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Kyle Rudolph a fix for Giants’ red zone issues

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They are nearly the worst.

For years, Kyle Rudolph has been one of the best.

Hence, the marriage of Rudolph and the Giants.

Of all the stats and analytics and exploration into Rudolph’s efficiency for nearly a decade, compared with a decline the past two years, one number stands out above all others with the new Giants tight end. Of his 48 career touchdown receptions, 40 of them — 83.3 percent — have come in the red zone. This strength fits neatly in the groove of the Giants’ most glaring weakness.

In 2020, the Giants had the NFL’s 31st-ranked offense in red-zone conversion rate, scoring touchdowns on just 46.3 percent of their trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. Rudolph’s track record indicates he will help increase the frequency the Giants get in the end zone, working in tandem with Evan Engram.

“Just look at the red zone objectively,’’ Rudolph said Wednesday after signing his contract. “The field is condensed, there are smaller windows, tighter throws, but I think one of the things that has helped me throughout my career is making contested catches. You’re not going to get a guy to schematically come wide open in the end zone, you don’t see it very often. From time to time you may, but most of the time red-zone scoring is bang-bang passes and it takes trust from a quarterback.’’

kyle rudolph catches a pass during vikings camp
Ex-Viking Kyle Rudolph can be a fix for the Giants in the red zone.
Getty Images

The 6-foot-6 Rudolph was a three-time all-conference basketball player in high school in Cincinnati and believes his skill on the court relates to his NFL scoring prowess.

“It’s really no different than going up to grab a rebound off the glass,’’ he said.

Rudolph had six touchdown catches in 2019 but just one in 12 games last season. After averaging 63 receptions in a four-year span, Rudolph managed just 39 and 28 catches the past two years. His snap-count on offense decreased with the arrival of Irv Smith as a tight end target, and the diminished production, the 31-year-old Rudolph insists, is not an indication of diminished ability.

“With my role changing over the last couple of years, it wasn’t that I couldn’t run around and catch balls anymore, I was just doing more of the blocking stuff,’’ Rudolph said. “I’m extremely competitive, and it forced me to go one of two ways. I could have either complained about it or I could have taken it as a challenge to improve that aspect of my game.’’

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