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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Pat Shurmur has found an efficient role for Kyle Rudolph

By Matthew Coller

Among the things on offense that have clicked for the Minnesota Vikings is Kyle Rudolph’s role within offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur’s system.

Last season, it seemed Rudolph was more often the emergency option rather than the No. 1 target on a given play. This year, Shurmur has dialed up plays for his veteran tight end in key situations.

Rudolph’s third down usage is indicative of Shurmur’s plan. Last year, he gained a first down on just 17 of 44 third down targets. This season, the targets have gone down drastically, but he’s created 11 first downs on 18 third down targets.

“I think this year I’ve been more efficient,” Rudolph said Thursday. “The targets were a lot higher last year. You can credit that to playing from behind, throwing the ball a lot more, the run game, whatever. The targets were a lot higher, but this year it’s a lot more efficient on targets and my receptions are right on track of what they were last year.”

Shurmur has been especially creative on third down in short. All four targets on third down with fewer than two yards to go have gone for first downs. Rudolph isn’t the first player you might expect would be used on a screen pass, but that’s often thrown defenses off. He has 13 receptions behind the line of scrimmage for 88 yards. His usage in screens partly explains why his catch percentage has gone from 62.9% last year to 71.4% this year.

“He’s got a great catch radius,” Zimmer said. “That’s a big thing. Quarterbacks trust him. The size helps…and he catches the ball. He’s got good hands. He catches the ball when it’s up or back a little bit.”

Where Rudolph has been the most noticeable is in the red zone. He’s made 12 catches inside the opposing team’s 20, five have turned into TDS and three have gone for first downs.

“As get closer to the goal line, size matters,” Shurmur said Thursday. “So you can throw the ball high to the big guy. That’s what we try to do. It’s become a matchup issue. Most people aren’t as tall as him. We just try to use him in ways that make sense based on the coverages we are going to face. He’s done a good job of converting for us.”

The Vikings’ versatility on offense has been a main driver of their success. While Adam Thielen is the runaway most targeted receiver with 112 throws in his direction, the rest of the throws are spread out with 70 going to Rudolph, 65 to Stefon Diggs, 54 to Jerick McKinnon and a total of 56 between Laquon Treadwell, Jarius Wright and Michael Floyd.

The post Pat Shurmur has found an efficient role for Kyle Rudolph appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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