In his ninth Vikings season, tight end Kyle Rudolph is on pace for career lows in every receiving category through four games, but the team captain says he’s embracing his role in a run-heavy offense even if that means continued inactivity in the passing game.
“I’m focused on whatever my job is. To this point, my job has been blocking — blocking a lot,” Rudolph said. “I go to [former Vikings tight ends] like Jim Kleinsasser, guys I’ve been around in the past; Rhett Ellison, David Morgan, trying to do them proud.”
Rudolph is on pace for a career-low 28 targets in the Vikings offense, with only five catches for 32 yards in four games. Rudolph said “no” when asked if he shares wide receiver Stefon Diggs’ frustrations with a passing game that ranks 31st in the NFL (169 yards per game) through the first quarter of the season.
“For me, it’s a lot of fun,” Rudolph said, “because no one thinks I can block. So to go out there and not give up a sack to [Chicago’s] Khalil Mack and block Leonard Floyd, and [Oakland’s] Clelin Ferrell, the number four overall pick in the draft, no one expects me to do that.”
Rudolph has disappeared as a red-zone threat for the Vikings, catching four touchdowns in 20 games since the 2017 season; Rudolph had nine touchdowns that year, including one in the 38-7 NFC Championship Game loss to the Eagles. The 29-year-old former Pro Bowler says he’ll keep blocking.
“If that’s what they want me to do in this offense,” Rudolph said, “and that’s going to help us win games, that’s what I have to do.”
Seven of the Vikings’ past nine losses have come with the defense surrendering an opening-drive touchdown to the opponent. That’s a trend defensive end Everson Griffen said they’re trying to stop, after Bears backup quarterback Chase Daniel threw a 10-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive of a 16-6 loss in Chicago on Sunday. The defense also surrendered an opening touchdown in Green Bay on Sept. 15.
“I feel like we can start faster,” Griffen said. “It’s always, like, a little lag we have. I feel like we have to come out and not let the opponent score. We could start faster, for sure.”
Center Brett Jones returns Sunday to MetLife Stadium for the first time since the Giants traded him last year to Minnesota for a seventh-round draft pick.
Jones, 28, started 14 games for New York, where he began his NFL career in 2016 after playing in the Canadian Football League. He has fond memories of arriving from his hometown Weyburn, Saskatchewan, which has a population of nearly 11,000.
“Growing up in a little town, and when I’d made the team and just realized I’m going to live in New York City,” Jones said. “Some of the coolest days would be fall like [Thursday], and you’d look out across the practice field and see the Freedom Tower in the distance. It’s pretty cool.”
Cornerback Mackensie Alexander (elbow/groin) was the only Vikings player sidelined during Thursday’s practice, which included the return of Diggs (non-injury related). Diggs was listed as a full participant.
Safety Anthony Harris was limited in his return from a quad injury suffered in Chicago. Right guard Josh Kline (concussion) was upgraded to a full participant, making his return Sunday likely. For the Giants, running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) remained sidelined Thursday.