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2018 Vikings Position Recap: Tight Ends

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EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings carried three tight ends on the roster for the 2018 season, with Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan and Tyler Conklin embodying different roles on the field.

Rudolph, who completed his eighth season in Purple, was a veteran leader both in the tight ends room and on the entire team.

The team captain continued to be a pivotal piece of the offense in the passing game, even though his touchdown numbers were down from recent years.

Rudolph found the end zone four times in 2018, his lowest total in four seasons, despite playing 88 percent of Minnesota’s offensive snaps. The tight end now has 24 touchdown receptions since the start of the 2015 season.

Rudolph has established himself as one of the top tight ends in franchise history, as his 41 career touchdown catches rank first among all players at his position and fifth among all players.

The 2011 second-round pick has 386 career catches for 3,787 yards, numbers that rank only behind Steve Jordan among tight ends in team history.

Morgan doesn’t put up eye-catching numbers, but the former sixth-round pick proved how valuable he is to the team when he was — and was not — in the lineup in 2018.

Known as one of the best blocking tight ends in the game, Morgan was inactive for five games due to knee injuries.

In the 11 games Morgan played, Minnesota rushed for 108.5 yards per game. And in the five games Morgan missed, the Vikings averaged a paltry 59.6 rushing yards per contest.

The 25-year-old has 16 catches for 135 yards and a single touchdown in three seasons since being drafted out of the University of Texas-San Antonio, but he’s become a key cog in helping the Vikings offense be able to stay balanced.

Conklin was a fifth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Central Michigan as the 157th overall selection.

Conklin had limited numbers as he played 146 total offensive snaps as a rookie, but he showed flashes the he can be a contributor in the passing game with an increased role.

The 23-year-old’s rookie season was all about getting his feet wet and getting adjusted to life in the NFL, but he could be in line for more production starting in 2019.

Notable Number

12 — Rudolph caught a touchdown in Week 3 against the Bills, but then didn’t catch his next one until 12 games later in Detroit. That streak of a dozen games without a touchdown catch was the longest of Rudolph’s career.

Memorable Moment

Just two seconds remained on the clock in the first half of Minnesota’s Week 16 game in Detroit. With the Vikings lined up at the Lions 44-yard line, quarterback Kirk Cousins took the snap and scrambled around before launching a deep pass into the end zone.

Rudolph used his 6-foot-6 frame to outleap a handful of Detroit defenders and come down with the ball. The tight end’s “Hail Mary” catch gave the Vikings a halftime lead as they eventually improved to 8-6-1.

Regular-Season Statistics

Kyle Rudolph

64 receptions for 634 yards (9.9 yards per catch) with four touchdowns

David Morgan

5 receptions for 36 yards (7.2 yards per catch)

Tyler Conklin

5 receptions for 77 yards (15.4 yards per catch)

Conklin had limited numbers as he played 146 total offensive snaps as a rookie, but he showed flashes the he can be a contributor in the passing game with an increased role.

The 23-year-old’s rookie season was all about getting his feet wet and getting adjusted to life in the NFL, but he could be in line for more production starting in 2019.

Notable Number

12 — Rudolph caught a touchdown in Week 3 against the Bills, but then didn’t catch his next one until 12 games later in Detroit. That streak of a dozen games without a touchdown catch was the longest of Rudolph’s career.

Memorable Moment

Just two seconds remained on the clock in the first half of Minnesota’s Week 16 game in Detroit. With the Vikings lined up at the Lions 44-yard line, quarterback Kirk Cousins took the snap and scrambled around before launching a deep pass into the end zone.

Rudolph used his 6-foot-6 frame to outleap a handful of Detroit defenders and come down with the ball. The tight end’s “Hail Mary” catch gave the Vikings a halftime lead as they eventually improved to 8-6-1.

Regular-Season Statistics

Kyle Rudolph

64 receptions for 634 yards (9.9 yards per catch) with four touchdowns

David Morgan

5 receptions for 36 yards (7.2 yards per catch)

Tyler Conklin

5 receptions for 77 yards (15.4 yards per catch)

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2 Highest highs

1. Rudolph did more than make a clutch touchdown catch at the end of the first half against the Lions. He also turned in his best game of the season, with nine receptions for a career-high 122 yards and two scores, which marked the third multi-touchdown game of his career.

2. The Vikings spread the ball around plenty in a Week 15 home win over the Dolphins, but it was Conklin who had his best game of the season. The rookie had two receptions for a team-high 53 yards, as both of his catches went for 20 or more yards.

2 Lowest lows

1. The Vikings produced a winning effort on the East Coast, but the three tight ends managed just one combined catch for 16 yards (by Rudolph) against the Jets in Week 7.

2. One of the most disappointing losses of the season came on the road against Chicago in Week 11, a game in which Rudolph had two receptions for just 13 yards. Morgan was inactive, and Conklin did not record a catch.

Quote

“Kirk threw an unbelievable pass. For me to run to the spot, turn, and the ball is 10 feet away, and I didn’t have to move one spot off of my spot. I was able to just jump up,” Rudolph said. “I joked earlier, I had a lot of rebounds in high school basketball, and at that point it just turns into another rebound. Maybe see if I can get that added to my career total in high school rebounds.”

— Rudolph on his Hail Mary catch after Minnesota’s Week 16 win over Detroit

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