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Photo: Irv Smith Jr.
Irv Smith Jr. Photo courtesy Minnesota Vikings

I keep telling my buddies when we’re talking football that I can’t wait for the Vikings to make more use of rookie tight end Irv Smith Jr., for him to have a breakout game.

While he has not had 100 yards in a single game, he does typically get 3-6 catches for 30-60 yards a game and on Sunday, he finally scored his first touchdown. More importantly, he scored the touchdown that marked the beginning of the come-back rally.

To date, Smith has 27 receptions for 261 yards and one touchdown. He’s top of the rookie tight end class, according to Pro Football Focus.

It’s been exciting to have such an athletic complement to Kyle Rudolph and that fact that he’s a decent blocker makes it all the better.

The ability to put two tight ends on the field who are a threat to score but who are also an asset in the run game (Rudolph has improved his blocking a good deal) gives the Vikings offense an unpredictable and dynamic element they haven’t had until this year.

Because of that, the Vikings employ dual tight ends frequently. Skor North‘s Matthew Coller has the stats:

Under Gary Kubiak and Kevin Stefanski’s offensive scheme, the Vikings stand way out from the rest of the NFL in their usage of big/heavy personnel packages. Per SharpFootballStats, the Vikings use 11 personnel (3WR) just 22% of the time, lowest in the NFL and 12 personnel (1RB, 2TE)on  29% of plays, 22 personnel (2RB, 2TE) on 12% (second most) and 13 personnel (1RB, 3TE) on 10% (most).

Irv Smith Jr. is a game-changer for Vikings

With Adam Thielen likely to return against the Seahawks, Smith may not be getting as many touches but his very presence on the field gives the Vikings the flexibility and luxury of being able to choose either run or pass based on the personnel the defense has on the field.

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