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Kyle Rudolph film review: What does veteran tight end bring to Giants?

Minnesota Vikings v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Tight end Kyle Rudolph was added to the New York Giants on Thursday as Kenny Golladay talks continue to ramp up. The former Minnesota Viking was released earlier this offseason after not restructuring his contract with the team that drafted him in the second round back in 2011. He was signed by the Giants on a two-year deal worth up to $12 million.

Rudolph is coming off a modest 28-catch, 334-yard season with only one touchdown, but he did have seven touchdowns in 2019. The Vikings recently selected Irv Smith out of Alabama in the second round and they have Tyler Conklin on their roster as well, so Rudolph was seen as expendable at his $9 million annual price tag. He signed an extension with the Vikings back in 2019.

He has 4,642 career receiving yards on 469 catches with 50 touchdowns. He’s a two-time Pro Bowl selection, back in 2012 and in 2017. Rudolph has also played more than 400 snaps every year of his career. He suffered a foot injury late in the 2020 season that landed him on IR. Let’s get right into his film:

(Kyle Rudolph is No. 82)

Run blocking

The base-running play that the Giants started using in a primary fashion during their Week 5 loss to the Dallas Cowboys is a counter trey play where the backside guard and a pulling H-Back pull to the 5 or 6 (or 7 / 8 hole depending on the defensive alignment). The running back delays his path and takes a purposeful false step to allow the blocks to materialize. It’s this same exact play you’ll see below:

This is a good indication of the role that Joe Judge and Jason Garrett envision for Rudolph. He’s an immediate upgrade as a play side blocker with these power/gap concepts over any of the tight ends on the Giants roster. Kaden Smith fills the role of Irv Smith (84) in the clip above.

The play above is not a power gap run, but it’s a similar concept in regards to sealing an edge and allowing the running back to run off your backside. Rudolph’s inside shoulder is attacked, so he just slightly angles his body outside and separates the defender from his original position.

(more inline tight end, left side)

Here we see Rudolph against the Colts, one of the more premier rush defenses in the league, and he clamps the 6-technique down showing good core strength. He uses his outside arm to get underneath the outside shoulder of the defender, and then he torques his body while staying square to disallow the defender from disengaging.

(inner tight end, right side of screen)

Rudolph washes a 6-technique down the line of scrimmage and to the deck in this short-yardage situation. He stays in front of the slanting 6-T and gets his outside shoulder pad on the outside shoulder pad of the defender while driving his legs; he then takes his inside hand and slightly pulls some cloth to force the defender off-balance. Tumbling to the deck, he finishes the play hard.

(right side)

Rudolph receives a relatively free release to go and pick up the second-level defender on this play above; he initially stays square to the defender and then initiates contact while fighting through the defender’s attempts to maneuver around his block. Rudolph eventually gets the defender on a lateral plane and positions himself between the defender and the would-be path of the running back. I love to see how he competes throughout the play, and I love to see those location/adjustment skills at the second level.

I like Rudolph’s ability to run block - it’s above average for an NFL tight end. It’s not George Kittle type of stuff and he’s not going to consistently knock EDGE players from executing their assignments, but he’s a capable run blocker who uses his 6-foot-6, 265-pound frame well.

(left side)

There are going to be plays like the one above where he’s going to overextend a bit and get exposed against quality EDGE defenders, especially when he has to move laterally, but all in all he’s still a better run blocker than any of the Giants current tight ends, with Kaden Smith acting as the H-Back.

Pass blocking

(right side of screen)

Rudolph doesn’t have to fully engage J.J. Watt’s strength on this rep, but he stays in front of him and does enough to not allow Watt to disengage and wreak havoc on the backfield. He’s blocking down on a 4-T on a slight play-action move the pocket type of deal, where he was going to receive help, but I still like to see how he stays in front of Watt and doesn’t give him a chance to bull-rush right through his face.

(left side)

A really big part of NFL protection packages are these delayed releases where the tight end or running back chips to assist an offensive linemen before releasing into their route. Rudolph does a very good job selling a route before quickly helping his tackle. He puts the defender to the deck with a quick shoulder to help in protection before going into his route. This is what one should expect from a tight end of his size.

(right side of screen)

He really shows some good athletic traits here; quick feet, is able to unlock his hips and turn while mirroring the rusher well. He is patient, isn’t leaning, and flows up the arc effortlessly to mirror and match the pass rusher’s movement.

