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How Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen has discovered his area of interest in Justin Jefferson’s world – Minnesota Vikings Weblog

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EAGAN, Minn. — The quarterback was in hassle. Throughout a purple zone drill early in coaching camp, Kirk Cousins stepped up within the pocket because the Minnesota Vikings‘ go rush bore down. With a cut up second remaining earlier than he was sacked, Cousins knew the place to look. Receiver Adam Thielen was sprinting throughout the again of the top zone, a step forward of cornerback Harrison Hand.

As he has so usually in current seasons, Cousins flipped the ball within the route of Thielen, who caught it in stride for a landing. The improvised connection was a reminder of Thielen’s wild profession flip because the arrival of teammate Justin Jefferson in 2020.

Thielen’s total targets per sport have understandably dropped over that span, however his scoring totals have soared. Solely two NFL receivers have caught extra landing passes than Thielen (24) because the begin of the 2020 season: Davante Adams (29) for the Green Bay Packers and Mike Evans (27) for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The surge has almost matched Thielen’s scoring totals throughout his first six seasons mixed (25).

In consequence, he has amassed 312.2 fantasy factors in non-PPR scoring — No. 9 total amongst receivers — even whereas rating No. 29 in complete targets (199). As Jefferson emerged because the NFL’s prime younger receiver, Thielen discovered a distinct segment that matches neatly with the abilities he has honed over time.

“He is all the time been robust with the soccer,” Cousins mentioned. “He has nice pure palms, nice physique management, and he performs large. He performs large and robust, and he runs large and robust. That exhibits up within the purple zone and in tight home windows and in tight protection.”

Over that very same span, the truth is, Thielen ranked No. 3 within the NFL for catch fee over expectation, an NFL Subsequent Gen Stats evaluation of a participant’s potential to make lower-probability catches. However as unusual as it’d sound, it is by no means secure to imagine {that a} veteran participant’s success will survive a training transition.

Thielen, for one, will flip 32 later this month. After he appeared in each sport for every of his first 5 NFL seasons, he has missed 11 due to accidents over the previous three. His contract, in the meantime, has no absolutely assured cash remaining after this season.

And as Jefferson reaches the brink of superstardom, No. 3 receiver K.J. Osborn is having a breakout coaching camp in his personal proper. Tight finish Irv Smith Jr.’s current thumb surgical procedure hasn’t diminished pleasure about his pending contribution, giving Cousins one other mouth to feed. However new coach Kevin O’Connell has embraced the methods Thielen can excel in his scheme — within the purple zone, particularly — and Thielen hasn’t been shy about about mentioning performs that labored nicely or had been run particularly conditions prior to now. If coaching camp practices are any indication, the Vikings are doing all the things they’ll to protect the Cousins-Thielen scoring connection.

“The good half about it’s the suggestions,” O’Connell mentioned. “He is capable of speak to me about, ‘I do know we’re teaching this like this, however have you considered this route stem or this prime of the route?’ and that is the place generally you say to your self, ‘Thank goodness we received gamers like that. As a result of what you mentioned is healthier than what I mentioned.’ Let’s do it that approach. Different instances, we will follow my approach. Both approach, we’ve got that dialog.”

On the top of his profession, when he was producing consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in 2017 and ’18, Thielen noticed 9.16 targets per sport. Because the begin of the 2020 season, that quantity has been about 22% decrease (7.13).

His purple zone targets, nevertheless, have really elevated barely, from 1.06 in 2017-18 to 1.18 in 2020-21 — a spotlight that O’Connell, Cousins and Thielen are all working to protect this summer season.

Thielen was initially shocked after encountering O’Connell’s process-over-outcome method to putting in and revising his scheme, however the adjustment has led to some fast progress.

“Typically it virtually feels awkward,” Thielen mentioned. “You are like, ‘Is he not going to tear us? What is going on on right here?’ And it has nothing to do with the previous teaching employees we had right here. That is the way it’s been my entire life, whether or not highschool, faculty, first 12 months within the NFL once I had a unique coach. It is completely different, however it’s thrilling as a result of it is like now we will go in there and we will train. We are able to study. Even when we do some issues mistaken, and have some psychological errors, it is like, ‘Hey, that wasn’t OK, however let’s deal with the method.'”

Regardless, Thielen is aware of he’s on the again finish of his profession. In 2021, for instance, you may depend the variety of receivers on one hand who had been 32 or older and caught greater than 40 passes: Cole Beasley, A.J. Green, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. None of them caught greater than 4 touchdowns.

“I haven’t got 10 years left in my profession, so yeah, I feel there is a sense of urgency,” Thielen mentioned. “We now have a very gifted staff. We now have an awesome tradition. We now have nice coaches. However on the finish of the day, you do not need to lose web site of the day-to-day mindset, which this teaching employees, this tradition, has created.”

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