EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen finds himself among the league leaders entering Week 3 as he is second in the NFL with 201 receiving yards.
The former undrafted free agent has also had a knack for making the big play as Thielen ranks first among all receivers with five catches of at least 20 yards.
Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur met with the Twin Cities media Thursday and described what makes Thielen so effective on longer passes, even likening the wide receiver to a different sport.
"I think he's good in all areas. The one thing about Adam, he's a little bit like an outfielder," Shurmur said. "I think he can judge the ball well, and some receivers don't have that skill, so when the ball is in the air down the field and you've seen at times where he doesn't have separation, which sometimes you don't, no matter how good a receiver you are.
"He has a way of being able to judge the ball and aggressively attack it with his hands," Shurmur added. "He's got a strong physique. That usually allows him to finish the plays with a catch."
Thielen is tied for fifth among all wide receivers with 14 receptions. He had 69 catches for 967 yards and five touchdowns in 2016.
Shurmur on protecting the ball
The Vikings are minus-1 in the turnover differential through two games, losing a fumble late in the fourth quarter this past Sunday against Pittsburgh as Thielen tried to convert a first down on a fourth-and-7.
Shurmur was asked Thursday about how Vikings rookie running back Dalvin Cook has worked on securing the ball, but he said every Vikings skill player works daily on securing possession for the offense.
"We work on ball security with all the players every day," Shurmur said. "It's like shaving … if you don't do it, eventually you don't look good.
"I think it's something we work on, and every player that touches the ball needs to finish the down with it," Shurmur added.
Priefer on Forbath's extra point mindset
Vikings kicker Kai Forbath has been perfect on field goal tries since arriving in Minnesota last November, making all 19 kicks in nine regular-season games.
Forbath has been inconsistent with extra points, however, as he has made 13 of 18 tries. He has missed one extra point in each of the first two games this season.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said Thursday that he is working with Forbath to help get him in the frame of mind that every extra point try is just another field goal attempt.
"Considering he does a pretty good job on field goals, we just tell him it's a 33-yard field goal," Priefer said. "We're trying that and trying to get it in his head a little bit. It's crazy, it really is.
"First miss against New Orleans he pushed it (right) and this one (against Pittsburgh) he yanked it (left)," Priefer said. "Those are unacceptable, he knows that. Our football team needs every single point we can get, so hopefully he'll get himself straightened out this week, and we'll go from there."
Giving McKinnon the green light
Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon is in his first full season as the team's kickoff returner, and he leads the league with six returns for 160 yards.
McKinnon's 26.7-yard average ranks fifth in the league, but Priefer said he and McKinnon are still working on when the returner should and shouldn't take it out from deep in the end zone.
Priefer said McKinnon returned deep kicks Sunday against the Steelers because the Vikings were trailing and were looking for a jolt.
"I'll be honest, as you know, we're aggressive, and we needed a spark. Our football team, we felt, needed a spark," Priefer said. "Normally we had him about five-deep early in the game, and we backed him up to seven.
"He didn't realize he was back at nine, he just drifted back a couple yards and took it out. That one was probably, the decision probably should have been made to keep it and take a knee," Priefer said. "The other one, he went to his right a little bit and caught it right at about seven [yards deep]. It was a line-drive kick, too. We just didn't block it very well, to be honest with you."
Priefer noted that the Vikings have always been aggressive in kickoff returns and won't look to change their approach anytime soon.
"[Vikings] Head Coach [Mike Zimmer] has allowed us to be aggressive," Priefer said. "I don't want us to make those mistakes or get to a point where Coach looks at me and says, 'Hey, just take a knee when we're in the end zone,' because I think we've been too good of a kickoff return unit since I've been here.
"We've had good returners, we've had good blocking," Priefer added. "At the end of the day, we've got to execute better, even if he catches it seven or eight yards deep."
Edwards on defending the deep ball against Jackson
Tampa Bay wide receiver DeSean Jackson is known for his blazing speed and big-play ability.
Of Jackson's 46 career receiving touchdowns, 28 of them have been of plays of 35-plus yards. The former Cal standout's longest score is a 91-yard touchdown catch in 2010 while with Philadelphia.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards said Minnesota's defense will have a tall task of stopping Jackson's burst Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"His speed is probably as good as anybody in the league, but he does a good job of running routes," Edwards said. "He does a good job of stemming at the top of the routes, so we'll have to be disciplined in what we're trying to get accomplished when we're seeing him and guarding him this weekend."
A look at a rookie linebacker
Edwards was also asked by the media to evaluate the play of Vikings rookie linebacker Ben Gedeon through two games.
Gedeon, a fourth-round pick out of Michigan, recorded five total tackles (according to coaches' tally) against New Orleans and Pittsburgh.
Gedeon has mainly been in with the Vikings base defense and has also chipped in on special teams.
"He's been doing good," Edwards said of Gedeon. "The one thing about him is that he's been consistent in whatever we've asked him to do.
"He's been productive, showed good instincts and awareness when he's in the football game," Edwards added. "We're pleased where he's at right now."