The Minnesota Vikings not only signed Michael Floyd after a severe DUI incident in Arizona, but they stuck by him after violating the terms of his house arrest. Now with an injury to star receiver Stefon Diggs, the Vikings will need Floyd to step into the spotlight.
In Floyd’s debut against the Chicago Bears, he caught one pass, a 19-yard throw from quarterback Case Keenum. The reception required the former Cardinal to create separation and adjust to the ball. Floyd’s catch was a familiar sight to anyone who had watched him in training camp. For a large receiver (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) he has deceptive speed and the ability to make high-difficulty plays downfield.
At his best, Floyd can be a terrific downfield weapon – and that doesn’t just mean on bombs thrown 30 or 40 yards. In 2015, 20 of his 52 grabs were thrown between 11-20 yards.
It so happens that Diggs has been very successful on intermediate throws this year. He’s made seven catches, including one that ended up as a 52-yard touchdown, at the intermediate depth and caught four more balls that traveled between 21-30 yards in the air.
Diggs essentially transformed from a slot underneath receiver to a dominant deep threat. His average depth of target nearly doubled.
But a groin injury hampered Diggs against the Bears. He finished the game with just one catch for four yards and he has not practiced since Monday night’s game.
Because of the short week, there’s a chance that Diggs returns to practice and still plays on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
”It’s not the same way as last year,” Diggs said. “Last year was pretty bad. I feel pretty good.”
If he can’t play, Floyd will have to step into the role and prove to the Packers that they need to be just as concerned about him as they were Diggs. The success of the Vikings’ running game and downfield receiver Adam Thielen can both be tied to the amount of attention Diggs draws from opponents.
Floyd will have to bring more to the table than he did last year when he caught just 37 of 76 throws his way and was made inactive for the AFC title game and Super Bowl while with the Patriots.
When Diggs was battling his groin issue last season, the Vikings often used him as an underneath option, getting open in the slot on quick throws. If his role adapts this time around, the Vikings will still need Floyd to show teams he can be a downfield threat. Diggs pointed out that he can also bring value when the ball isn’t going his way.
“Mike contributes in ways you don’t really see,” Diggs said. “He makes huge blocks, he’s a big body outside, he attracts a lot of attention, so you can expect a lot from Mike.”
The Vikings signed Floyd to provide depth, especially if they didn’t see major progress from Laquon Treadwell. So far Treadwell has just five catches despite playing 55.8% of plays. Against the Bears, the 2016. First-round pick did not see a single throw in his direction.
And while Jarius Wright brings reliable depth, he isn’t a feared weapon the way Floyd once was during his time in Arizona. If he brings that to Minnesota’s offense, they can navigate through Diggs’ injury without seeing the offense sink.
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