Most of his pass blocking film shows good initial ability in protection. As a second or two goes by, the EDGE rushers typically find ways to disengage from the block with either a push-pull or some other sort of pass-rushing move. The initial ability is enough to allow the quarterback to release the football. Overall, Rudolph is a solid pass protector as well and he can hold up just long enough to allow most quarterbacks to make a play.

Receiving skills

(left side)

Rudolph is a smart player who knows how to get open against zone coverages while also doing a good job creating separation with subtle push-offs vs. man. He has some of the better hands I’ve seen from a tight end - he has one drop in the last three seasons (with 137 catches in that time frame). He does a phenomenal job using his impressive catch radius to high point balls and secure them into his frame. He uses his body well at the catch point and is very good in contested catch situations. He’s a solid overall athlete for a tight end, but not one that is an athletic mismatch. He wins with size and physicality a bit more, but he also has very soft hands.

(right side of screen)

He shows a beautiful understanding of how to uncover vs. zone in the clip above. Shows good spatial awareness up the seam and some flexibility as he turns around the linebacker and breaks inside just before the safety - understanding where and when to be in a certain area is vital for the quarterback. It’s a savvy route by Rudolph, who also shows those good strong pair of mittens.

Speaking of strong hands, Rudolph really climbs the ladder here and secures a Hail Mary over the top of defenders. Rudolph combines size, concentration, tracking ability, a sure-handed nature, and solid route running ability to maximize his overall skill-set and present a competent target for his quarterbacks. Daniel Jones loved one-on-one throws in 2019 under Pat Shurmur, and he’s going to love those isolation pass opportunities to Rudolph.

Red zone threat

(left side)

Rudolph has a knack for securing these one-handed catches, and he makes them look so easy. It’s a testament to his concentration and tracking ability. The sure-handed nature of Rudolph is going to be a welcome sight for Giants fans. This is a simple and common tight end route - a stick and nod route. Rudolph runs it very well; he sells the outside break and that opens up the middle of the field for him to make the easy touchdown catch.

(bottom of screen)

This is another stick and nod route, only the path is a bit impeded by the defender who engages Rudolph and expands his zone horizontally. Rudolph does a good job working around the defender and giving a little push as he transitions vertically.

(right side of line)

Yet another one-handed catch where he works through some trash on the back-end and flows horizontally to the open spot. He gives Kirk Cousins a big target and adjusts his path away from the coverage after selling the block off a play-action pass.

(BUNCH, on line of scrimmage)

Rudolph is on the line of scrimmage and fights through initial contact before realizing that he’s open and he keeps himself in between defenders until Kirk Cousins realizes the target in the middle of the field.

(left side)

This is the infamous “push-off play” in the Vikings’ wild card victory over the Saints. It was a somewhat subtle push-off by Rudolph, but he gets up the fade and fights through the defender’s contact before high pointing the ball and securing the playoff win for the Vikings. I love to see those strong hands secure this pass in a high-leverage situation.

(bottom of screen)

It’s another kind of one-handed catch on a pivot double move where Rudolph sets up the defender to fail with an excellent break at the top of his route. He explodes off his outside foot back inside, creating a natural rub that assists in separation, and then he quickly turns to find the ball in the air; he puts a hand up and grasps the ball for a touchdown.

Final thoughts

This addition should help this team in every facet of tight end play. Rudolph is a better run blocker than Evan Engram and he should act, most of the time, as the majority play-side blocker on some of the more utilized power/gap concepts.

Rudolph is also a more traditional “Y” type of tight end; the type of player that Jason Witten was in Garrett’s system. A big-bodied tight end who can block, but also has very secure hands and acts as a good check-down option in the short to intermediate parts of the football field. Rudolph would be much better suited than Engram on those spacing concepts that require quick adjustment ability and soft natural hands - something that Engram just doesn’t possess.

Rudolph can also act as a better pass protector in six-man protection packages when the running back releases into a route. He’s got quick feet, for his size, and long arms and usually does well enough to allow the quarterback to get rid of the football. He can also add a valuable red zone threat and he’s a better route runner from the tight end position. Engram is a much better athlete who is much more explosive and dangerous with the football in his hands, but there’s little doubt that Rudolph is a better fit for what Garrett wants to do with this offense. What does this mean for Engram? Will he be moved to wide receiver, or are the Giants planning to move him at or before the draft? I guess we’ll see as the offseason continues to move forward.