Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 1, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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50 OCT. 1, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED IRISH IN THE PROS BY COREY BODDEN S ince being drafted by the team in the 2011 and 2012 NFL Drafts, re- spectively, tight end Kyle Rudolph and safety Harrison Smith have been build- ing blocks for a Minnesota Vikings or- ganization searching for its first Super Bowl victory. Both were crucial cogs in a 13-3 sea- son a year ago that saw Minnesota fall one game short of playing for the cov- eted championship. Rudolph finished third on the team in receptions (57) and receiving yards (532) while tying for the lead in touchdown catches (eight). Smith led the team in interceptions (five) while finishing second in total tackles (78). With the bitter taste of a 38-7 defeat in the NFC Championship Game in their mouths, Rudolph and Smith re- turned to the team in 2018 aiming to finish the job. For Rudolph, 2017 was a little bit of a down year despite remaining a top pass catcher for Mike Zimmer's group. In 2016, Rudolph caught 83 passes for 840 yards and seven touchdowns. However, two additions to the Vi- kings' offense could lead to a resur- gence in that production. Minnesota signed quarterback Kirk Cousins — who threw for 4,000 yards for three straight seasons from 2015- 17 — in the offseason to a fully guar- anteed $84-million, three-year deal. Zimmer also brought over coordinator John DeFilippo to run the offense. During his one year as the offen- sive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns, tight end Gary Barnidge led the team in receiving with 79 catches for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns. "I've seen what he's done in the past, what he was able to do in 2015 with Gary Barnidge, and then obvi- ously last year [tight end Zach] Ertz had an unbelievable year in this sys- tem [with the Eagles, where DeFilippo was quarterbacks coach]," Rudolph told 1500 ESPN during the summer. "It's not just us. Obviously, he's had great success with tight ends." Lining up more outside could al- low Rudolph to have additional mis- matches against opposing defenses. "Linebackers, safeties, I have a size advantage on all of them," Rudolph said. "That is one of the things that gives you an advantage when you're out wide. We may be standing next to each other, but the quarterback can throw in a place where only I can get it. "The biggest difference, if you think about it as a tight end, most of the time you are catching the ball running away from the quarterback. If you're inside, you are running an out, you are running a corner, you're running an in-cut and crossing the quarterback and running away. "When you're on the outside, most of the routes you are running, you are running back to the quarterback. It's a simple thing in terms of catching the ball running toward it versus running away from it." Though he caught just one pass in the opener, an 11-yard touchdown, Rudolph got back on track in week two against the Green Bay Packers by reeling in seven receptions for 72 yards. On the other side, it's been business as usual for Smith at safety. Smith began the year with seven tackles and a game-sealing intercep- tion in the Vikings' 24-16 victory over Kyle Rudolph And Harrison Smith Are Vital To Minnesota's Title Quest Rudolph notched eight catches for 83 yards and one touchdown during the Vikings' 1-0-1 start. PHOTO COURTESY MINNESOTA VIKINGS NOTRE DAME IN THE NFL: WEEK TWO HIGHLIGHTS • Will Fuller (Played at Notre Dame from 2013-15), WR, Houston Texans: Missed the season opener due to a hamstring injury, but made his presence felt in his first game of the year … Led the Texans in receptions (eight) and receiving yards (113) while scoring a touchdown in a 20-17 loss to the Tennes- see Titans. • Isaac Rochell (2013-16), DE, Los Angeles Chargers: Recorded five solo tackles in a 31-20 win over the Buffalo Bills … It was the second straight game he started in the absence of star defensive end Joey Bosa. • Jaylon Smith (2013-15), LB, Dallas Cowboys: Led the Cowboys in tackles with 10 (one for loss) in a 20-13 victory over the New York Giants. • Golden Tate (2007-09), WR, Detroit Lions: Led the team with 109 receiving yards on seven catches in a 30-27 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. • Stephon Tuitt (2011-13), DE, Pittsburgh Steelers: Finished second on the team with five tackles in a 42-37 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

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