Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and tight end Kyle Rudolph got off to a great start during the 2015 regular season. They seemed to be in sync with one another as Bridgewater targeted Rudolph seven times in each of the first two games, and the two connected five times in each game.
Those 10 receptions led to a total of 83 yards and a touchdown, but that was really the only sustained success they would have until later in the season. There would be a good play here or a touchdown there, but it wasn’t until Week 11 against the Green Bay Packers when they connected six times for 106 yards and a touchdown that the two seemed to get back in sync.
“Statistically you could see there was an increase towards the end of the year, after the Green Bay game and on,” Rudolph said. “But I don’t know if it was anything between Teddy and I’s relationship, chemistry, it’s just the way things play out.”
Rudolph also said that as a tight end he is often asked to do a lot of different things, such as pass block and run block. Those are things that cut down on the amount of times he is able to run routes and catch the ball, but he understands that the team comes first.
“Obviously, I love to run around and catch balls like I did in the second half of the year, but if we’re not winning football games and I’m catching a ton of balls, it doesn’t do us any good,” Rudolph explained. “But with that being said, I do everything I can to make sure when that is my role that I can do it to the best of my ability.”
Over the final seven games of the regular season, Rudolph and Bridgewater connected 26 times on 35 attempts for 313 yards and two touchdowns. That is a strong uptick when you look at the first nine games of the season when they connected 23 times on 38 attempts for 182 yards and three touchdowns.
One of the biggest reasons for the turnaround apparently was because Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer told Bridgewater to utilize Rudolph in games more.
“I started trying to get the ball to him more last year and also, Coach Zimmer and I talk on Thursdays and he was telling me in one of our meetings, ‘Just trust Kyle more,’” Bridgewater explained. “And I understood what he meant by that and I think after the Green Bay game everything just clicked for us.”
Rudolph measures in 6-foot-6, 265 pounds, so he is bigger than almost any defender he will go up against. That big frame makes him an easy target for Bridgewater and you could see the quarterback’s trust in him increase as the season progressed. But Bridgewater likes throwing to Rudolph for more reasons than his big frame.
The tight end is now entering his sixth year in the NFL, which means that he has seen a lot of different things get thrown at him by opposing defenses. Rudolph is now able to read defenses quickly and often sees the same thing as Bridgewater, which only helps make the quarterback more comfortable throwing the ball to him.
“They always say a tight end is a quarterback’s best friend and now I’m seeing why,” Bridgewater said. “He’s a big target and is like a quarterback out there on the field. He sees things the same way I see it. He’s installing and he doesn’t just want to know his job, he wants to know what the 10 other players on the field are doing. He wants to know the quarterback’s progression and things like that, so it’s pretty good, pretty cool to have a guy like that on the field, especially on my side of the ball.”
The two players have started to form a close bond with one another. Their lockers are right next to each other, Bridgewater has helped Rudolph out at a community event this offseason and they will sometimes stay late after practice and throw the ball around with one another.
That budding relationship really started to turn into a good thing for the Vikings toward the end of the 2015 season and now it’s time to see if they can carry that success over into 2016. If they can, both of their stats should only improve, especially touchdowns since Rudolph makes a great red zone target.null