NASHVILLE – Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph is a big fan of Titans tight end Delanie Walker.
He’s also a fan of Todd Downing, the man Titans coach Mike Vrabel hired to coach Walker and the Titans tight ends in 2019.
Rudolph believes Downing will be a great asset to the Titans, in a number of areas.
“He is a great teacher, and his knowledge of the pass game is as good as anybody I’ve been around,” Rudolph said of Downing. “He works really, really hard in terms of technique in the run game, providing you with tools that can help you. As a tight end, you are not a guard, and you are not a center. You don’t have to be a mauler in the run game. But he provides you with tools to sustain blocks and make sure your guy is not ending near the play. He's just a really good coach.
“... With his experience, he brings a lot to the table.”
Rudolph made his comments in Atlanta leading up Super Bowl LIII, after Downing was hired by Tennessee. Rudolph played under Downing with the Vikings in 2018. In his one season working under Downing, Rudolph posted the second highest reception (64) and yardage totals (634) of his eight-year career.
Downing filled the spot vacated by Arthur Smith after Vrabel promoted him to offensive coordinator last month. Downing, who just completed his 18th NFL season, served as the Raiders offensive coordinator in 2017 after previously spending two years as quarterbacks coach.
“I enjoyed the year that I had with him,” Rudolph said of Downing. “Obviously unfortunate circumstances as to how he became my tight ends coach, with Tony (Sparano) passing and (former TEs coach) Clancy (Barone) moving over to the o-line room. But it really says a lot about Todd and the way he was able to shift over and coach a position he had never coached before. Obviously he had been a coordinator, so he had coached the entire offense at one point. But he had never been a tight ends coach and he worked extremely hard. The pass game is easy for him; he is a pass game guy. He understands the pass game and he understands concepts and where you fit. But he really worked hard in the run game… and he gained knowledge.
“I felt each and every week he prepared me as well as anyone I’ve played for in terms of getting ready for Sundays.”
Rudolph, who has 386 catches for 3,787 yards and 41 touchdowns in his career, also believes Downing could also be a great resource for Smith as he takes over play-calling duties for the first time in Tennessee.
While with the Raiders, Downing worked with quarterback Derek Carr, guiding him to three consecutive Pro Bowls (2015-17). Before joining the Raiders, Downing coached quarterbacks for the Bills in 2014, and he previously coached with the Detroit Lions from 2009-13, first serving as the Lions offensive quality control coach before eventually taking over as quarterbacks coach, where he worked with Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, from 2011-13.
“That’s exactly how things worked for us at the end of the year when we moved Kevin Stefanski up from quarterbacks coach to interim offensive coordinator,” Rudolph said. “(Kevin) could really lean on Todd, who had experience coaching, and calling plays in this league. And Todd provided that for him.
“I think he’ll be huge for a new offensive coordinator who has never called plays in this league before to use as a resource.”
As for Walker, Rudolph said he’s always admired his game.
From 2014-17, Walker produced the top four single-season receiving yardage totals in franchise history among tight ends. His 3,585 receiving yards ranked third in the NFL during that time period and reception total (307) ranked second. Following Walker’s injury in the first game of the 2018 season, the group of young tight ends still posted 67 receptions, 750 yards and seven touchdowns.
In 2018, Jonnu Smith also made great strides at the position, finishing the season with 20 catches for 258 yards and three touchdowns before being injured. MyCole Pruitt and Anthony Firkser also played well for the Titans in 2018 alongside veteran Luke Stocker.
“Those guys are going to love Todd,” Rudolph said. “Delanie is a great player to begin with, and Todd will do exactly what Delanie does well – find the things he does well and figure out ways to incorporate that in the pass game.
“I think Delanie has a phenomenal game, to play at the level he is playing at. Unfortunately he had the injury last year, but to play at the level he has played at, at his age, multiple Pro Bowls before the injury and I have a lot of respect for Delanie and his game. I wish all those guys well.”
TitansOnline.com looks back at TE Delanie Walker's 2018 offseason. (Photos: Donn Jones, Gary Glenn, AP)