Brian Hall’s Oct. 30 Vikings mailbag

In this week's Vikings mailbag, topics include the time-table for tight end Kyle Rudolph's return from injury, Teddy Bridgewater's growth, the Vikings' defense and more.

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A win sure changes the mood around the Minnesota Vikings, and in submissions to our mailbag.

Minnesota’s 19-13 overtime win at Tampa Bay, thanks to rookie linebacker Anthony Barr’s big play, has the Vikings 3-5 halfway through the season and with one week to go before the team’s bye.

Here’s what’s on your mind after last Sunday’s eventful finish:

Question: What about Kyle Rudolph. What is his timeline to return to the field? — Mike, Minneapolis

Answer: Tight end Kyle Rudolph is nearing a return. For the past two weeks, he’s joined the team in pre-practice stretches before heading down to the far end of the practice field to run conditioning drills under the watchful eye of the team’s athletic trainers.

If Rudolph’s current trajectory stands, he could be ready to rejoin the lineup following the Week 10 bye. Rudolph would have seven games left to show some of the potential the big tight end and the team believed possible at the start of the season under new offensive coordinator Norv Turner.

Rudolph was dealing with an abdominal injury and eventually left the Week 3 game at New Orleans and had double sports hernia surgery that week. Believing he could return quicker than eight weeks, Minnesota dealt with Rudolph’s absence and didn’t place him on injured reserve with the designation to return. If he makes it back for Week 11 at Chicago, Rudolph will have missed six games over seven weeks.

Rudolph had 10 catches for 96 in yards in two-plus games earlier this season. Chase Ford, who has filled the receiving tight end role in Rudolph’s absence, has 14 catches for 146 yards and is coming off his best game with six catches for 61 yards.

Q: It seemed Teddy was most comfortable while running the 2-minute offense against Tampa. Does simplifying the defense by not allowing substitutions (and the offense for that matter), through the hurry-up nature of the 2-minute drill help Teddy make better and faster decisions? Or, was this the byproduct of just a bad Tampa D? Do you agree with wanting to see more hurry-up style offense going forward? — John D., Eau Claire, Wis.

A: I do believe the simplicity in the 2-minute offense and the necessity to react quickly helps rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. We saw in the preseason when he led a game-winning, two-minute drive. At the end of both halves on Sunday, he drove Minnesota into scoring position.

Possibly some of the success Sunday was attributable to Tampa Bay’s league-worst defense. Bridgewater seemed to be able to see and distribute balls to the open zones in the Buccaneers’ Cover-2 defense.

Perhaps Bridgewater is over-analyzing some situations and the hastened approach in the hurry-up offense helps him think less and react more. The Vikings have talked about his composure all season and he doesn’t seem fazed by the situations. Maybe speeding Bridgewater up a bit will help him overall as he develops.

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Q: Is it just me or has directional punting gone away. I don’t understand why if your trying to pin a team deep you don’t at least attempt to use the sideline? — Dean, Redwood Falls

A: Good observation. It seems rare when we see the coffin corner kicks used so much in the past. Ray Guy, the only punter in the Hall of Fame, was a master of the coffin-corner kick. The last punter to probably feature the style in approaching the end zone was Jeff Feagles.

Now, more punters –“ like Minnesota’s Jeff Locke –“ use the end-over-end, rugby-style kick. Darren Bennett is probably known for starting the style as a former Australian with the San Diego Chargers. The belief now is controlling the distance and using long hang-time to allow players the chance to get downfield and down the ball, or even using the bounce to try and get the ball to stop, kind of like a golf shot.

Special teams coaches likely believe it’s easier to get punters to execute the Aussie-style kick than directionally punting. There was a certain art or finesse to the coffin-corner kicks of the past. Success and ease might be the biggest differences in the new trend.

Q: Why didn’t they kick the extra point at the end of the game? If the offense had scored they would have had to try for an extra point(s). — Jason Wessington, Springs, S.D.

A: In overtime, the extra-point attempt is not needed. There was some discussion from officials Sunday, I know, and they agreed the rules didn’t necessitate a point-after attempt. Whether attempting the kick or not, the outcome would not matter. Even if the defending team blocked the kick, it wouldn’t be able to return it for a touchdown.

