Rudolph revival would help average TEs

With Kyle Rudolph playing only nine games last year, the Vikings were average among the NFL teams’ tight ends. We look at eight statistics among tight ends and where the Vikings placed.

While Kyle Rudolph focuses on his health and what he might be able to accomplish with a full season for the first time in three years, the Minnesota Vikings’ tight ends as a whole were about average with Rudolph playing only nine games.

That alone should cause a bit of excitement on what might be expected with the tight ends in the passing game during the second season of Norv Turner directing Minnesota’s offense.

“I think everyone knows last year when we got our new coaches and coach Turner comes in with his system, the tight end position plays a big part in that system,” Rudolph said during workouts last month. “It was exciting for me to be healthy in that system all spring, to have the opportunity to run around in the preseason games. Unfortunately, I had to have the surgery.”

That’s been the theme of Rudolph’s career to date. When healthy, he’s effective, but he hasn’t been able to break into elite status, partly because he has only been available for 17 games over the last two seasons combined.

However, even during his absence, the tight end position held its own. Chase Ford, playing in 340 snaps compared to Rudolph’s 434, and Rhett Ellison, playing in 552 snaps, combined for 43 catches for 439 yards. Rudolph finished with 24 catches for 231 yards.

So how did the Vikings’ tight end production compare to the rest of the teams in the league? The top two teams in the league in tight end catches and targets should be no surprise, given the talent they have there. With Jimmy Graham, the New Orleans Saints led the NFL with 119 receptions and 168 targets to tight ends. With Rob Gronkowski, the New England Patriots were second in each category with 111 receptions and 162 targets to tight ends.

While the Vikings finished in the middle of the pack in numerous tight end categories, they were fourth in the percentage of receptions on their targets at 77 percent. It was the highest they ranked among the eighth categories that Pro Football Focus tracked and compiled into overall team rankings. Receptions, targets, percentage, yards, average, touchdowns, drops and missed tackles were all tracked and compiled.

They were also good in causing missed tackles with their 13 misses caused by tight ends, ranking seventh in the league last year.

The Vikings finished 19th in tight end receptions, 23rd in targets, fourth in percentage caught, 19th in yards, 19th in average yards per catch, 23rd in touchdowns, 17th for fewest drops and seventh in missed tackles.

What it all means for the Vikings, and Rudolph specifically, is about what you would expect. If he can stay healthy all season, he should be able to have his best season and improve the Vikings’ tight end numbers. He had a solid preseason in first game exposure in Turner’s offense last year, catching seven passes for 149 yards, the second of those numbers third among tight ends in the 2014 preseason.

“I’m a different piece than I was last year,” Rudolph said. “Having two good hips and being able to run around like I used to, I feel like I can have a much bigger impact on this offense like I did, say, in last November when I came back after the surgery.”

That surgery was for a sports hernia, but after several years of struggling with various injuries dating back to his college days at Notre Dame, Rudolph is hoping a change in offseason routine will keep him on the field full-time.

“For me, it’s just really focusing in on my diet, things outside of just the weight room,” he said. “I mixed in a lot more sand work this offseason in California, some different kinds of yoga. Just trying to become more limber, and when my body’s put in those situations, I’m able to get up and walk away, versus like last year having to have the surgery.”

Team Rec.Target PercentYards Avg.TD DropMT
New Orleans 119168 70.81,201 10.117 1210
New England 111162 68.51,427 12.918 919
Chicago106 14473.6 1,0329.7 68 26
Washington 102132 77.31,050 10.32 717
Indianapolis 98154 63.61,287 13.118 47
Carolina98 14368.5 1,16711.9 75 5
Kansas City 96123 781,111 11.69 717
Philadelphia 93136 68.51,101 11.86 36
San Diego 90123 73.21,052 11.713 34
Miami86 12071.7 91310.6 54 14
N.Y. Giants 84114 73.7861 10.311 56
St. Louis 81129 62.8934 11.58 65
Dallas77 10474 85611.1 93 1
Baltimore 76107 71800 10.55 53
Tennessee 73118 61.91,004 13.85 819
Cincinnati 7087 80.5518 7.45 212
Pittsburgh 7095 73.7813 11.65 62
Buffalo69 9275 70510.2 37 2
Minnesota 6787 77713 10.64 613
N.Y. Jets 66101 65.3677 10.35 96
Oakland65 10263.7 5778.9 55 2
Denver63 9467 67210.7 155 4
Cleveland 5493 58.1822 15.23 23
Green Bay 5177 66.2551 10.86 55
Tampa Bay 5175 68469 9.22 30
Arizona50 7864.1 58811.8 16 1
Seattle48 8060 75715.7 66 7
Jacksonville 4769 68.1518 114 47
Detroit41 7653.9 3929.6 28 3
San Francisco 3971 54.9433 11.12 86
Houston35 5168.9 3209.1 62 2
Atlanta33 5164.7 2417.3 36 1

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