EAGAN, Minn. — Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs combined for quite the season in 2017.
The wide receivers racked up 155 total catches for 2,125 yards and a dozen touchdowns. Thielen earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors, and Diggs was on the receiving end of the Minneapolis Miracle, perhaps the greatest ending in Vikings history.
Yet as the duo prepares to open the 2018 season, their fourth together in Purple, it’s full-steam ahead with no looking back.
“I think we’re so focused on getting better, and we’re so on top of each other if we do something bad in practice, that we don’t really think about what we’ve done in the past,” Thielen said. “We just want to make sure that we’re gaining ground, we’re getting better as a group and individually.
“I think that’s why we’ve been able to do what we’ve done, is because we don’t really think about anything other than today, and the rest will kind of take care of itself,” Thielen added.
Added Diggs: “You never really relish in the moment because the moments keep going. We haven’t talked too much about it.”
Both have established themselves as stars despite coming from unheralded backgrounds — Thielen was an undrafted rookie free agent while Diggs was a fifth-round pick.
Now the challenge is to have continued success, even as the Vikings welcome in new quarterback Kirk Cousins and Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo, who is in his first year with Minnesota.
As the Vikings open the season Sunday against San Francisco, both wide receivers said they’re ready to see their hard work with Cousins behind the scenes pay off in a game that counts.
The trust, they believe, is getting there.
“Well, it all starts on doing your job. I just try to do my job to the best of my ability,” Diggs aid. “As far as having to … with different quarterbacks over the past couple of years, I’ve learned that you build trust up by catching the ball, you build trust by being where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there, route depth, being consistent.
“That’s how trust is built, and as a quarterback, you’ll know that that guy is where he’s supposed to be when he’s supposed to be there,” Diggs added.
Said Thielen: “I think the biggest thing with that is, when you have a new coordinator, you have a new QB, you want to prove what you can do. I think it’s a good thing. It pushes you. It makes you really work toward those little details to make sure that you’re performing at a high level. You just have to find that right balance between getting frustrated at yourself and learning from it, and getting frustrated and losing confidence. Just try to find that right spot.”
A tandem that is perhaps the league’s best has fared well in recent home openers at U.S. Bank Stadium.
In 2016 against Green Bay, Diggs had nine catches for 182 yards and a touchdown, and Thielen added four receptions for 41 yards.
The duo was even better in 2017 against New Orleans when Thielen had nine receptions for 157 yards and Diggs had seven receptions for 93 yards and two scores.
They’ll look to do it again in Sunday’s home opener against the 49ers.
“Everything counts now,” Thielen said. “It’s just exciting to be able to go show what this team can do, what this offense can do and go play football.”
Cook not on ‘pitch count’ in season opener
The Vikings have a plan in place for Dalvin Cook.
Minnesota’s second-year running back will make his return to the regular season Sunday after tearing his ACL in Week 4 of the 2017 season.
“I wouldn’t say a pitch count, but I would say we have a plan for him,” said Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
DeFilippo said he likes where Cook is at after training camp and the preseason.
“We’re going to see how it goes. There’s nothing that he has told us that says he can’t carry the load,” DeFilippo said. “If there’s something that comes up or he needs a blow or needs to come out of the football game, then we’ll handle that situation.
“Luckily as you know, we have a fine stable of backs on our football team that we’re really comfortable with,” DeFilippo added. “If that does arise where he needs a break we’re confident in all the guys that we’re able to put in the football game.”
Cook had 354 rushing yards and two scores in three-plus games before getting injured.
Carlson prepping for NFL debut
Daniel Carlson is one of eight rookies on the Vikings roster heading into the 2018 season opener, and is one who will most certainly make his professional debut.
How is the rookie prepping for his first regular-season game?
“I’ve had the four weeks of preseason and camp and OTAs, so now I’m a little more settled in,” Carlson said. “I got to experience and get a taste of things, and now the season’s here.
“I’ve obviously been working toward this point, so now it’s just about taking it one week at a time and doing my best each day now, and I’m getting ready for game days,” Carlson said.
Carlson was a fifth-round pick out of Auburn this past spring. He won a training camp battle with Kai Forbath and made four of his six field goal attempts in the preseason, including a 57-yarder.
He said he would rather get his initial misses out of the way in the preseason.
“It was definitely good that it happens in the preseason, and I think that’s some of the learning experience that, coming in as a rookie, you kind of have to have some learning experiences here and there,” Carlson said. “I think it was good to kind of shake off those nerves and just move on from that. Now I can focus just on taking the games one at a time throughout the regular season.”
For the Vikings: Roc Thomas (ankle) did not practice. Mackensie Alexander (ankle), Aviante Collins (elbow), Pat Elflein (ankle/shoulder), Riley Reiff (foot) and Xavier Rhodes (hamstring) were limited. Stacy Coley (groin) and Marcus Sherels (hamstring) were full participants.
For the 49ers: Will be updated.