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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Training camp preview: Vikings tight ends

By Andrew Krammer

Editor’s note: Leading up to Vikings training camp, 1500ESPN.com will break down each position group based on offseason practice observations and interviews.

Previously:
Running backs
Quarterbacks

Current players (6)

On the team: TE Kyle Rudolph, TE MyCole Pruitt

Good bet: TE Rhett Ellison, TE David Morgan

Outside looking in: TE Brian Leonhardt, TE Kyle Carter

State of the position

Rudolph (6-6, 265) enjoyed a healthy 16 games last season, though he was forced into a blocking role that isn’t his strong suit. He could benefit from an improved offensive line after setting a career high in receiving yards (495) with five touchdowns. Even more is expected to match his $5.65 million base salary. The 26-year-old receiving threat is under contract for the next four seasons. Ellison (6-5, 250) was critical as a do-it-all blocker before suffering a torn patellar tendon in the Jan. 3 win at Green Bay. He re-signed this spring on a one-year deal with a minimum salary ($760,000) and up to $790,000 in per-game bonuses. Pruitt (6-2, 258), a 2015 fifth-round pick, is more of a receiving threat and pairs well with Rudolph in that regard. He was a record-setting pass catcher at Southern Illinois and had 10 catches for 89 yards as a rookie. Should Ellison not fully recover, there’s an opening on special teams and offense for the rookie Morgan (6-4, 265) or Leonhardt (6-5, 255), who signed a one-year minimum deal in free agency. The Vikings were sold on Morgan’s blocking and drafted him with a sixth-round pick. He’ll compete with Leonhardt and Carter (6-3, 245) for a roster spot. Carter is a project who didn’t get to show much at Penn State with just 30 grabs for 288 yards in his junior and senior seasons.

Top competition

The Vikings have a nice receiving complement to Rudolph in Pruitt and added insurance by drafting Morgan, who was impressive in spring workouts. Should Ellison regain form entering his age 27 season, they’ll also have a diverse trio for the system. But the tight end group becomes one dimensional without him. That all means opportunity for Pruitt and Morgan. At age 26, Leonhardt could be on one of his last shots with his fourth NFL team.

Telling

“We felt that [Morgan] was the best blocking tight end in this draft. His ability to make plays in the passing game, especially on underneath routes. And the other thing is with Rhett Ellison still coming off that significant injury, we are going to have to wait and see where he is at. Hopefully he will be healthy and ready to go for training camp.” — general manager Rick Spielman in May

Looking ahead

Rudolph could be a larger part of the offense in 2016 and stake a claim for keeping his contract the way it is moving forward. After missing 16 starts in the previous two seasons, Rudolph was sort of a victim of circumstances as he found health. Though he was still targeted often, finishing second on the team in receptions (49) and catching two of the biggest touchdown passes (28, 47 yards), so he’s capable of providing some of the long-armed help the Vikings want for Bridgewater. He’s especially needed in the red zone, where the Vikings ranked 25th in touchdowns per trip last season, according to Football Outsiders. Pruitt flashed ability down the field, but without Ellison they’re young and unproven behind Rudolph. His recovery would be a nice break for an offense stricken by injury last season.

The post Training camp preview: Vikings tight ends appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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