MANKATO – Based on the first stretch of Vikings training camp practices, second-year tight end David Morgan appears to be in line for a larger role this season.
Morgan has joined starter Kyle Rudolph in formations with two tight ends, which could be a more common sight for a Vikings offense trying to re-establish its run game. The expectation is Morgan will play more than the 63 snaps he got as a rookie sixth-round pick, according to coach Mike Zimmer.
“I anticipate he will,” Zimmer said. “He’s done a good job blocking. You know he’s always caught the ball well.”
Morgan (6-4, 265 pounds) weighs the same as Rudolph but is 2 inches shorter. Morgan is built and touted as a sturdy run blocker, which is where the Vikings need more help after consistently allowing defenders into the backfield last season for the league’s worst rushing attack. His success in walling off larger defensive ends or chasing down linebackers likely will determine how much he plays.
That’s what former Vikings tight end Rhett Ellison did, peaking with 471 snaps as a secondary tight end paving the way for Adrian Peterson’s third career rushing title in 2015. Now the Vikings seek a similar ground game between rookie Dalvin Cook and veterans Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon.
“[Ellison] was one of those guys that was heavily relied on to do whatever the job was,” Morgan said. “That was a guy I really looked up to when I got to this place and really dug into his brain.”
Newman still chasing
The NFL’s eldest cornerback, 38-year-old Terence Newman says he’s still finding the fun in practicing nine times in 10 days at training camp.
Let him explain.
“Hot babes in college,” Newman began. “You might get eye contact, maybe a smile and then never hear from her again, right? So I’m chasing this hot babe known as the Lombardi Trophy. I got a couple looks at one point in time, distant glances. No smiles yet. I’m trying to get up close and personal to that babe.”
Newman, who returned to the Vikings on a one-year deal for his 15th NFL season, said he has not yet thought about retirement. His teams have a 1-7 postseason record in his career.
NFL owners voted in May to eliminate the first roster cutdown day, meaning all teams will now have one deadline, the afternoon of Sept. 2, to trim 37 players from 90-man preseason rosters down to 53 players for the regular season.
Count Zimmer in as a head coach who will enjoy getting another preseason game to evaluate 15 players he otherwise would have had to cut before the exhibition finale.
“I like it,” Zimmer said. “I think it gives a lot of other guys more chances to be evaluated with that fourth preseason game. It will be harder on [General Manager] Rick [Spielman] on the waivers when everything happens, but it’s good for the players.”
Vote of confidence?
Should a Vikings tackle go down, next up is Rashod Hill, the second-year undrafted tackle out of Southern Mississippi. Hill has been praised for being a quick study, but he’s appeared in only one NFL game and is next in line if Riley Reiff, who didn’t practice Monday, or Mike Remmers misses time. Zimmer didn’t exactly give a vote of confidence when asked about his depth at tackle.
“Well, we need to stay healthy, I think,” Zimmer said.
Welcomed off day
Vikings players, some practicing eight days in a row, get their first day off Tuesday, when coaches will convene to script out the next four practices with different focal points.
“Day off is looking great,” safety Antone Exum Jr. said.