When most people think of the Minnesota Vikings offense all the attention goes to Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, and Stefon Diggs. Those are still the true starts of Vikings but tight ends Irv Smith Jr. and Kyle Rudolph also proved on Sunday against the Detroit Lions they are going to assets to the offense going forward.
Kyle Rudolph is a veteran who has been a big part of the Vikings offense since being drafted in 2011, but this year his role has changed and he has been a lot more involved with the blocking. Coming into Sunday’s game, Rudolph only had nine catches and no touchdown.
Against the Lions, he caught 5 passes for 58 yards and a score. Cousins looked in Rudolph’s direction more, and he should have an increased role going forward.
Rookie Irv Smith Jr. was selected by the Vikings to be a pass-catching threat and another target for Cousins. He got off to a bit to a slow start to the season but he has proven he can be a mismatch for defense. Against the Lions, Smith caught 5 passes on 6 targets for 60 yards. On the season the former Alabama Crimson Tide standout has 12 catches for 153 yards.
All the attention on the outside has gone to Thielen and Diggs and defenses have also had to load the box to try and slow down Cook. Teams can only key on so many guys so while they are keying on the others, Rudolph and Smith are open and making plays. If the team starts to key on the two tight ends it’s going to leave others on the outside like Diggs and Thielen to make the big plays.
During the Lions game, Thielen went out early with a hamstring injury which meant others needed to step up and fill his void. Rookie seventh-round pick Olabisi Johnson came in as the second wide receiver catching 4 passes for 40 yards and a score.
There is a chance Thielen could play on Thursday night against the Washington Redskins but the team will probably be cautious to not hurt him more. A couple of weeks ago that could have been scary because Diggs and Thielen were really the only guys catching the ball.
The last couple of weeks it’s been, Johnson, Rudolph, and Smith who have stepped up and even if Thielen is out, the Vikings offense should still operate like a well-oiled machine that doesn’t skip a beat.