EAGAN, Minn. — It’s no secret that Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs might be the best wide receiver tandem all across the NFL, as the duo has 191 combined receptions for 2,151 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Thielen leads the league with 103 receptions entering Week 15, ranks third with 1,236 yards and is tied for the sixth-most touchdowns with nine.
Diggs, meanwhile, has already set career bests with 88 receptions for 915 yards, plus he also has six scores.
Minnesota’s opponents have a tough enough time covering each player 1-on-1, so teams began double-teaming either player earlier in the season.
Now as the final three games of the season approach, the Vikings are seeing defenses double team both players at times. Seattle even triple teamed Diggs on a play Monday.
“I think Diggs, on one play last week, had three guys on him,” Thielen said. “I think for the most part, third downs, we’re getting a lot of double coverage, both of us.
“Some games on first and second downs as well, a little bit different than what we got early in the season, obviously,” Thielen added. “But at the same time, that’s what we expected to get and what we’ve gotten.”
Diggs said: “It’s fun. For me, I didn’t think I would ever get triple-teamed. That’s something I’ve never experienced in my life.”
Diggs would be just the fourth Vikings wide receiver to ever reach the century mark, joining his teammate plus Randy Moss and Cris Carter, although the Hall of Famers never did it in the same season.
But no matter the coverage, both Diggs and Thielen reiterated this week that it’s their job to win routes and get open no matter the circumstances.
“For me, as a receiver, I just have to do my job. Whatever play is called, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability, and I’m going to try to win. Whether there’s one, two, three, four, five guys on me, it doesn’t matter. I’ve got to win, and whatever play is called, I’ve got to make it work. That’s what I’ve been really trying to focus on. Just focus on what I have to do and not what teams are doing to me.”
Added Diggs: “But for me, I can beat double teams, you know what I’m saying? I feel like I can still win it. If it’s three guys, I have to beat three guys. It don’t really matter how it comes up.”
But if the opposing defense is using four guys to guard two, doesn’t that leave opportunistic matchups elsewhere around the field?
Yes, said Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
When asked Thursday why the offense put up strong numbers early in the season but has fizzled of late, Zimmer pointed multiple issues.
“Mostly execution,” Zimmer said. “We’re getting a lot of double coverage on those two guys, and we’re not changing it up.”
Tight end Kyle Rudolph ranks third on the Vikings with 48 catches for 470 yards, and also has a pair of touchdowns. Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell has 34 receptions for 295 yards and a score.
Wide receiver Aldrick Robinson has chipped in with four touchdown catches, while running backs Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray are options in the passing game as well.
Vikings Interim Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski addressed the topic Thursday in his press conference, nothing that it’s up to the coaches to put the players in a position to succeed.
That may be Diggs on one play and Thielen on another, but Stefanski also said the selflessness of the group of skill players was a benefit for the offense.
“I think it's our job, and we’re charged with getting those guys the football in space. We, as a staff, are really lucky to have some really dynamic talented players,” Stefanski said. “So we have to figure out a way to do it. It changes and it varies by game because certain teams have a certain plan to take those two guys away.
“The nice part is we have a very unselfish group, so if it’s going to be a big Stefon Diggs game, Adam’s great about it. If there is going to be a big Kyle Rudolph game, those guys are great about it,” Stefanski added. “So, I think the ball goes where the ball goes, but we as coaches need to try to design plays to get the ball, obviously, to our playmakers.”
Thielen and Diggs said they welcome the challenge of trying to get by multiple defenders. But if a defense is going to devote most of their resources to them, there’s no reason why the Vikings offense can’t find other ways to be successful.
“It’s a little bit of scheme, but the other point is that when you do get an opportunity, you have to make a play,” Thielen said. “Whether you have one guy guarding you or two guys guarding you, you have to get open. I think there are ways to go about it.
“But at the same time, if one guy has two guys on him, that means that there’s probably some guys with 1-on-1 coverage,” Thielen added. “We have enough talent on this offense to win those matchups.”
Morgan on the mend
The Vikings could see a boost in their run game Sunday as tight end David Morgan has returned to practice this week, albeit on a limited basis.
Morgan, a sixth-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, has missed the past four games with a knee injury.
The former standout at the University of Texas at San Antonio said he hoped to return to action sooner rather than later.
“When I feel I can go out and compete at a high level, I’m going to go out there as soon as I can,” Morgan said. “Whenever that times comes, I’ll be ready.”
Morgan is known as one of the team’s best run blockers, and Zimmer acknowledged Thursday that his return could help the league’s 30th-ranked rushing offense.
“Hopefully he does [return this week],” Zimmer said. “He’s helped us quite a bit, and he’s got a unique skillset for a tight end. Hopefully he’ll be able to go.”
Morgan said he prides his game on helping the Vikings pound the ball on the ground.
“I always like mixing it up in that aspect,” Morgan said. “That’s always something I’ve been fond of, kind of going in there and doing the nasty stuff.”
For the Vikings: Chad Beebe (hamstring), Sheldon Richardson (hip), Eric Kendricks (rib), Morgan (knee), Mike Remmers (low back) and were limited. Brian O’Neill (ankle), Trae Waynes (concussion), Xavier Rhodes (hip), Jaleel Johnson (calf) and Adam Thielen (ankle) were full participants.
For the Dolphins: Xavien Howard (knee) and Frank Gore (not injury related) did not practice. Danny Amendola (knee), Kenyan Drake (shoulder), T.J. McDonald (ankle), DeVante Parker (shoulder), Ryan Tannehill (right shoulder/ankle) and Laremy Tunsil (knee) were limited. Cornell Armstrong (ankle), Ju’Wuan James (quadriceps), John Denney (finger), Reshad Jones (shoulder) and Travis Swanson (ankle) were full participants.