An unexpected battle has erupted at the beginning of Vikings training camp. Second year tight end Tyler Conklin has set out to prove he can be a reliable receiving threat. When Irv Smith Jr was drafted in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, many fans (including this writer) thought it was the end for Kyle Rudolph in Minnesota. Shortly after, Rudolph was extended through 2023 ending any speculation of a trade or cut. Conklin was thought to be the odd man out with two receiving threats already ahead of him on the depth chart, but it seems he is not ready to go out without a fight. Brandon Dillon, a dark horse candidate to make the 53 man roster, is also throwing his name into this developing battle. Taking all these into account it would seem the Vikings have a full fledged backup tight end battle on their hands
OMG Tyler Conklin having a camp! pic.twitter.com/RoEBvGjprm
— Sean Borman (@SeanBormanNFL) July 31, 2019
With the hire of assistant head coach Gary Kubiak, it is expected that the tight end position will be utilized more often than what it was last year. Kirk cousins talked to reporters Wednesday specifically about throwing to Rudolph “you would`ve loved to say I did that last year, but I don’t think I did enough”. This all suggest that tight ends as a group will see more playing time and more targets. Splitting targets between four tight ends may seem difficult, but if Conklin and Smith can prove to be mismatches for both defensive backs and linebackers, we could see more three or even four tight ends sets in the red zone.
It will be interesting to see what the Vikings decide to do with their tight end depth. Tyler Conklin has had a fast start to camp. We haven’t heard much from Irv Smith, and David Morgan is still on the PUP list. Brandon Dillon, a tight end a lot of fans are not familiar with, received praise from head coach Mike Zimmer for standing out in the early part of training camp. This was not a battle most fans expected to see when training camp started but it is quickly becoming the most interesting one to watch.