Adam Thielen is Key To The Vikings Offense

Adam Thielen
Dec 20, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) celebrates his touchdown in the first quarter against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

It has been an up and down year for Minnesota’s offense. It has been an up and down year for Vikings WR Adam Thielen.

Coming into the year, I insisted that Adam Thielen ought to still be considered the WR1 in Minnesota. My rationale was fairly straightforward. Thielen has been excellent for years; Jefferson has been excellent for just one. Let’s give the nod to the vet until the kid shows he can keep producing.

Well, Jefferson is still producing. It’s safe to say he has firmly taken over as the team’s WR1. Does this mean Thielen is less important? By no means. One could argue that he is more important now than ever before.

After five games, Thielen’s numbers are modest: 26 receptions, 267 yards, and 4 TDs. These stats ought to be considerably more robust. I recognize that he’s now 31, but Thielen can still get the job done. He began the year with 10 targets, turning that attention into 9 catches for 92 yards and 2 TDs. As the season has progressed, though, those targets have decreased. Last week, Thielen only had 3 balls sent in his direction. He snagged two catches for 40 yards. Don’t forget that both catches came in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, setting up Greg Joseph’s game-winning kick.

Thielen can still produce in the clutch.

I’ve been fairly critical of Klint Kubiak for these last couple games. I recognize that the offensive line has taken a step back and that Dalvin Cook’s injury is less than ideal. Nevertheless, our OC ought to be getting far more from this group. Relying on more play action would be a nice place to start. Trust that the extra bit of space will open things for both Kirk and Thielen.

More quick passes to Thielen would benefit the offense. Jefferson is going to keep getting a massive amount of attention from opposing defenses. Adam Thielen should therefore be able to find plenty of space for the Vikings. Targeting him early and often would not only help Jefferson, it would also help keep us ahead of the sticks. If you hop over to PFF, you’ll see that Thielen has only been in the slot for 82 snaps. He has been out wide 250 times. Putting Thielen in the slot more could allow for some high percentage completions, ones that make 2nd and 3rd downs considerably easier.

The emergence of K.J. Osborn gives the team a lot of flexibility for how they deploy their receivers. All three can succeed out wide and in the slot. Thielen’s release and ability to make tough, contested catches makes him a tremendous option for more slot snaps. When he is integrated heavily into the game plan, opposing defenses will be placed in the very difficult scenario of needing to slow three good receivers (which is to say nothing of Dalvin).

It looks like the Vikings will have Adam Thielen on Sunday. After not participating earlier in the week, the lethal Thielen-Jefferson-Cook trio are all without an injury designation. My thinking is that Lil’Kub ought to begin the game by getting the ball in Thielen’s hands at least a few times. From there, seek a balance between the three elite offensive weapons. A handful of plays from Osborn, Tyler Conklin, C.J. Ham, and Dede Westbrook would round out an offense that ought to be supremely difficult to slow down.