Give credit to FOX NFL broadcast analyst Charles Davis, who proclaimed on Sunday that it’s time to stop talking about Adam Thielen as a feel-good story and start talking about him as one of the NFL’s best wide receivers. Thielen lit up Washington for eight catches, 166 yards, leading the Vikings to a 38-30 win.
That type of performance has become run-of-the-mill for Thielen, who ranks third in the NFL in total yards receiving only behind DeAndre Hopkins and Antonio Brown.
Quarterback Case Keenum has thrown in Thielen’s direction more than 10 times in each of the past four games
“Adam does a lot of dirty work,” Zimmer said. “He blocks defensive ends, he blocks linebackers in the run game. He’s just a competitive guy. We threw him the screen on the one third down and somehow, some way he’s gonna get the first down. Then we came back later and threw a boot and he makes a guy miss. That’s just what he does. When he gets opportunities, he makes plays.”
Thielen’s rise to stardom this year doesn’t surprise the Vikings following his excellent season in 2016. He caught 75% of the passes in his direction and was second in the NFL in yards per target last year.
The difference is in how often Thielen has been targeted. With 87 throws in his direction, the Vikings’ receiver has nearly matched last year’s total of 92 targets. Increased workload has allowed the subtleties of his game to become more noticeable. At the goal line, Thielen gave a quick shoulder fake that froze corner Josh Norman for a split second, allowing Keenum to get him the ball.
While the national narrative may be moving away from Thielen’s small-school narrative, the Vikings’ level-headed star is holding on to his undrafted player’s mentality.
“Keeping the same approach that I’ve always kept my whole career,” Thielen said Monday, wearing a Minnesota State hoodie. “Going from last year to this year, it’s the same approach in the offseason. From week to week, the same approach. Just taking practices the same way, trying to get better and learn from the tape each week.”