Over the last two weeks we've taken a position-by-position look at the performance and production of the Vikings roster in 2013.
Injuries forced the Vikings to get into their depth on defense at several positions. But injuries also forced the Vikings to use depth at one offensive position – tight end. Not one Vikings tight end played in 16 games in 2013, and the team's top tight end – Kyle Rudolph – played in just eight games because of a foot injury.
When Rudolph was on the field, he was going along at a pretty good clip. The Pro Bowl tight end was on pace for 60 catches and had three touchdowns at the time of his injury, and in 2014 he'll look to get back on the field and be better than ever.
Rudolph's absence created more opportunities for John Carlson in his second season, and the Litchfield, Minnesota native capitalized by hauling in 32 receptions for 344 yards and one touchdown in 13 games with eight starts. Rhett Ellison continued to excel in his hybrid role of fullback/tight end, playing a pivotal role in the team's blocking game and also hauling in his first career touchdown.
With so many games missed due to injury at the position, youngster Chase Ford also got in on the action toward the end of the season. He played in nine games and tallied 11 catches with his limited playing time, leading to optimism that with a full offseason of work in 2014 he could be ready to contribute on a more regular basis once the regular season rolls around.
Even with a Pro Bowler in Rudolph, a veteran in Carlson and two talented young players at the position, don't be surprised if the Vikings add more talent to their tight end depth chart over the offseason. Competition makes everyone better, and there isn't a guy on the Vikings tight end depth chart who won't embrace that challenge.
On the Roster
John Carlson: 32 receptions, 344 yards (10.8), 1 TD in 13 games (8 starts)
Rhett Ellison: 5 receptions, 61 yards (12.2), 1 TD in 11 games (6 starts)
Chase Ford: 11 receptions, 133 yards (12.1) 0 TDs in 9 games (0 starts)
Kyle Rudolph: 30 receptions for 313 yards (10.4), 3 TDs in 8 games (8 starts)