Minnesota Vikings Must Utilize Kyle Rudolph versus Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Anyone who watches the Minnesota Vikings on even a semi-regular basis sees the potential in tight end Kyle Rudolph. The second-year player has caught the eyes of many during the 2012 season, usually while the Vikings are in the red zone. In goal line situations, Rudolph has shown he’s one of the best targets in the league.

However, the month of October has been an up-and-down one for the young star. In the Vikings’ last contest, he failed to even record a catch, which was a far cry from his 11 targets and touchdown the week prior.

When Rudolph is on, he’s been really on, and when he’s been off, he’s been really off.

I don’t really fault him much for this however. He seems to be mentally in every game, and it’s definitely not a ‘checked-out’ situation, so what’s the cause of his up-and-down performances?

The most likely answer is fellow second-year player Christian Ponder.

Ponder has no question taken leaps and bounds during his sophomore season at quarterback, but when his play is average, the supporting cast has trended that way as well. If Ponder is clicking on all cylinders, Rudolph typically is too.

It’s time for the Vikings and Ponder to make a conscious effort to get No. 82 involved in every single game.

Last week, Ponder did not play well, only throwing for 58 yards, and therefore Rudolph was non-existent. He’s too valuable a player to not record a single catch, and that can’t continue if the Vikings want to be a true playoff contender.

Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I look for Minnesota to really expand their attempts to get Rudolph involved. He’s got to become more of threat in other areas of the field besides the red zone. Primarily we’ve seen short throws to Rudolph anytime the Vikings aren’t in the red zone, usually for minimal gains. Which is fine, but he’s capable of so much more.

The Vikings have a great opportunity facing the second-worst pass defense in the league Thursday night for Rudolph to top the 100-yard receiving mark for the first time in his young career.

Follow Andrew Fisher on Twitter @the_realfish

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