Somewhat Quietly, Adam Thielen Is a Touchdown Machine
The Minnesota Vikings folklorish personality, Adam Thielen, experienced his career magnum opus in 2018 when he tabulated 1,373 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. It was the first season that Thielen connected with new quarterback Kirk Cousins, jelling instantly for a herculean season from the Minnesota State alumnus. The year before, 2017, Thielen was terrific too, but he only snagged four touchdown receptions.
It was a challenging act to follow. The next season was 2019, and Thielen grabbed 414 receiving yards and six touchdowns before succumbing to injury. 2020 was a test for Thielen to determine if he’d return to stardom or tumble into age-30 decline tendencies.
Thielen chose the former, securing 925 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns alongside rookie pass-catcher, Justin Jefferson. His bounceback was noteworthy, even though the Vikings defense ensured the enterprise would sink during the pandemic season. Minnesota missed the playoffs by a game, laying the framework for a make-or-break season in 2021 — which is less than three months away.
While Thielen focused on receiving yards during his rise to power in 2015, 2016, 2017, his career wavelength has fancied scoring touchdowns as of late. Kirk Cousins utilizes Thielen as his go-to man in the redzone, probably because of Thielen’s surehandedness and reliability.
Only Davante Adams of the Green Bay Packers (18) and Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs (15) scored more receiving touchdowns than Thielen (14) last year. During the last three seasons, Thielen has scored more paydirts than DeAndre Hopkins, Stefon Diggs, Chris Godwin, Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, and Kenny Golladay. Package that in a tweet.
Much of this is quarterbacking — make no mistake. Cousins is often savaged for one reason or another, but his redzone perspicacity is deadly. Since joining the Vikings in 2018, his passer rating in the redzone (107.9) is third-best in the NFL among active quarterbacks, trailing only Drew Brees (115.4) and Lamar Jackson (110.7). He’s dimed 61 touchdown passes inside the opponents’ 20-yard line as a Viking — a larger number than Tom Brady, Deshaun Watson, Drew Brees, and Matthew Stafford tallied in the same timeframe.
And Thielen is usually the breadwinner for Cousins in these situations, creating a symbiotic relationship that seems to fly under the national radar. Kyle Rudolph was no pushover in the redzone, but Cousins has found Thielen more than Rudolph as of late in scoring situations.
In the redzone and beyond, Thielen’s knack for scoring is pronounced, outpacing any other pass-catcher leaguewide in the last two seasons.
Of the heavily-targeted players in the league amid the last two seasons, Thielen scores the most often.
Thielen will turn 31 by the time the 2021 season kicks off, so this campaign will be another in which onlookers analyze his performance versus age. Some wide receivers tail off in their early 30s. Meanwhile, Thielen is finding the endzone at an advanced clip.
Too, as Justin Jefferson continues is ascension to stardom, Thielen should see reduced defensive attention than a scenario where Jefferson matured like a normal young player. That is — his rookie season might produce 600-700 yards, the following year ticks up to 800-900 and so forth. Not Jefferson, though — he shattered the damn NFL record for receiving yards in 2020 with 1,400.