The Minnesota Vikings announced Wednesday that Adam Thielen was officially out for the team’s Thursday night contest against the Washington Redskins.
Thielen sustained a hamstring injury on a touchdown in the first quarter of Sunday’s game in Detroit and has not practiced since. Despite Thielen’s injury, the Vikings still put up 42 points and won their first divisional game of 2019. Thielen has not missed a game since 2014 and has not missed a start since 2016.
With Thielen being out against a struggling Redskins team, the Vikings have a chance to spread the ball around some more. Thielen has 391 receiving yards and seven total touchdowns this year. Thielen has also been targeted 5.7 times per game meaning that there will be more touches for other players.
The first player who may benefit from Thielen’s absence is his friend Stefon Diggs. So far this season, Diggs has 562 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns. He’s been used a ton in the past two weeks and has seven catches in each of those contests. However, Diggs may actually be hurt by Thielen missing time as the Redskins could consider double or even triple covering him.
Another old face that may see more targets due to Thielen’s hamstring is tight end Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph had his most productive game of 2019 after Thielen left the Detroit game going for 58 receiving yards and his first touchdown of the year. Rudolph might not see a ton more targets on first and second down, but he could pick of a few key third downs and make some plays in the red zone.
Kyle Rudolph’s fellow tight end Irv Smith Jr could also benefit greatly from Thielen’s absence. The talk coming into the year was that the team would use more two tight end sets to get opportunities for both Rudolph and Smith, but Sunday was the first time that both were used extensively in the same game. Smith went for 60 receiving yards in Detroit, the second time he’s hit 60 this year, but is still searching for his first trip to the endzone in the NFL. Perhaps he’ll get that chance tomorrow.
Finally, the man who may benefit the most from Thielen’s time off is rookie Olabisi Johnson. Johnson, who has been playing as the Vikings third wide receiver this year, found the end zone for the first time in Detroit and also added 40 yards receiving.
The Colorado State product was targeted heavily being thrown to eight times and catching four of those. It’s obvious that the Vikings have confidence in their seventh round pick, but they will need him to step up even more to keep pressure off Diggs and Cousins. Johnson has shown the ability to make big plays, including third downs. Hopefully we see some more of that tomorrow.