When the Minnesota Vikings signed former Green Bay Packer Greg Jennings in the offseason fans everywhere began dreaming of Jennings becoming the leading receiver for the team as well as a crucial member in the development of Christian Ponder. While Jennings very well could help Ponder improve this season, it will be tight end Kyle Rudolph who makes the bigger impact in the pass game.
Jennings will likely have the better stats if he is able to stay healthy, but with offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave‘s unimaginative offensive scheme it will be the short passes to Rudolph that help this team be successful. Many times last season Ponder missed big play opportunities by either under throwing his deep receiver or checking down to the big bodied Rudolph when a player was open deep. It isn’t a bad thing if Ponder hits the short receiver and the Vikings pick up the first down, but this is the basis for Rudolph being a key factor in the pass game.
Last season Rudolph averaged just under 10 yards per catch with his longest reception being just 29 yards. Most tight ends have a similar role in other teams’ offenses, and with pass catching tight ends becoming a necessity in the NFL Rudolph could develop into one of the better ones in the league in 2013.
Rudolph amassed nine touchdown catches last season which was by far the most of any receiver on the team. And even though the dynamic Jennings has been added to the roster it will be Rudolph who continues to be Ponder’s favorite red zone target aside from handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson.
To further show the importance of the tight end position for the Vikings the team brought in another play making tight end John Carlson. With two pass catching tight ends on the roster now it is safe to assume the Vikings will run some two tight end sets not only to block for the running Peterson, but also to force defenses to focus on more than one receiver cutting short over the middle.
The chemistry Ponder and Rudolph developed last season was crucial for the team when Percy Harvin went down as Rudolph quickly became Ponder’s favorite target. While Jennings will likely catch more passes than Rudolph this season, the 53 he caught last year should be expected to rise in 2013 as the Vikings will hand the ball off less and instead use Jennings as the deep threat and Rudolph as the main check down receiver. This will lead to more touchdowns and more first downs for the third year tight end.