Scouting the Vikings: Kyle Rudolph's blocking worth watching in camp
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Each day until players report to training camp on July 26, Tom Pelissero is breaking down the Minnesota Vikings' roster by position, based on observations of games and practices, tape studies and interviews with NFL coaches and scouts.
On the roster (5)
Rudolph (6-foot-6, 259 pounds) struggled at times to get off jams and gain separation as a rookie, but he has such good hands and a massive catch radius he can make plays even when he's not open. Coordinator Bill Musgrave will detach and motion him all over the field to try to create mismatches. Rudolph has the measurables to develop into a strongside blocker, too, and might see more action there because Carlson (6-5, 251) profiles as a backside pass-catching type. He's a finesse blocker with above-average speed and enough route craft and feel to find the soft spots in zones. The big question is, who will provide the physical presence in the run game? A fourth-round pick out of Southern California, Ellison (6-5, 250) has a reputation as a try-hard guy and actually has impressed with his catching ability, too. He could split time inline and in the backfield.
It wouldn't be a surprise if the Vikings keep four tight ends, potentially pitting Reisner (6-3, 248) against Shuler (6-4, 251) for the final spot. Reisner has superior hands, but blocking and special-teams ability probably will sort this out. That Shuler keeps getting chances through all the injuries shows how much Vikings general manager Rick Spielman likes him.
One NFL scout's take on ... Kyle Rudolph
"I don't think Rudolph has any physical limitations not to be a serviceable blocker. He's big. He's got length. He can bend. He can sink his hips. It's just -- I still think some of it's power, some of it's explosiveness on contact, some of it's a little bit of leverage, some of it's technique, and the last tidbit would be want-to. I'd look for that in training camp to see how much improved Rudolph is as a blocker, and then I think that tandem will work better if Rudolph can do some of that strongside stuff. If he can't, then I don't know what they're looking for at that stage."
-- AFC personnel executive
Scouts like Carlson when he's healthy, but the five-year, $25 million contract ($9.1 million guaranteed) he got from the Vikings was a surprise because his skillset is so similar to Rudolph's. Then again, that's probably an indication of how important they'll both be to the passing game as Musgrave's offense evolves in its second season. Split end Jerome Simpson's three-game suspension should open even more opportunities for this group to be featured from the get-go.