As the Minnesota Vikings prepare to face off with the New Orleans Saints, we will focus on one key matchup each day. For Part 3, we look at Marshon Lattimore vs. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen…
Way back in Week 1, the Vikings’ tandem of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen showed the world they were going to be a handful as they torched Marshon Lattimore and the New Orleans Saints.
Over the following 15 weeks, Lattimore proved himself to be the next great shutdown corner in the NFL. So this time around, the matchup with have a far different feel.
It’s unclear whether Lattimore will face off with both or shadow one of the Vikings’ receivers. He’s been shadowing No. 1’s lately, but the Vikings have two No. 1-caliber recievers. Let’s have a look at how he matches up with both.
Lattimore earned high marks from Pro Football Focus, which tracks each throw in his direction. He ranked as the NFL’s fourth best corner behind only Casey Hayward, Jalen Ramsey and Tre-Davious White. The rookie from Ohio State picked off five passes, including one pick-six. The Saints ranked sixth by Football Outsiders’ tracking in total yards allowed per game to No. 1 recievers. The rookie was not completely unbeatable as he allowed 7.3 yards per attempt into his coverage this season.
On the Vikings’ side, Thielen and Diggs were a nightmare for opposing defenses. Diggs ranked ninth and Thielen 10th by PFF’s tracking metrics, making them the highest rated pair in the league.
Thielen had one of the best seasons in franchise history, catching 91 passes for 1,276 yards. He caught 64.1 percent of passes thrown his way.
Diggs missed time with a groin issue, but finished with 64 catches for 849 yards and eight touchdowns. He caught 67.4 percent of passes in his direction.
The 11th overall player in the draft, Lattimore has an incredible athletic profile. He ran a 4.36 40-yard dash and ranked among the best at his position in the broad jump and high jump. His NFL.com Draft Profile stated: [Lattimore] has burst and instincts to make plays from any coverage asked of him.”
Both Thielen and Diggs discussed facing Lattimore on Wednesday.
“He’s a good player,” Thielen said. “He’s physical. He can run with anybody. He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now. He’s got great ball skills. He’s pretty much got everything you need to be a really good corner in this league.”
“He’s earned his respect this year,” Diggs said. “His first year, he’s definitely done some great things. The whole [secondary], they made a lot of plays. They have a bunch of interceptions. They get a lot of turnovers.”
Diggs and Thielen have a lot of similarities. They are both uber competitors, they have the ability to line up all over the field and read defenses, they are exceptional route runners and have the hands to make contested catches. Thielen has a little more size than Diggs, which could help him against the 6-foot Lattimore, but Diggs’ ability to get off the line of scrimmage and shake even elite defenders is rare.
Thielen and Diggs went crazy in Week 1. Thielen had nine catches for 157 yards including a 44-yard catch and Diggs grabbed seven passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns.
The Vikings’ ability to run the ball may determine whether Thielen and Diggs can create big plays the way they did in Week 1. They rank as the seventh best team in the NFL when running play-action, averaging 8.7 yards per attempt. Forcing the Saints to move a safety up to the line of scrimmage should the the Vikings’ No. 1 goal because even the best corners struggle against Thielen and Diggs when there is no help from safeties over the top.