So, in the NFL’s new sudden-death format in which each team must have a possession (unless the team with the ball first scores a touchdown), the fumble return by Barr ended Tampa Bay’s possession and gave Minnesota the win. Another overtime game this season in which the offense scored, Week 3 with Seattle beating Denver, the extra-point attempt wasn’t tried, either.

Q: The last two weeks it seems the defense has done a great job until the fourth quarter, do you think they wear down or the scheme changes? Thank you — Al Tiseth, Chatham, Ill.

A: I don’t think they are wearing down. The scheme isn’t changing, either. I think it comes down to execution. Offenses are making plays and the defense isn’t.

Look at the final touchdown by Buffalo two weeks ago. The Vikings are caught as the Bills hurried to the line and Chad Greenway was caught with his back to the line of scrimmage while trying to get the play to Captain Munnerlyn. If Minnesota makes that stop, no one is thinking about a collapse. The long pass to Chris Hogan to advance the ball to the 2-yard line was a good, jumping play by the receiver, who was covered by Xavier Rhodes. A couple of penalties helped Tampa Bay advance the ball on Sunday.

Minnesota has allowed three touchdowns over the past two games. Unfairly, because of the timing, focus has been on two touchdowns allowed at the end of games. The Vikings’ defense has had a lot of pressure because the offense hasn’t scored enough.

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Q: Although Barr dislodged the ball, I think it was Harrison’s hit that made sure the ball fell to the ground. Am I wrong? I thought our OLT played better, but I saw in one article he was the "goat". Are we going to have to spend our top draft pick on an OLT? Then what do we do with Matt? Move him to OG or tell him to lose 20 lbs and make him into a blocking TE? I understand he has a problem maintaining his weight. — Norskie, Austin

A: To tackle the first topic, I think it was a combined effort to help jar the ball loose in overtime. Harrison Smith made a good hit to stop Buccaneers tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, but I don’t believe the ball would have come out without Barr ripping at the ball.

I’m not sure which article you’re referring to with left tackle Matt Kalil. I did feel like Kalil was a bit better Sunday, but Tampa Bay didn’t have the type of quality pass rushers Kalil has faced recently, either. According to Pro Football Focus, Kalil allowed one quarterback hit and four hurries in 49 pass-blocking snaps. The website gave Kalil another negative grade.

Overall, I felt Kalil and the rest of the offensive line, with Joe Berger getting the start at right guard, played better than in recent weeks.

Q: Our defense is great with very few holes, however one of those obvious holes is Robert Blanton. What are the Vikings future plans in that safety position? — Jake S., Minneapolis

A: Minnesota could still look for a new running mate to Smith. For now, Blanton will have every opportunity to show he can be the guy. The coaches like Blanton’s coverage ability on the back end, preferring safeties who can cover when the need arises.

Blanton’s biggest missteps this year have been in run support where he’s struggled to tackle. Blanton leads the team in tackles, as he’s proven to be in position, but he’s not always able to bring down the ball carrier at the point of attack. He could also improve in coverage, as well. He’s the weak-link of what has been a strong defense so far, but he has made some plays recently.

Q: are they going to look for running back in the next draft since AP most likely wont be back with the Vikings? — Gary Osborn, Fort Scott, Kan.

A: It’s very possible Minnesota could look for a running back in the draft. However, rookie Jerick McKinnon has given the Vikings reason to not go overboard in trying to address the position. McKinnon has rushed for 226 yards the past three games. More importantly, he hasn’t looked like a one-dimensional speed back. McKinnon has earned a lot of tough yards while running with a physical edge and breaking tackles.

Peterson’s situation will be an interesting one to watch in the offseason. Minnesota could move on from its Pro Bowl running back for financial reasons as much as the legal issues Peterson is dealing with currently. But if the Vikings choose to add a running back, perhaps deciding Matt Asiata is not enough of a complement to McKinnon, it would probably be to add a power back to split time with McKinnon. McKinnon also has to continue his progress as a pass blocker. Asiata is seeing much of his time right now, likely, because McKinnon has struggled some as a blocker.

Thank you for your submissions. Unfortunately we couldn’t get to all of your questions. We tried to answer a wide range of submissions. I hope we continue to hear from you in the future. Our Vikings’ mailbag runs once a week on Thursday mornings during the regular season. Be sure to check for upcoming mailbags.

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