In the days leading up to 2014 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, vikings.com will take a position-by-position preview of the roster.
The Vikings roster got a bit younger over the offseason, and the tight end position certainly reflects that fact. None of the Vikings five players at the position has more than four years of experience, and the average age for the group heading into camp is just 23.8. But with youth comes athleticism and energy, typically, and the Vikings tight end position is also a reflection of that reality.
Kyle Rudolph is the most experienced of this group, entering his fourth season in 2014 and poised to have a big season. He was Pro Bowler in 2012 after hauling in nine touchdowns during the regular season, but his would-be breakout season in 2013 was cut short by injury. After missing the final eight games last season, Rudolph rehabbed early this past offseason and put in a strong offseason program. He figures to be a prominent part of Norv Turner’s offense in Minnesota.
After Rudolph, it may be Rhett Ellison who stands to see the most playing time in 2014. While he’s not often seen catching touchdown passes and isn’t one you’ll find on your preseason fantasy football cheat seats, he is a versatile and, thus, valuable part of the team. Ellison is a multi-phase special teams contributor and he is effective as a blocker. He can lead block as a fullback or provide both pass protection and run blocking as an in-line tight end.
Behind Rudolph and Ellison, there stands to be a competitive training camp battle for roster spots. Chase Ford returns from last year’s team, AC Leonard was signed as an undrafted free agent, and Allen Reisner also returns. Leonard impressed during the offseason program, and while he doesn’t possess the size of the prototypical pass-catching/field-stretching tight end, he does possess the natural catching ability and the speed to get downfield.
With Turner as offensive coordinator, it will be important for Ford, Leonard and Reisner to demonstrate an ability to help out in the passing game. But Turner insists the Vikings offense still begins and ends with Adrian Peterson, so those three must also showcase their ability to effectively run block, and it wouldn’t hurt them to find a role or two on special teams, as well.
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