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Bleacher Report – Vikings

TE David Morgan highlights group of role players fueling Vikings’ success

By Matthew Coller

The biggest difference between the 2016 and 2017 version of the Minnesota Vikings – outside of the improvements on the offensive line – has been the depth of the roster. The Vikings have seen role players step into starting jobs a la Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon and role players offer important contributions. One of those players is No. 2 tight end David Morgan.

On Sunday, Morgan caught a key third down pass for 14 yards that led to the Vikings’ first touchdown. He finished the game with three catches on three targets for 28 yards.

“A great blocker, but kind of a hidden talent,” quarterback Case Keenum said. “He’s athletic, he’s got good hands…good for him. I’m pumped for him, he’s pumped too. He did a heck of a job in crucial situations.”

Morgan, a sixth-round pick out of University of Texas-San Antonio, caught 45 passes for 566 yards during his senior year in college. At the NFL level, he’s become largely a blocker because of his strength. At the NFL Combine, he bench pressed six more reps than any other tight end. Morgan was also among the quickest in the 3-cone drill 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle.

In 2016, he played only 63 snaps. This year Morgan has tripled that number, appearing in 27.6% of the Vikings’ total plays. Against the Cleveland Browns, he set a career high with 36 snaps.

“Getting here last year, we had two great tight ends so I was kind of in the third role and I wasn’t playing as much but I was able to learn a lot from those guys,” Morgan said. “So this year has been a different transition, I’ve been in a little bit more. It just comes with game reps. The more you’re out there, the more you can see it, the more you can feel it, the more you can grasp it. I think that’s the transition I’m in now, adapting to getting a lot of reps and the NFL tight end role.”

Following Dalvin Cook’s season-ending ACL tear, the Vikings have used both Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray out of the backfield. While McKinnon has had success on outside runs, Murray requires more of a power scheme. Against the Ravens, Morgan played a key role on several of Murray’s successful runs.

“You look at Latavius, his stature is well known, he’s a big guy and he runs downhill and hard, so it’s something that’s been a little tweak, we switched up our offense…because he can do a lot of things,” Morgan said.

Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has utilized Morgan to set up play-action passes. The Vikings rank third in the NFL in yards per attempt on play-action.

The second-year tight end isn’t the only role player to bring extra value over the first eight weeks. Here are five others who have helped the Vikings:

CJ Ham

Ham has made a successful transition from running back to fullback, playing 15% of snaps and offering some playmaking skill when called upon.

Jarius Wright

With Stefon Diggs out against a good Baltimore defense, Wright stepped in and grabbed three passes in four targets for 54 yards.

Mackensie Alexander

Used mostly to give starter Terence Newman a rest, Alexander has been capable when given playing time by Mike Zimmer. Alexander has allowed 6.7 yards per attempt on 14 throws in his direction.

Ben Gedeon

Gedeon won the No. 3 linebacker job in training camp and he’s played well in run situations, ranking 25th in the NFL by Pro Football Focus metrics.

Jayron Kearse

Kearse’s speed and length have helped him become a solid punt gunner. The Vikings have forced the most fair catches in the NFL.

The post TE David Morgan highlights group of role players fueling Vikings’ success appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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