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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings film review: Rudolph as a downfield threat, Joseph dominates

By Matthew Coller

The Minnesota Vikings will be looking for answers following the loss of running back Dalvin Cook to an ACL tear.

In the two drives after Cook went down, the Vikings’ offense struggled to move the ball. They went three-and-out, then missed a field goal. But quarterback Case Keenum found some success passing midway through the fourth quarter when he turned toward tight end Kyle Rudolph. He was targeted four times, catching two for gains of 15 and 19 yards.

Using the veteran tight end as a downfield threat may be a part of patching the hole left by Cook.

Last season, Rudolph grabbed 83 passes, but he ranked 24th in the NFL in yards per target. He was more of a safety blanket for Sam Bradford than a focus of the offense. This year, he only has 10 catches, but his yards per target is up by more than a yard, ranking 11th among TEs with more than 10 catches this season.

His numbers would be even more impressive if Keenum had been accurate on two downfield throws.

On 2nd-and-5 with 7:38 remaining in the game, Rudolph runs a 10-yard post. The other three receivers’ routes clear the middle of the field, with Stefon Diggs and Laquon Treadwell running vertical routes and Adam Thielen going on a 5-yard out.

Rudolph as a 1-on-1 matchup with the Lions’ linebacker with room to run after catch. Keenum’s throw is too high, but had he been on target, the play would have resulted in a first down.

He may not be Gronkowski-like in his quickness, but Rudolph’s height gives him an advantage over most linebackers. With heavy focus on Thielen and Diggs, there should be a number of opportunities to get Rudolph space in the middle of the field.

On the play below, Keenum again is off with his throw, but the Vikings flood the left side of the field with Latavius Murray, Diggs and Rudolph against zone coverage. Rudolph runs a 10-yard out and finds space in front of the safety and behind the linebacker.

On both of these plays, protection is key. On the first play, Murray picked up a blitzer (his best strength) and gave Keenum a clear throwing window. And on the play above, the Vikings handle a four-man rush with ease, giving Keenum a chance to let Rudolph’s route develop.

Pro Football Focus ranked all of the league’s offensive lines through the first four weeks and placed the Vikings 11th in pass protection. Continuing to hold strong up front will play a major role in whether the Vikings can get Rudolph the ball on intermediate routes.

Linval’s excellence

Speaking of Pro Football Focus, Linval Joseph currently ranks as the seventh best defensive tackle and No. 1 among nose tackles. His performance against the Lions was masterful. He picked up nine tackles and one sack. But, as per usual, some of his best plays came on downs where he didn’t pick up a tackle.

On the play below, Anthony Barr chases down the running back for a short loss, but Joseph makes the biggest impact. He holds the guard in place, not allowing him to get to the second level to block Barr.

The Vikings’ defense currently ranks No. 4 in the NFL in run defense allowing 3.1 yards per carry. Joseph’s control of the middle has been the main reason.

To give you an idea of Joseph’s athletic prowess and relentlessness, have a look at the play below. The Lions dump the ball off to the running back and Joseph races to track him down.

With the Vikings’ offense weakened by the loss of Cook (and uncertainty around Sam Bradford’s status), their defense will need to put on performances like Sunday’s on a weekly basis. They allowed just 3.7 yards per play. If Joseph stays healthy, they are capable of maintaining success vs. the run.

The post Vikings film review: Rudolph as a downfield threat, Joseph dominates appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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