The Vikings have done a pretty good job of keeping tight ends in check this season. However, they’ve yet to face one as good as the guy from the Chiefs.
Travis Kelce, the big man who has been dubbed “Zeus,” emerged as one of the best tight ends in the NFL last season, catching 67 passes for 852 yards and five touchdowns. He has been just as productive in 2015, ranking third in the league at his position with 24 receptions and 328 receiving yards.
For the sake of comparison, Kyle Rudolph has 14 grabs for 104 yards.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith looks Kelce’s way often. Only wide receiver Jeremy Maclin has been targeted more than the 6-foot-5, 260-pounder.
“He does an excellent job within their route tree of what it is they ask him to do,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said today. “He’s a tough cover. He’s their second-leading receiver, so he’s getting a lot of touches on the football. We’ve got to do a good job of containing him.”
The Vikings, for the most part, have contained the likes of Vernon Davis, Eric Ebron and Owen Daniels. Through four games, they have allowed opposing tight ends to catch 18 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns.
Kelce, who was timed at 4.51 in the 40-yard dash before he was drafted in the third round in 2013, figures to present a tougher test for Mike Zimmer’s defense, which typically uses a committee to cover tight ends.
Strong-side linebacker Anthony Barr, one member of that committee, said there are only a “couple of guys” in the league with a size/speed combination comparable to Kelce. He said the Vikings will have to be as physical as possible when trying to cover Kelce, who is pretty physical in his own right.
“He’s a good football player who knows how to get open,” he said. “He runs good routes and runs after the catch, so it’s going to be a challenge for us.”