When the Minnesota Vikings signed John Carlson last offseason, they brought together two of the most dominant tight ends in Notre Dame history, and I began envisioning an offense similar to that of the New England Patriots‘ two tight end set they used last season with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
The Vikings unfortunately failed to utilize Carlson prior to his breakout game last Thursday against the Washington Redskins, but with Kyle Rudolph expected to miss another three weeks, Carlson will have the opportunity to cement himself in the Vikings offense. Although they ran a minimal two tight end sets when Rudolph was healthy, continued success from Carlson could be the convincing the coaching staff needs.
The Vikings already have a crowded receiving corps with Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson and now Cordarrelle Patterson all competing on the outside. But with Adrian Peterson letting it be known he prefers running without a fullback, the Vikings could pull-off getting Carlson his fair share of targets when Rudolph returns. Plus, with Jerome Felton underperforming coming off his first Pro Bowl, it may be a good idea to put him on the sideline and allow Peterson an open backfield with Rudolph and Carlson on each side of the line.
While the Vikings would be taking a blocker out of the backfield to allow Carlson more playing time, that may actually be an upgrade for the running game considering Pro Football Focus gave the sixth-year pro a positive run blocking grade to go along with his outstanding receiving performance. Although the seven catches for 94 yards and a touchdown doesn’t scream a standout receiving performance, you take into consideration that four of his six receptions (excluding his one touchdown catch), going for Vikings first downs, and you begin to see how important he was.
After proving himself a formidable receiver with the Seattle Seahawks his first two season’s in the NFL, Carlson suffered a season long shoulder injury in 2011, meaning his time in Seattle had come to a close. Carlson barely found playing time for the Vikings behind Rudolph last season, but with the way he performed in his first real opportunity of the season against the Redskins, it would be beneficial for the Vikings offense to trot out a two tight end set fairly often when Rudolph returns from his broken foot.