Film study: Rudolph’s routes and blocking

Kyle Rudolph’s strength is in the receiving game, but he has the ability to be an effective blocker, as witnessed in this all-22 look at the good and bad of Rudolph over the last two years.

The Minnesota Vikings selected Kyle Rudolph in the second round of the 2011 draft and since then he has had an up-and-down career. He made the Pro Bowl in 2012 and even earned MVP honors while there. But last year he played in just nine of the 16 regular season games.

That wasn’t what the Vikings were hoping for because they gave Rudolph a five-year contract extension worth $36.5 million in the 2014 offseason. He has ideal size and plenty of athleticism, but he has not proved that he can stay healthy.

If he is able to stay healthy, however, he should have a great season in 2015. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner is known for his love of talented tight ends and he has a capable quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater has already stated that he may be more excited to have Rudolph back healthy than he is to have the newly acquired wide receiver Mike Wallace.

At 6-foot-6 Rudolph is taller than any of the Vikings wide receivers. That height, along with his good hands and athleticism, makes him a dangerous player in short-yardage situations and while in the red zone.

During his Pro Bowl season in 2012, Rudolph recorded 53 receptions for 493 yards and nine touchdowns. In 2014, he recorded 24 receptions for 231 yards and two touchdowns. Like all other players, Rudolph’s production goes down when he is dealing with injuries and forced to miss time.

He is a different type of player when fully healthy and he has the ability to be a game-changer inside the red zone. Viking Update takes a look at some of the plays by Rudolph to show what he has to offer the Vikings.

Play No. 1
As mentioned before, Rudolph (82) is probably the Vikings’ most effective weapon inside the red zone. He is a target that is not only tall, but he also has a big body and can shield defenders from the ball. In this play, he didn’t have to do that, though, because a good play call and a good route left him wide open in the back of the end zone.

Rudolph began the play lined up on the line of scrimmage next to left tackle Matt Kalil. When the ball was snapped, everyone on the Vikings faked a run to the left. Rudolph was then able to take one hard cut to the right and sneak through the defense out to the right where Bridgewater was scrambling. At that point it was just a simple throw and catch for the touchdown.

Everyone always says that a young quarterback’s two best friends are a good running and a big and talented tight end. Rudolph was not around for Bridgewater much in 2014, but if they can get down in the red zone in 2015 and Bridgewater looks out and sees the big No. 82 standing in the end zone, you have to be sure he is going to have a lot of confidence throwing him the ball.

Play No. 2
The red zone is not the only place where Rudolph can be effective, though. He can also be used as a big target stretching down the middle of the field. In this next play, Rudolph is motioned out of the backfield to the slot on the right side of the field.

When the ball is snapped he runs down the middle of the field and gives the linebacker a little bit of a bump in order to create space for himself. Once he catches the ball he is able to use his size and his strength to get by multiple defenders and break tackles on his way into the end zone.

This was a play from 2013. There were not too many plays like this one during the 2014 season since Rudolph was either out with injury or participating in a limited role while still recovering. But this play shows what kind of player Rudolph is when healthy, and it helps show people why Bridgewater is so excited to have him back healthy.

Play No. 3
Rudolph also has the ability to create space and make people miss by the way he moves his feet. He is agile for his size and that gives him the ability to get around defenders when he has the ball in his hand. Like the last play, this one is also from the 2013 season, but it demonstrates this skill of Rudolph’s perfectly.

He is lined up in the slot to the right of the offensive line. Once the ball is snapped he goes out about 4 yards from the line of scrimmage, turns around and catches the ball. The moment the ball leaves the quarterback’s hand there are two defenders barring down on Rudolph. He recognizes that the moment he turns around, plants his right foot in the ground and does a juke move to the left.

This causes both defenders to miss Rudolph and he proceeded to run right around them. He gets to the side line and is able to utilize his wide receiver that is blocking downfield. From there, it is smooth sailing for him into the end zone.

It is not often that you are able to see a man of Rudolph’s size move as well as he does, and that ability makes him a dangerous weapon. Not only does he have the size and strength to go through defenders, but he also has the ability to make them miss in the open field.

Play No. 4
Tight ends have more responsibility than just catching passes, though. All the best tight ends in the game also need to be able to block. Although this is not Rudolph’s strong suit, when healthy, he does have the ability to do a good job.

This play comes from Week 1 of the 2014 season when Rudolph was still healthy. He is lined up as the farthest player to the right on the offensive line and is playing a little off the line. Adrian Peterson is going to get the ball and run to the right. You can see he wants to cut up the field sooner but nothing is open, so he uses Rudolph as a lead blocker and is able to run for 16 yards.

When the ball is snapped, Rudolph does a good job at seeing that all the players right on the line are blocked so he immediately moves to the second tier. Once there, he engages a linebacker and is able to move him back about 5 yards. While blocking him, Rudolph is also able to tie up another player and it was Rudolph’s blocking that was able to spring Peterson on this play.

Having the ability to block in the running game is important for tight ends because it allows them to stay on the field for a majority of the plays, and once the offense runs a play-action the tight ends will often times find themselves wide open since the defenders had gotten used to them blocking when they see run.

Play No. 5
As previously mentioned, blocking is not necessarily Rudolph’s strength, especially when he is coming back after missing significant time recovering from a sports hernia. On this play Rudolph begins in the backfield next to Bridgewater but motions to the right side of the line.

Matt Asiata gets the handoff and runs right to Rudolph’s side. Rudolph, however, was beat by the man he was responsible for on the line and grabs his jersey to slow him down. This draws a penalty.

If Rudolph had been healthy and playing the entire season, this might have been a different outcome. The defender might have beaten Rudolph because he was still shaking some of the rust off at that point in time. Either way, that will be something he will continue to work on as the 2015 season continues to draw nearer.

Kyle Rudolph has the size and ability to be a difference maker for the Vikings offense when he is on the field. Unfortunately for him, though, he has had a tough time staying on the field because of injuries throughout his career. One bright side to it is that none of the injuries were really reoccurring.

If Rudolph is able to shake this string of bad luck he has had, he is in prime position to post big numbers in 2015, especially since he seems to finally have a very capable quarterback delivering him the ball.

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