There were high expectations for Kyle Rudolph this season after winning the 2012 Pro Bowl MVP and becoming the Minnesota Vikings’ top receiving target. After last year’s successful 2012 season, Rudolph’s production has diminished significantly so far this year.
Through the first four games, Rudolph only has 12 receptions for 103 yards and one touchdown. After four games last season, he had 15 receptions for 146 yards and three touchdowns, including a two-touchdown game against the San Francisco 49ers. The biggest reason for Rudolph’s production has been the team’s quarterback play, and with Matt Cassel and presumably Josh Freeman starting for the rest of the season, his production will continue to diminish.
Rudolph became the Vikings’ top receiving threat when Christian Ponder was the team’s starting quarterback because he served as his safety blanket as Ponder struggled with his accuracy and ability to throw downfield. Whenever Ponder was throwing on the run or in a red zone situation, Rudolph was always the first person he’d look for. Now that the Vikings have more reliable quarterback options in Cassel, who’s starting Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, and Freeman, look for the Vikings’ wide receivers to become a bigger part of the team’s passing attack. Not only was Rudolph a non-factor against the Steelers, but Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson carried the load in the receiving game with two touchdowns by Jennings and 124 yards for Simpson.
Rudolph is too talented of a player to be discounted completely from the offense, but with the Vikings putting more emphasis on the downfield passing game, his production won’t match last year’s career highs.