Besides being a giant with soft hands, there’s another reason to like Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph. So says Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
“Whether he’s the primary read or he’s a late outlet as I’m going through my progression, Kyle is always in the right place at the right time,” said Bridgewater, who has become a consistent preacher to his targets when it comes to the right-place, right-time mantra.
In the NFL, where quarterbacks often throw to a spot before that spot is occupied, being precisely in the right place at the right time is as important as speed and the ability to catch. It’s also the primary reason receiver and former first-round draft pick Cordarrelle Patterson still is trying to fight his way back from being demoted to the second-team offense.
Dogged by injuries that have limited him to 54 catches in only 17 games the past two years, Rudolph was an integral part of the 10-play, 50-yard series to open the 14-3 victory over the Steelers in Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game.
Rudolph caught an 11-yard pass to open the series and another 11-yarder to extend it on third-and-5 from the Pittsburgh 30-yard line. The series ended on downs at the Steelers 11, but overall it was a crisp, penalty-free performance by the starters in their only work of the night.
“Just having Kyle back helps,” receiver Jarius Wright said. “He’s always been a big target. He’s easy to see, that’s for sure. And you know for sure that if you throw him the ball, he’s going to catch it, no matter who is on him or what the situation is. Kyle has some of the best hands on the team.”
Bridgewater admitted he’ll have to be careful not to look for Rudolph too much. The quarterback’s only incompletion in six attempts came when he looked to Rudolph on a corner route before taking care of his primary read, which was a shorter route to receiver Mike Wallace.
When Rudolph got tripped up, Bridgewater turned his attention to Wallace. But the look to Rudolph interrupted the timing on the rollout pass to Wallace. The throw was low and behind Wallace, who tried to adjust but couldn’t hang on to the ball.
In this case, Wallace was in the right place at the right time while Bridgewater’s throw wasn’t. Bridgewater admitted he “got a little greedy” on a play that offensive coordinator Norv Turner designed to go to Wallace as the first read.
“That’s one of those things where I have to continue to stay within the system,” said the man who sure seems to appreciate it when targets such as Rudolph practice that same discipline.