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Lunchbreak: TEs Smith & Mundt Bring Versatility Within New Offense

The Minnesota Vikings are not short on options when it comes to receiving targets.

Wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen offer a complementary 1-2 punch while K.J. Osborn is emerging as the team's third receiver. Running backs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison also can be receiving threats out of the backfield.

At tight end, the Vikings have a different approach, with Irv Smith, Jr., and Johnny Mundt working as a committee.

Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune recently looked at how Smith's and Mundt's roles have changed throughout the course of this season under new Head Coach Kevin O'Connell.

Smith has battled back from both a torn meniscus last season and a thumb injury he suffered in August during training camp.

"Each week, I'm getting more and more comfortable," Smith said. "Any opportunity I can get, I'll take. There are some plays I wish I would've made, but you know, it's a long season."

Krammer said O'Connell has leaned toward starting the game with Mundt, who previously worked with O'Connell with the Los Angeles Rams. But Krammer wrote that Smith has also seen an increased role recently.

Smith ultimately has played more in each of the past four games as the preferred receiving threat, earning a 53.8-percent playing rate to Mundt's 43.6 percent.

Smith has seen more passes thrown his way (25 targets) than anyone not named Jefferson or Thielen, and ranks fourth on the team with 14 catches for 133 yards and a score.

The Vikings upcoming opponent, the Miami Dolphins, also feature a multiple tight end approach with Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe.

Krammer noted Smythe has been on the field more (58.4 percent) than Gesicki (49.2 percent). And according to Pro Football Focus, Gesicki is on the field to help block just 28 percent of his snaps, slightly higher than Smith's percentage of 27.4.

Krammer added the blocking element for tight ends is crucial in O'Connell's offense (derived from Rams Head Coach Sean McVay) and Miami Head Coach Mike McDaniel's (evolved from San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan).

He wrote:

All four offenses link run and pass games through play-action designs that can keep defenses guessing, especially if they have a tight end capable of both demolishing a defensive end on a run block and accelerating past a safety for a deep pass.

O'Connell said he views both Smith and Mundt as interchangeable players.

"Each player has obviously strengths that they do that help our offense, but at the same time the growth of both those two guys within our system," O'Connell said. "Obviously Johnny has had some experience in a similar type of offense, but we have evolved and changed. And Irv, despite missing quite a bit of time in training camp, has really picked up some steam here the last few weeks and his comfort level in the run game."

Adam Thielen & Zach Line Partner with UNRL for 42 Strong Fundraiser

Adam Thielen has previously partnered with former teammate Zach Line on ETS Performance gyms.

Now they are teaming up again by offering a "42 Strong" T-shirt in honor of Tate Myre, who played for Line at Oxford High School in Michigan before he was tragically killed in a school shooting last year.

The shirt "UNRL x ETS 42 Strong Tee" is being offered as part of Thielen's partnership with Minnesota-based UNRL. The shirts are being sold for $30 through Oct. 16, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the Tate Myre Foundation.

"Zach Line is one of the greatest human beings I've been around, a great teammate, a great family guy that I really respect on and off the field and have been able to partner together on some sports performance gyms," Thielen said. "What he's doing in his community and then obviously the tragedy that happened with Tate in his community, in the school that Zach grew up in, just trying to help out where I can."

Thielen credited the way Line — as Oxford's head varsity football coach — has helped the community work through the tragedy by making positive differences.

"He's doing all the work, and that community is just rallying behind that and trying to make a difference with Tate's name, because he was one of the strongest leaders," Thielen said. "Zach has told me stories about the type of person and leader that Tate was. Just any way we can help, you help out good people and people that do things the right way."