Vikings first-round pick Justin Jefferson put a historic performance on tape against the Titans, and Adam Thielen remains a go-to target, consistent and capable of highlight-reel catches.
The Vikings receiving duo recently was praised by analytics site Pro Football Focus, which included the teammates among the league's top 10 highest-graded wide receivers heading into Week 4.
PFF's Anthony Treash wrote the following of Jefferson, who ranked third on the list behind DeAndre Hopkins (Cardinals) and Calvin Ridley (Falcons):
Rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson had himself an incredible breakout game last week against the Tennessee Titans, posting a league-high 93.8 PFF grade, which was also the third-best single game grade we have ever recorded by a first-year receiver. We had our concerns throughout the draft process about how Jefferson would handle [1-on-1] coverage on the outside after seeing nearly all of his production in 2019 stem from finding a hole in zone coverage — so far, so good in that area. Jefferson actually hauled in all four of his targets against single coverage on the outside for first downs. […] After that near-record rookie performance, Jefferson now leads the NFL in yards per route run at 3.40 — that's four-tenths higher than second. In a wide receiver class that was perhaps the best in NFL Draft history, no one has played better than Jefferson so far.
Thielen came in just behind Jefferson at No. 4 on Treash's list.
There hasn't been a better wide receiver against single coverage this season than Thielen. He has produced the highest grade in the NFL on such plays and routinely has gotten open. Of his 14 targets against single coverage, Thielen had at least a step of separation on 10. Thielen's ability to separate paired with a few nice snags on catchable yet inaccurate passes has helped him rank as the highest-graded receiver on targets of 10 or more yards downfield.
According to Treash, just 61.9 percent of Thielen's targets "have been deemed catchable," which ranks 49th out of 55 qualifying receivers.
Filling out Treash's rankings behind Thielen were Allen Robinson (Bears), Cooper Kupp (Rams), Keenan Allen (Chargers), Corey Davis (Titans), Davante Adams (Packers) and Terry McLaurin (Washington Football Team).
ESPN identifies 'biggest weaknesses' of all 32 NFL QBs
Every quarterback in the NFL is different, and each has different strengths and weaknesses.
ESPN recently used advanced PFF data to "identify those areas in need of improvement" for every starting QB across the league. ESPN wrote:
Utilizing the PFF play-by-play grading and everything else at our disposal, from our ball-charting and QB accuracy numbers to performance from a clean pocket, we identified the biggest weakness for every 2020 starting quarterback across the NFL.
When it came to Cousins, ESPN said that his biggest area for improvement is scramble drills, or "plays outside of structure." Cousins has emphasized wanting to implement more of his athletic ability to keep a play alive when things start to break down. He's worked that in on a few occasions through Minnesota's first three games, but more growth could happen in the area.
Cousins has taken criticism for putting up gaudy stats but not winning big games, and that might speak to his natural playmaking ability. Since 2015, his 46.2 passing grade on scramble-drill plays ranks just 33rdout of 48 qualifiers, and he is tied for 11thwith 11 turnover-worthy plays in those situations. Cousins works well within the structure of the offense, particularly off play-action, but trying to make plays during chaotic situations has not been his strong suit.
How about for the rest of the NFC North passers?
ESPN pointed to "really bad games" that offset incredible performances by Nick Foles, whom the Bears named their starter after benching Mitch Trubisky last week against the Falcons.
For Matthew Stafford and the Lions, it's consistency that's lacking.
The word "consistency" is often a cop-out and simply synonymous with "good," but Stafford's highs are so high, it's tantalizing. The best Stafford is a modern-day quarterback with the ability to create chunk plays both inside and outside of structure. The arm talent is always on display in high-end Stafford games, as he puts best-in-the-world type of throws on tape. The problem is that this shows up only a handful of times every season, and Stafford's inability to string these kinds of performances together has kept him closer to the middle of the pack among the league's signal-callers than with the perennial top-10 options.
And in looking at Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, ESPN noted that disguised coverage has been a problem for the Pro Bowler.
Tracking the pre- and post-snap safety alignment has led to a potential answer to slowing down Rodgers. While "disguise" can come in many forms defensively, for these purposes, we are focused only on whether the defense shows an "open" middle of the field pre-snap and rotates to a "closed" look, or vice versa. Since 2018, Rodgers has a PFF passing grade of 91.0 vs. no disguise (defense shows and plays a similar look) but only a 75.3 grade against disguised looks. His ranking drops from fourth to 14thagainst disguise, making safety rotation something opposing defenses should attempt when facing Rodgers, especially when he's playing at the kind of level we've seen so far.