Kyle Rudolph has been back in the lineup for four weeks after undergoing sports hernia surgery in late September. It’s obvious — and understandable — that he hasn’t been the same guy we saw back in training camp, when the slimmed-down fourth-year tight end seemed primed for a big year.
Rudolph returned in Week 11 and was held without a catch as he played limited snaps. His usage is back to where it was pre-injury, but he has just seven catches for 66 yards and a touchdown since.
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner said today that Rudolph hasn’t regained the explosiveness and the quickness — “the things we got so excited about going into training camp,” as he put it — from this summer and Turner doesn’t think Rudolph will be able to get it back until 2015.
“I don’t think he’ll be all the way back until we get into camp next year,” he said. “When you have that type of procedure, I think it takes a while to recover. He’s working hard at it and he’s a competitive guy. But he doesn’t have the same quickness or burst that he had when we broke camp. And to me, when you have that procedure, it takes a while to get it. He’s still playing at less than 100 percent.”
Which begs the question: If Rudolph is still limited, why don’t the Vikings use Chase Ford more?
Rudolph, of course, is the long-term answer at the position. But Ford was starting to come on strong with 11 catches for 127 yard and a touchdown in the two games before Rudolph made his return.
“We’d like to,” Turner said. “He’s a good receiver and he did some good things. I don’t know, we’ve got some things where he’s going to be involved, hopefully we can get to him. We’ve had things each week where he’s involved and sometimes you’re able to get to him and sometimes you aren’t.”
Left tackle Matt Kalil is preparing to face the Lions for a second time this season. The first time, to put it politely, did not go so well for Kalil. But he feels he has been playing better of late.
“It’s been going well,” Kalil said. “Obviously it’s been a battle for me but I’m a competitor and I’m going to fight through any adversity that I face. I think for the most part, the second half of the season I thought I’ve been playing a little bit better. Obviously, there are little plays you give up here and there, and they’re going to be blown out of proportion. I’m under the microscope.”
Was one of the plays that has been blown out of proportion, Matt Kalil, the sack that Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson recorded that resulted in safety? On that play, the Jets ran a stunt and Richardson came free to smother rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for the two-pointer.
“They just ran a good game. They got us on a good one,” Kalil replied. “It’s not like we got beat straight up. They ran a defensive-line stunt. We just didn’t connect on it and switch it off the right way. They’re a top-five defense. They’re not bad at what they do.”
To be fair to Kalil, that was the first sack he had allowed in three weeks, according to Pro Football Focus. But Kalil hasn’t had to deal with a top-flight edge rusher like the one he’ll face again Sunday.
Ansah racked up two and a half sacks back in Week 6, earning NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his troubles. It was arguably Kalil’s poorest performance of the season.
So what does Kalil do with all the unpleasant game tape from that Lions win? He says he focuses more on the bad positions he put himself in, and less so the things that Ansah did to exploit them.
“Usually if I set the right way and my technique is pretty solid for that play, I should be fine,” he said.
But Kalil does know he must figure out how to handle Ansah, who has only played organized football for a few years, because he’s going to see him twice a year as long as he is with the Vikings.
“He’s a really big guy, obviously,” Kalil said. “He’s got really long arms. He kind of reminds me of Aldon Smith from San Francisco. They’re pretty similar. And [Ansah is] still pretty raw. He’s got a lot of potential, so I’ll be playing against him for a while. … I definitely got my hands full.”
Cordarrelle Patterson has gone two games without a catch, and after playing just three offensive snaps in the Week 13 win over the Panthers, the wide receiver got just one Sunday against the Jets.
But Patterson says his bond with coach Mike Zimmer has strengthened the past two weeks.
“Me and Coach Zimmer, we had a little heart-to-heart talk this morning,” Patterson said today. “He kept it real with me and I told him how I feel, so just talking to him, I believe in everything he says. I stand behind him and Coach Turner. I respect everything they’re doing. Getting that talk out of the way, it makes have a little less pressure on me. It makes me feel good to go in there and talk to him.”
Patterson said both Zimmer and he initiated the conversation, but wouldn’t say what was said.
“That’s nothing that any of y’all should know,” Patterson said. “Whatever me and Coach Zimmer talk about, that stays between us. That’s how I feel like it should be and that’s how it’s going to be.”
The verbal volleyball that Patterson and Zimmer have played over the past couple of weeks has been interesting. It started after the Panthers game, when Patterson expressed confusion about his limited role on offense. That prompted both Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner to tell us that Patterson missed a pair of practices due to a funeral, leading to a reduced role that game.
Turner then confirmed last week that Charles Johnson had officially overtaken Patterson as the starter at the split-end position, and Johnson had another strong receiving game against the Jets.
Zimmer, meanwhile, has publicly pumped up Patterson whenever asked about the second-year wide receiver — and he gets asked about him seemingly every day. Yesterday was no exception.
“I want this guy to be a great player. I really do. I want him to be a great player,” Zimmer said. “I don’t know when it’ll happen and I’m hoping like crazy it does because I want him to be a great player.”
It is unclear if Zimmer relayed that positive message to Patterson this morning. But whatever Zimmer said seemed to put Patterson, who has just 30 catches for 350 yards and a touchdown this season, in pretty good spirits for a guy who has played just four offensive snaps the past two weeks.
“I feel like our chemistry throughout the past couple of weeks, it’s just been gaining each week and every day,” Patterson said. “Just trying to talk to him, tell him how I feel. He always tells me to just keep it straight up with him, and that’s what I’ll do. And I know he is going to keep it real with me.”