One of the more perplexing aspects of the Minnesota Vikings' 3-13 season last year was how difficult it was for two of their most talented pass-catchers to get on the field. Receiver Percy Harvin played 58.4 percent of the team's snaps over 16 games, while emerging tight end Kyle Rudolph was on the field for 46.9 percent of them in 15 games.
So while the Vikings' offense has still struggled at times this season, it's worth noting they have followed through on pledges to ensure their best players are on the field as often as possible. Midway through the season, Rudolph has missed only 34 snaps in playing 93.7 percent of the Vikings' plays. His 506 snaps are the third-most among tight ends in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF).
Harvin, meanwhile, has played on 393 of a possible 540 snaps for a percentage of 72.8. The Vikings have also used him to return 15 kickoffs, one less than he took all of last season. With his elevated playing time, Harvin not only leads the NFL with a 35.7 average on those returns, but he is also tied for the league lead with 60 receptions. His 36 first downs converted by pass rank second, and his 667 receptions are the NFL's fifth-best.
Rudolph, meanwhile, is tied for the third-most touchdown catches (five) among NFL tight ends. Defenses appear to have noticed, and he went without a catch in Week 7 and had two for 17 yards Oct. 27 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
At some point, it might be worth exploring more deeply why the Vikings have targeted Rudolph on only five passes over those two games, but for the purposes of this post, let's not quibble over weekly production. The primary role of any coach is to put players in position to succeed. No matter what scheme you're running, that job is impossible if key players spend 40-60 percent of a game on the sideline. It might make sense to manage the snaps of a veteran player more tightly, but Harvin is still 24 and Rudolph turns 23 next week. They can handle it.