Two months from now, we might be talking about Adam Thielen having one of the best statistical seasons in league history.
The wide receiver currently has 74 catches for 925 yards and six touchdowns, meaning he’s not only on pace to shatter his career-high numbers but also to potentially set new NFL marks in the process.
If Thielen produces the same stat line over the second half of the season as he did in the first eight games, he would finish with 148 catches, which would be a single-season record. His projected total of 1,850 receiving yards would be third all-time.
Matthew Coller of 1500ESPN.com recently wrote that while projected numbers can be fluky in sports, he believes Thielen could challenge those marks based on his consistency and usage in Minnesota’s offense.
But any baseball fan can attest to this: On-pace numbers don’t often come to fruition. Otherwise the hitter with 30 dingers through three months would set the home run record every time. In Thielen’s case, however, the numbers are likely sustainable barring injury.
Of course, his skill, talent and competitiveness are at the top of the reasons for Thielen’s excellence. He catches everything, runs great routes and knows the game inside and out. But what you will find with any situation is that usage matters greatly toward the player’s success.
Coller pointed to a play in Sunday’s game against New Orleans that showcased Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo’s creativity with Thielen in the offense.
Minnesota ran a flea-flicker early in the second quarter against New Orleans – Kirk Cousins handed off to Latavius Murray before the running back pitched the pigskin back to the quarterback. Cousins then hit Thielen for a 28-yard gain down the right sideline, the Vikings second-longest play of the game.
Coller noted the deep play was actually against the norm for Thielen, who usually does damage closer to the line of scrimmage.
Interestingly, the flea flicker marked Thielen’s ninth deep catch on 12 attempts, which is a remarkable catch percentage but also makes up only 12.6 percent of his targets traveling 20-plus yards. To put that in context, Stefon Diggs has 19.2 percent and [Kansas City’s] Tyreek Hill is at nearly 30 percent.
Where he’s doing the most damage is on intermediate throws between 10-20 yards. Cousins is 21-for-29 on those types of throws for 334 yards.
It isn’t impossible that Thielen’s pace could slow down, but Cousins’ ability to make strong intermediate throws and execute quick passes combined with DeFilippo’s focus on getting Thielen off the line clean with some added wrinkles and trickery makes it difficult to see any team solving him.
Maybe he won’t break every record in existence, but Thielen is very likely to continue to drive the Vikings offense.
A potential move for Minnesota
The NFL’s trade deadline is set for Tuesday at 3 p.m. (CT), meaning the clock is ticking on any potential deals.
Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com recently proposed a move for each NFC team to make, and he had the Vikings adding an offensive lineman to the roster.
Buy guard Joshua Garnett. Garnett’s been on the block in San Francisco for some time now, and Minnesota can certainly benefit from more depth along the offensive line. Set back by injuries again this season (this time by a dislocated toe), the former first-round pick is worth a flier for the Super Bowl hopefuls. Sure, Kirk Cousins performs exceptionally well under pressure, but methinks the crown prince of Minneapolis would prefer more reinforcements up front.
Bregman wrote that he thinks the Vikings could swing the deal by giving up a late-round pick in next year’s draft to add to their offensive line room.