Behind Vikings starting tight end Kyle Rudolph, his position group fields just one NFL catch between the other five guys in the room.
That’s not necessarily where second-year tight end David Morgan may provide the biggest boost, anyway.
Morgan, the former sixth-round pick who caught one pass for four yards as a rookie, could be a critical component of the Vikings’ retooled run game — a year removed from ranking last in the league. A road-grading tight end is part of what the Vikings missed last season, when Rhett Ellison made an impressive turnaround from a torn patellar tendon, but wasn’t as effective.
The Vikings eyed Morgan (6-4, 265 pounds) as one of the 2016 draft’s top run blockers and, after a spring as the second tight end with the starters, they could rely on him to make a difference.
“He is a guy that does a lot of dirty work; does not say a lot,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “Has good hands and catches the ball well in the pass game. He is just a tough guy who will compete. He likes to compete.”
The Vikings claimed the 2015 NFC North crown on the back of the defense and Adrian Peterson, who often ran behind heavier personnel formations with multiple tight ends. Zimmer sought to be more unpredictable on offense and, with the additions of running backs Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray, they’re set up to achieve that goal.
But too often last year, the Vikings failed to get the push up front they were used to seeing. Only the New York Jets scored fewer points per red-zone trip, according to Football Outsiders. Now with Ellison and fullback Zach Line off the roster, Morgan made quite a few appearances this spring as the Vikings focused on short-yardage and red-zone situations, among others.
Defensive end Brian Robison had some high praise for the 24-year-old Morgan.
“David is probably one of the better blocking tight ends in the NFL, and not a lot of people have seen that yet,” Robison said. “But I think you are going to see that this year. He is going to be a very important part of our offense being able to run the ball because of what he can do at tight end as far as blocking defensive ends.”
The Vikings drafted Morgan from a fledgling University of Texas-San Antonio football program that liked to run the ball (510 carries in 2015) more than pass (360 attempts). Morgan was still the Roadrunners’ leading receiver in his final college season while moving around the formations, lining up next to a tackle, in the backfield and split out wide.
“David is really versatile,” quarterback Sam Bradford said. “You can put him in there and he can block and I’ve got all the confidence in the world that if we need him to come in there in a two tight end set and kind of help things going in the run game, blocking in the pass protection he does a great job. But also, his route running. He’s got good speed, he’s got good hands.”