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NOTEBOOK: Thielen Thriving Inside and Outside the Numbers

EAGAN, Minn. — Adam Thielen hauled in seven receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown Sunday in Philadelphia, the latest performance in a standout season so far for the Vikings wide receiver.

Thielen went over the 100-yard mark again this past weekend and became the first NFL player during the Super Bowl era to have at least 100 receiving yards in the first five games of a season.

And he’s been productive no matter where he lines up on the field, whether it’s outside the numbers or inside them.

Only two of Thielen’s seven catches came when he was lined up outside the numbers against the Eagles, but it’s where he did the most damage with 71 receiving yards. That included a 68-yard reception that ranks as Minnesota’s second-longest play of the season.

Inside the numbers, Thielen had five catches for 45 yards, and all but one moved the chains for a first down. That included a 3-yard touchdown pass from Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins at the end of the first half.

Thielen on Thursday talked about the differences of lining up closer or further away from the quarterback. But no matter where he lines up, the wide receiver said, he still has to win his route and make a play.

“When you’re on the outside you get a little bit more 1-on-1, more man-technique,” Thielen said. “In the slot you get zone, man, you get covered by a linebacker, a safety, a corner. You get people blitzing off your face. There’s just a lot more going on in the slot.

“Whereas, when you’re on the outside, even if it’s zone coverage, it’s kind of man technique, I guess, depending on what route you run. It’s just different,” Thielen added. “But at the same time, you just run the route that’s called. You just try to do your best with whoever’s covering.”

Thielen ranks first in the NFL with 47 catches and is second overall with 589 yards. He is also tied with fellow wide receiver Stefon Diggs for the team lead with three touchdowns.

Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo said Thielen’s ability to line up anywhere on the field has been an integral part of a dominant 2018 season so far. DeFilippo said Thielen’s innate ability to create separation on routes when lined up inside or outside is key.

“To me, you are either born with that or you’re not. There are some elite receivers in this league that really struggle with those types of routes,” DeFilippo said of Thielen’s versatility. “I was doing an interview the other day with somebody from USA TODAY about Adam Thielen, and they were talking to me about how versatile he is.

“I said, ‘He has the traits of an elite slot receiver and an elite outside receiver,’” DeFilippo added. “You just don’t find that very often. A lot of guys are either one or the other. ‘I am either a really good inside player, and I’m just a so-so outside player,’ or vice versa. He has elite traits at both of those spots on the field. We are just really, really glad he is on our football team.”

Joseph’s track background helped with TD return

Linval Joseph showed off his wheels Sunday against the Eagles, reaching a top speed of 18.2 miles per hour (according to Next Gen Stats) on his 64-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

It turns out the Vikings defensive tackle has been a burner all his life.

Joseph said Thursday that he actually ran track in high school. In addition to being a standout in the shot put and discus, the two-time Pro Bowl held his own in the 200 and 400-meter dashes.

“I’m not slow. I know I might be big, but I’m really not slow,” Joseph said. “Even when I ran the 400 and 200, I didn’t get first, but I didn’t get last.

“I always made points for our team … I did the 400 and 200 to see if I could get a couple points,” Joseph added. “I didn’t finish last. I always made points to try to help the team to try and get top three.”

Joseph said he got some funny looks in the starting blocks, especially when he weighed 315 pounds as a teenager.

He continued to surprise people with his first career touchdown.

“I think I did. Like I said, I think it was pretty good form,” Joseph said. “It was fun, man. It was a dream come true.

“I was telling all the guys that in my career, I still have to get an interception, but I want an interception and a touchdown,” Joseph added. “It was pretty good to catch the ball and show everybody that I’m faster than I look.”

O’Neill could make 1st NFL start against Arizona

Brian O’Neill has seen significant action in three of the past four games, as the Vikings tackle has played at least 32 offensive snaps during that span.

The rookie lineman hasn’t started a game yet in his young NFL career, but he has played in relief of starters who have gotten injuries in games against the Packers, Bills and Eagles.

“My mindset is that I’m always ready,” O’Neill said. “You know that seven guys dress, so it could be one play, and you’re in for any number of snaps in any game.

“You just prepare as if you’re going to get every single one and be surprised when it doesn’t happen,” O’Neill added.

But with Vikings left tackle Riley Reiff yet to practice this week, the 2017 second-round pick could be in line for his first pro start on Sunday against the Cardinals.

O’Neill, who played tight end and tackle at Pittsburgh, said Thursday that he was more worried about preparing like normal than his snap total.

“I don’t really get caught up in that. I think it will mean more to my parents than anything,” O’Neill said. “If it does happen, then it happens. To be honest, my preparation doesn’t change.”

Injury reports

For the Vikings: Andrew Sendejo (groin), Riley Reiff (foot), Tashawn Bower (ankle) and Everson Griffen (not injury related) did not participate. Dalvin Cook (hamstring), Brian O’Neill (elbow), Waynes (concussion), Linval Joseph (shoulder), Kevin McDermott (finger), Marcus Sherels (ribs) and Tom Johnson were full participants.

For the Cardinals: Mike Iupati (shoulder) and Andre Smith (hamstring) did not participate. Tre Boston (shoulder), Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring/back), Jermaine Gresham (Achilles), D.J. Humphries (knee), Robert Nkemdiche (foot), Budda Baker (shoulder), Josh Bynes (wrist), Markus Golden (knee), Corey Peters (elbow) were limited. Trent Sherfield (illness) and Jamar Taylor (hamstring) were full participants.

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