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Lunchbreak: Cousins-to-Thielen Completions Leading NFL in Important Categories

There is no doubt that Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and wide receiver Adam Thielen are outstanding players in their own right.

Each player has made it to the Pro Bowl in recent years and both have put up strong numbers before Cousins arrived in Minnesota in March.

But now that the two are teammates, the duo has put up staggering stats and opened plenty of eyes around the NFL, so much so that ESPN Vikings beat writer Courtney Cronin recently wrote that Cousins and Thielen should be considered the best quarterback-wide receiver tandem in the league.

Cronin wrote:

It’s difficult to look at a statistical mark for one player and not see how the other played a role in achieving that feat. Cousins wouldn’t have the third-best completion percentage (71.2) if his playmakers didn’t make plays. And Cousins has played a big role in Thielen leading the league in receptions and yards.

As a duo:

—They have 15 catches when Cousins is under pressure, the most of any QB-receiver combo this season.

—They have 16 catches on third down, which ranks first.

—They have 39 catches on passes thrown 10 yards or fewer down field, the most in the NFL.

—They have 28 catches and 437 yards on passes thrown outside the numbers, the most of any QB-WR combo.

—They have 10 catches on passes thrown between the hashes, tied with Ben Roethlisberger and JuJu Smith-Schuster for second.

—They have 12 catches when Cousins is blitzed, which is tied for fifth.

After being a Second-Team All-Pro in 2017, Thielen leads the league with 58 catches for 712 yards and also has four touchdowns in six games.

Cousins, who signed as a free agent this offseason, ranks fifth in the NFL with 1,921 yards and ranks tied for eighth with 12 touchdown passes. His quarterback rating of 102.7 puts him at 10th around the league.

Jaleel Johnson could play more Sunday

The Vikings could see a Johnson-for-Joseph swap on Sunday against the Jets.

Minnesota defensive tackle Linval Joseph did not practice Wednesday after appearing on the injury report with an ankle/knee/shoulder issue. That could mean more playing time for second-year defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson.

Tim Yotter of Viking Update caught up with Johnson to chat about potentially subbing in for Joseph this weekend in New York.

Yotter wrote:

Last week, Johnson played 16 snaps, which is about his average. But it’s nowhere close to the 60-some snaps the defense is averaging. He may have to play three times his average if Joseph isn’t able to play.

But Johnson has been learning from one of the best nose tackles in the NFL for the last year and a half, ever since he was a fourth-round pick of the Vikings.

“The really big thing I learned from Linval is to just do your job,” Johnson said. “Whatever your job entails, just do it, whether you’re playing the center, playing the guard, holding your anchor point, just do it no matter what. That helps the entire defense and helps the team.”

Johnson, a fourth-round pick out of Iowa in the 2017 NFL Draft, has played in 10 career games for the Vikings.

Yotter wrote:

If Joseph can’t go, it would be the first career start for Johnson and it couldn’t come at a better location for him personally. He grew up in Brooklyn and his mother and a family friend will be attending their first Vikings game of the season (the last game they saw was the Vikings’ humbling loss in the NFC Championship Game in Philadelphia).

Johnson said he’s excited about having family at the game, but when he’s on the field he’ll have to be more concerned with the task in front of him and the big shoes of Joseph he might have to fill.

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