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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Will the VIkings keep a fullback or fourth tight ends?

By Matthew Coller

If you’re reading between the lines of Mike Zimmer quotes, you would lean toward the Minnesota Vikings keeping fullback CJ Ham on the 53-man roster.

“He’s really a smart kid, physical at the point of attack,” Zimmer said. “Good athlete and he’s got added value as a running back. So that’s a valuable spot if you can get one guy basically playing two positions.”

While versatility does help Ham’s case, the Vikings did reduce the number of fullback snaps after Pat Shurmur took over for Norv Turner midway through last season. Here is the percentage of snaps taken by 2016 FB Zach Line week-by-week:

All said and done, Line was used on a total of 210 snaps. It’s possible the Vikings see Ham as more of a sneak-attack passing or running option than Line, but his usage is still likely to be limited in a West Coast offense.

Shurmur could prefer to have more receiving options instead of a lead blocker.

Starting tight end Kyle Rudolph will likely be a big part of the offense again. He was on the field for 92% of plays last year and ranked second in the NFL in receptions among tight ends. David Morgan is set as the No. 2 because of his blocking ability. If the Vikings do not want to pick between Kyle Carter and Bucky Hodges, they could keep both.

Carter was signed to the Vikings’ practice squad last year and has put together a solid training camp. Based on preseason usage, he is ahead of Hodges on the depth chart.

“I like Kyle,” Zimmer said. “He’s a good athlete. He’s long, obviously. Like most of these receiving tight ends, they need to continue to work on the run blocking. I think he’s done a great job. He made a great catch yesterday in the red zone period, so I think he continually gets better. He needs to keep working on his strength and physical-ness. I think that will come in the weight room.”

Hodges caught two downfield throws from Taylor Heinicke against the Seattle Seahawks including a touchdown, but his big plays came late in the fourth quarter when mostly practice-squad-at-best players were on the field.

The Vikings appear to see the speedy 6-foot-6 rookie as a developmental prospect rather than an impact player in 2017.

“I think he’s improved steadily throughout when he first came here,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “For a guy that was involved in a pro system for the first time it was a little slow going. As time has gone on, we’ve seen steady improvement in each practice.”

The Vikings could choose to keep Hodges on the 53-man roster out of fear that an opponent would sign him or he might also be seen as a one-dimensional vertical weapon in the passing game.

Hodges’ situation is reminiscent of MyCole Pruitt, who was drafted in the fifth round in 2015 after running the fastest 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. He caught 10 passes in his rookie year, but was plucked away from the Vikings’ practice squad by the Chicago Bears last year.

The Vikings could decide to keep Ham and an extra tight end, but they would likely have to keep one fewer backup offensive lineman or cut either Stacy Coley or Rodney Adams.

Sunday’s preseason matchup with the 49ers will go a long way toward determining which direction the Vikings choose.

The post Will the VIkings keep a fullback or fourth tight ends? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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