 year-old.

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Cook Gives Vikings Offensive Flexibility
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

There’s no need to harp on Adrian Peterson‘s lack of versatility. Minnesota Vikings fans know, after years of watching him barrel through opposing defenses, that Peterson’s most valuable attribute was just that — his ability as a pure, north-to-south runner.

As Father Time gains ground and offensive philosophies shift to more wide-open, dynamic attacks, patience wears thin for players of Peterson’s unique, if limited skill set. While still a major draw on Sunday afternoons, the proof is on the paper; the Vikings’ all-time leading rusher sits behind Mark Ingram — and potentially rookie Alvin Kamara — on the New Orleans Saints’ depth chart.

Back in Minnesota, it’s clear Peterson’s replacement, second-round pick Dalvin Cook, brings a welcome, refreshing dynamic to the Vikings’ backfield. Though not the workhorse of his predecessor, it was clear from the start of training camp that Cook’s ceiling — in all other facets of a running back’s repertoire — is much higher than Peterson’s was from 2012 on.

Last Thursday’s preseason opener gave the organization a glimpse of the offensive flexibility Cook brings to Pat Shurmur’s scheme. Against the Buffalo Bills, he enjoyed a lion’s share of touches — almost all manufactured to put the ball in his hands — and reminded the Vikings of the possibilities created by having a do-it-all player in the backfield.

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Vikings Territory staffer Drew Mahowald spoke with David Morgan about his role increasing as he approaches his second season.

For nearly 20 years now, the Minnesota Vikings have boasted a blue-chip, jack-of-all-trades tight end in their offense.

This role features a player who can line up in several different formations and fulfill many blocking roles and still be effective as a receiver.

Jim Kleinsasser first occupied this role when he was drafted in 1999. As his 13-year career concluded, Rhett Ellison gained control of the role for the next five seasons before signing with the New York Giants this offseason.

That role is now open for the taking, but second-year man David Morgan and his luxurious locks have the inside track on the role in 2017, both via his skill set and his experience. Morgan has a lot of respect for what Ellison brought to the table for the Vikings.

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