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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Behind Rudolph, Vikings tight end group still taking shape

By Matthew Coller

Kyle Rudolph is still in his 20s, but he probably feels ancient compared to the rest of the Minnesota Vikings’ tight ends. Rudolph has played more NFL games than all the others in his position group have taken snaps – combined.

The former Notre Dame star played 92% of total snaps last season and is likely to see the vast majority of plays again this year, but there are opportunities for David Morgan, Kyle Carter and Bucky Hodges to emerge – if one of them steps up over the final weeks of training camp and the preseason.

“We only have [Rudolph] in the room that’s really the vet, even David [Morgan] only played a couple games last year, so we’re all basically the new guys and we’re all trying to prove that we can come in and help this team,” Carter said Monday.

Morgan specializes in one area that Hodges and Carter aren’t known for: Blocking. The 2016 fifth-round pick is one of the strongest players at his position in the NFL, scoring in the 96th percentile in the bench press. In limited duty last year, Morgan showed the ability to block defensive ends in the run game, which should lock him into a roster spot.

Carter has shown a great deal of improvement in that area. During training camp, he received reps on the first-team in goal line packages.

“I feel like overall being more versatile,” Carter said. “I came in here just known as a pass-catching tight end. I really took my time and tried to get the technique and the fundamentals down of blocking and I feel like that’s really helping me out.”

At Penn State, Carter stood out as a freshman with 36 catches, but didn’t put up big numbers as he went along, catching just 14 passes in his senior year. But one year on the practice squad appears to have done him good.

“I got to see how the pros really do it,” Carter said. “I got to see how [Rudolph] worked every week, Rhett [Ellison], Mycole [Pruitt], all those guys. And being on the practice squad, going against Danielle [Hunter], Everson [Griffen] and [Brian Robison] really helped me out.”

Carter has seen more second-team snaps in practice than 2017 sixth-round pick Bucky Hodges. The former Virginia Tech star put together an impressive college career, especially as a vertical receiving threat. He averaged an impressive 14.4 Yards Per Catch last year for the Hokies.

Thus far as a Viking, Hodges has not emerged as a top target in practice and saw just one throw his way in the Vikings’ preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills.

Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur noted that Hodges’ role in an NFL offense is quite different than what it was in college.

“[He’s] gotten better,” Shurmur said. “I think he still needs to improve. There’s a lot of areas – we’re asking him to do things at the tight end position that he didn’t do much of in college, he was extended, standing in a two-point stance away [from the line of scrimmage].”

The three Vikings’ tight ends will continue to jockey for position when they match up against Seattle on Friday. In the first preseason game, Carter saw 18 snaps and Hodges was on the field for 20 plays.

The post Behind Rudolph, Vikings tight end group still taking shape appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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