Kyle Rudolph (Bruce Kluckhohn/US Presswire)
Tight end Kyle Rudolph was one of many skill-position players touting Bill Musgrave’s offense before the season, but he still sees a lot of untapped potential for future success. Plus, E.J. Henderson continues to struggle with a knee injury, Bill Musgrave talks about Adrian Peterson in the second half and more.
Before the season, Percy Harvin raved about the offense that he saw drawn up in the playbook, and tight ends Visanthe Shiancoe and Kyle Rudolph both called coordinator Bill Musgrave’s offense tight end-friendly.
Three weeks into the season, Shiancoe and Rudolph have four catches each, putting them on a pace to have 21 catches each, but Rudolph says the Vikings offense hasn’t even come close to being as good as it can be.
“This offense is nowhere near reaching its potential,” Rudolph said Thursday. “We have so many talented players and so many weapons that if we continue to improve each week – we showed that in the first half that not many teams can stop us. We just need to string that together for four quarters.”
Like so many other players and coaches, Rudolph doesn’t have an answer for what is happening in the second half, but the rookie showed his potential with a phenomenal catch on a pass that was thrown well behind him as the Vikings were desperately driving down the field in the final two minutes of regulation on Sunday. Rudolph’s 20-yard reception on second-and-7 advanced the Vikings past midfield and put them in position for the game-tying field goal.
“If that [catch] was to win the game, it would be a lot higher, but I wouldn’t know where to rank that,” Rudolph said. “At the time, I didn’t really realize how far behind me it was. You just see the ball and you go try to make a play, especially at that point in the game. It set us up for a big field goal. I just try to take advantage of anything I get.”
He found out in film sessions just how good the catch was, and since then coaches, family members and friends have complimented him on the catch, but the effort was dampened by the overtime loss.
Rudolph said the tight ends have been trying to get in a better rhythm with quarterback Donovan McNabb.
“We’re working every day, the tight ends, and getting on the same page with Donovan. We expect to make big plays in our room,” Rudolph said. “That’s something that we go out every day to the practice field – if we can have perfect reps on the practice field, that instills confidence in the quarterback as well as the coordinator to call plays for us.”
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said the passing game is improving each week. In the opener, McNabb threw for 39 yards. Against Tampa Bay, it was 228 yards and on Sunday it was 211.
“We’ve got some talented tight ends that are both good blockers and receivers,” Musgrave said. “We want to get more for [Shinacoe], we want to get more for our talented rookie from Notre Dame. He had a couple more the other day. But the more chances we give them, the more we know they’ll come through for us.”
PETERSON, HENDERSON BACK AT IT
Running back Adrian Peterson (calf) and linebacker E.J. Henderson (knee) returned to practice on at least a limited basis after sitting out Wednesday because of injuries.
Frazier said Peterson went through the entire practice with no ill effects from the calf injury, but there appears to be more caution concerning Henderson’s condition.
“He looked good. He’s still a little tender. We’ll have to see how he does tomorrow,” Frazier said after Thursday’s practice. “We’ll have to take a look at him tomorrow and see how he comes along. He was a little tender today. Coming on this turf probably wasn’t the greatest thing, but we needed to do it.”
The Vikings practiced inside on artificial turf for the first time this season at Winter Park because of high wind gusts.
Henderson has been dealing with soreness and swelling in his knee left knee and had it drained four days after the season opener but hasn’t missed any starts yet. Frazier said that was the only time this season the knee has been drained. He had it drained once last year on a Friday and didn’t miss the next game, but this year’s issues are happening earlier in the season.
“Last year I don’t remember him this early having to miss as much time as he’s missing right now,” Frazier said. “I’d have to go back and look. I know late in the year you could see things were changing a little bit, but not this early. But the circumstances were different, too. He hadn’t gone through the entire season like he has after going through last season.
“I’m hoping we don’t get in a situation where he’s going to have to have his knee drained periodically. We’re hoping that through rest and our monitoring his reps that he’ll get better over time.”
Joining Henderson and Peterson as being limited in Thursday’s practice were safety Tyrell Johnson (hip) and tight end Jim Kleinsasser (elbow). Safety Jamarca Sanford (thigh) was added to injury report but was a full participant, as were cornerbacks Asher Allen (toe) and Chris Cook (groin) and defensive tackle Kevin Williams (foot).
For the Chiefs, DL Brandon Bair returned to practice as a full participant after missing Wednesday because of illness, and S Jon McGraw (shin), CB Brandon Flowers (ankle) and WR Jon Baldwin (thumb) remained limited.
MUSGRAVE: PETERSON WILL GET HIS TOUCHES
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said Peterson getting five carries in the second half of Sunday’s game was a product of the limited number of plays the Vikings had in the second half
“If we have more plays, then Adrian will get his share, as will all of our players, like he did in the first half,” Musgrave said. “That’s the goal is to be better, not just on first [down], not just on second, not just on third, but overall as a whole replicate those good things that we’re doing in the first half and carry them through to the second. Then everyone will get their justified touches.”
Peterson had 12 carries for 73 yards in the first half, when the Vikings ran 37 plays. In the second half, when they ran only 26 plays, Peterson had five carries for five yards.
Two of Peterson’s five second-half carries were for negative yardage – minus-1 and minus-4 – but Musgrave said that didn’t affect his play-calling.
“We will not be discouraged when Adrian does not get yards. We want to get Adrian his touches,” Musgrave said. “We know he’s very dynamic and we’ll look forward to getting him his touches, as well as everyone on our team. We need to do better. Obviously the last three games what we’ve been doing in the second half is not good enough in any respect.”
Kevin Williams played about 15 to 20 more snaps than the Vikings expected in his return from a two-game suspension, according defensive coordinator Fred Pagac.
Pagac on Everson Griffen dropping back into coverage on occasion during Sunday’s game: “I thought Everson did a great job in the game. He did a good job rushing. What he did in the drop part of it was fine. We’ll continue to get better at it. It was one of the first times we did that in the live bullets. We expect him to get better and better.”
Pagac continued to say that the Vikings don’t need to change anything schematically in their approach to third-down defense. “We’ve got to make some plays when we’ve got opportunities,” he said.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.