MINNEAPOLIS -- The corner route Kyle Rudolph ran in the second quarter Saturday night, lining up between the hash marks at the Minnesota Vikings' 49 and roaming to his left just inside the numbers at the Arizona Cardinals' 30-yard line, is exactly the kind for which Rudolph lost 15 pounds this offseason. It's an effort to become the latest Norv Turner tight end to feast in the middle of a defense.
Rudolph spent his offseason watching film of tight ends in Turner's offenses, from the Cleveland Browns' Jordan Cameron all the way back to the Dallas Cowboys' Jay Novacek, and slimmed down in an effort to speed up. He knew what kind of a role could be waiting for him with Turner as the Vikings' offensive coordinator, and he wanted to put himself into position to seize it.
So far, Rudolph has done exactly that. He caught one pass for 22 yards in the Vikings' preseason opener and followed it up with four catches for 89 yards, including his 51-yard touchdown from Matt Cassel on the aforementioned corner route, in the Vikings' win Saturday night over the Arizona Cardinals. The tight end, who got a five-year contract extension earlier this month, seems set to earn his money the same way Turner's tight ends have done it for years.
"He came up to me when he was out [in the] first half, and said, 'That guy you've got upstairs is a genius,'" coach Mike Zimmer said. "He was talking about Norv. You know, our coaches do a good job coaching these guys, and the players are really liking what they are doing."
It always seemed like Rudolph stood to reap significant gains from Turner's offense, and the early returns in the preseason suggest he's right at home. He caught another deep out Saturday -- a week after nearly scoring a touchdown on the same route against the Oakland Raiders -- and seems to have full faith in Turner's scheme.
History would suggest that, as a tight end, he should. He's seen hints of the payoff early in the preseason.
"On that 51-yard touchdown, we were sitting on the bench, and [Turner] said, 'Get ready for it -- I think it looks good,'" Rudolph said. "And sure enough, two plays later, he calls it. He just has that feel. He sits up in the box, and I think he kind of has his little glass ball that he can look into. He just always seems to dial up plays at the right time."