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.”
@MasterStrib I there a chance Kalil doesn’t get abused by Ansah this week? #VikingsST
— Phil Finke (@pfinke05) December 11, 2014
Considering the Vikings still have a chance to make the playoffs, there’s a chance for anything to happen. Left tackle Matt Kalil has taken baby steps over the last two weeks, but I think he’ll have a difficult time guarding Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah one-on-one again.
Ansah had a career-high 2.5 sacks against Kalil during their Week 6 matchup at TCF Bank Stadium. It was perhaps Kalil’s worst game over the last two seasons with the entire Lions defensive line humming in an impressive performance. It’ll be interesting to watch how many times the Vikings use a tight end on the left side to help protect or chip Ansah to help Kalil.
Ansah has collected a sack in consecutive games, giving him four since the last time he faced Kalil. I’d set the over/under at 1.5 sacks for Ansah.
#VikingsST is it tough to rate Teddy because the defenses we played last 6 or do u take it its Teddy’s growth not the defenses we play
— zach sween (@1Sween) December 11, 2014
Not at all, and I would still consider the Jets defense a tough matchup for a rookie quarterback considering their front four and head coach Rex Ryan’s controlled chaos when they dial up blitzes. Teddy Bridgewater handled all of that well in his best performance yet, I think.
The biggest thing with Bridgewater is you want him to build off the previous week, regardless of the opponent. He’s done that recently against the Panthers and Jets, improving on his accuracy, arm strength, his deep ball and the offense’s overall effectiveness (scoring touchdowns).
These next two games will be great tests for not only Bridgewater, but a young offense facing the Lions and Dolphins. Those are two good defensive units, and you want to see Bridgewater continue to perform at an effective level.
@MasterStrib Adrian Peterson: Cut, Trade, Keep? #VikingsST
— Richard Krueger (@RichardKrueger) December 11, 2014
If the Vikings can somehow work out a pay cut with Adrian Peterson and he wants to remain in Minnesota, you keep him.
Those are two big unknowns though considering what’s transpired this season, but it has to be enticing for Peterson to think about the Vikings’ bright future with some of the young talent they can build off in the coming years. Does he have the patience with sun setting on his career in the next few years, though, is another perspective Peterson must consider.
The issue even before Peterson went through his trial was he’d turn 30 during the offseason and still remain as the only running back receiving over 10 million (11.7 million in base salary). Peterson has basically taken a year off, which could be a good thing, but even at 30, he’d still be one of the best backs in the league. Peterson would take a load off this young offense, including Bridgewater and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
If the Vikings can tweak his salary and Peterson still wants to play here, I’d consider that a big “addition” for the Vikings in the offseason.
Does anyone even see Yankey practicing? How, with a couple guards down, does this guy still not get talked about? #vikingsst
— Eric Cernjar (@ecernjar) December 11, 2014
He’s still under construction and developing as an NFL offensive guard. The rookie has been inactive all season working on his strength, technique and understanding of the position as the Vikings ease him along.
If you can recall during the preseason, Yankey struggled at guard. The last thing you want to do is roll out a guy having a hard time with second and third string defensive linemen to block for your rookie quarterback. Charlie Johnson has been sub-par at left guard once again, so the Vikings won’t lose much with sticking Vladimir Ducasse in Johnson’s place if he can’t play. The concern with Yankey though is he won’t be able to hold his own at left guard, like he couldn’t during the preseason. It’s too much of a risk to try even with three games remaining, I think.
Free agent pitcher Ervin Santana, who the Twins are said to be pursuing heavily, has had a very productive morning on Twitter.
His verified account is mostly inspirational quotes anyway, but this morning four different quotes have been posted on his feed: One from Willie Mays (Giants), one from Ernie Banks (Cubs), one from Joe DiMaggio (Yankees) and one from … Kirby Puckett (Twins, in case you were wondering).
Coincidentally (or not) all of those teams are said to have some level of interest in Santana.
Stay tuned … we’ll see if he takes his trolling to another level.