Lunchbreak: Cousins-Thielen Among ‘Most Extraordinary’ QB-WR Tandems in 2018

Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen connected 113 times in Cousins’ inaugural campaign in Purple on 153 targets.

Both were career bests for the receiver, who also had a banner year with 1,373 yards and nine receiving touchdowns to garner his second trip to the Pro Bowl.

Emerging technology and metrics make those numbers even more impressive.

NFL.com’s Graham Barfield used Next Gen Stats to determine the NFL’s five “most extraordinary” quarterback-receiver tandems during the 2018 season, including Cousins and Thielen on his list. Barfield wrote:

This past year, Next Gen Stats revealed a new metric called completion probability. Instead of anecdotally wondering how difficult a throw and catch was on the field, we now have data to prove it.

Factoring in the distance the ball traveled, receiver separation, pressure on the passer, plus the quarterbacks’ speed (i.e. how fast the QB is moving at release in MPH) and time to throw – there is a lens to view how likely a pass is to be completed. So, which quarterback-receiver connections stood out last year?

Barfield said that Cousins-to-Thielen resulted in a “10.2 percent catch rate above expectation” and “undoubtedly formed one of the league’s most efficient duos.”

Thielen began the year with eight-straight 100-yard performances as Cousins trailed only Drew Brees and Matt Ryan in completion rate above expectation in this span. Curiously, Thielen's volume fell off of a cliff in the second half of the season. After opening the season with 12.0 targets per game in his first [eight] contests, Thielen only managed to see 7.1 targets/game in the [Vikings] final [eight] games. In fact, Thielen saw double-digit looks just two more times after starting the year with 10-plus targets in 7-of-8 games.

It is worth noting that Thielen received plenty of attention from defensive backs after racking up such impressive stats through the first half of the season.

Barfield said that Minnesota’s success was hampered by its offensive line.

Cousins was under pressure on 50 percent of his third-down attempts last season, easily the highest rate in the NFL.

The other duos Barfield highlighted via Next Gen Stats were the Texans Deshaun Watson/DeAndre Hopkins, the Chargers Philip Rivers/Mike Williams, the Saints Drew Brees/Michael Thomas and, coming in at No. 1, the Seahawks Russell Wilson/Tyler Lockett.

Mackensie Alexander pays off parents’ home mortgage

In a Valentine’s Day gesture, Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander showed love to his parents by paying off the mortgage of their Habitat for Humanity home in Florida.

Adam Fisher of the Fort Meyers News-Press covered the story and embedded a video posted by Habitat for Humanity of Collier County, in which Alexander said, “I think every day is Valentine’s Day for my mom and dad.”

“I picked this day to get it all done, pay the house off,” Alexander said on Friday, the day after the holiday. “I just want to see my parents happy.”

Fisher wrote:

Jean and Marie bought the home, built by the Habitat for Humanity of Collier County, about 17 years ago. At the time, the Haitian immigrants were field workers in Immokalee and their twin boys, Mackensie and Mackenro, were 8.

The Alexanders participated in a small ceremony at the Habitat for Humanity office in Naples on Friday. The family got to ring a bell signifying their house was paid off. Media were not present at the event.

Habitat for Humanity of Collier County CEO Lisa Lefkow thanked Alexander for giving back.

“We’re awfully proud of Mackensie as he’s grown up,” Lefkow said at the ceremony, “and of Mom and Dad, who have worked so hard.”

Yotter evaluates ‘top free agent DTs,’ including 2 Vikings

The NFL Scouting Combine is fast approaching, and just beyond that will be the start of NFL free agency.

Viking Update’s Tim Yotter took a look at a group of defensive tackles whom he believes are at the top of their position and scheduled to hit the market. Among the list of linemen were Minnesota’s Sheldon Richardson and Tom Johnson.

Yotter wrote the following of Richardson, whom the Vikings signed as a free agent last spring:

He didn’t close the deal as often as he would have liked in his first season in Minnesota, getting [4.5] sacks, but Richardson was disruptive to the opposition’s passing game. He had 47 total pressures and was happy to return to playing the three-technique on a full-time basis.

Yotter pointed out that analytics site Pro Football Focus ranked Richardson as the 19th-best free agent.

Johnson played for the Vikings from 2014-17. He signed with the Seahawks for the 2018 campaign but returned to Minnesota after being released by Seattle in Week 2. At 34 years old, Johnson is tied for the second-oldest player on Yotter’s list.

Johnson, a starter for the Vikings in 2017 before they signed Sheldon Richardson, has been productive when given the opportunities. He was one of the most efficient pass-rushing defensive tackles last year, registering [4.5] sacks and 34 total pressures in only 214 opportunities. He’s getting up there in age but has always shown the ability to simply do his job, whether that’s as a starter or rotational guy. He is one of the best pass rushers among the older defensive tackles on the free-agent market.

Non-Viking defensive tackles evaluated by Yotter were Grady Jarrett, Ndamukong Suh, Michael Pierce, David Irving, Brandon Mebane, Earl Mitchell, Domata Peko, Steve McLendon, Danny Shelton, Johnathan Hankins, Darius Philon, Bennie Logan, Haloti Ngata, Frostee Rucker, Rodney Gunter, Ahtyba Rubin, Clinton McDonald, Ricky Jean-Francois and Kyle Love.

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