When it comes to leaders for the Minnesota Vikings, perhaps no one stands out more than veteran wide receiver Adam Thielen. Thursday night’s Thanksgiving matchup, which has taken a back seat to superstar Justin Jefferson in recent seasons, could be his time to shine.
Over the past few seasons and as he’s gotten older, Adam Thielen may have lost a step while settling in behind Justin Jefferson. While he continues to be a leader, he’s certainly stepped out of the spotlight and, despite the need to deal with Stefon Diggs’ antics before, he’s never been distracted.
In 2022, Thielen only rushed for 50 yards in half of his games. Working more as a free possession receiver alongside the dynamic Jefferson, his new role worked in Kevin O’Connell’s offense. With the Minnesota Vikings facing a strong pass rush and an offensive line without a critical contributor, moving the ball quickly could benefit Thielen’s current game.
There was never a point in Thiele’s career where he was on fire. Coming out of Division 2 Minnesota State Mankato, Thielen made a name for himself by displaying strong route running skills and exceptional hands. He creates space from defenders by making quick and accurate cuts, which allows the midfielder to drop balls into tight coverage. Thielen, who needs to take advantage of smaller slumps and faster developing plays on Thursday, could be the buyer.
Through 10 games this season, Thielen has caught just two touchdown passes and tied his season high in receiving yards against the New Orleans Saints. Seventy-two yards is hardly a lofty goal to top, and the eight receptions he produced in that contest could be extended against the Patriots. Thielen, who averaged just under 11 yards per reception this season, may not need to break big downfield after the catch, but if he can draw defenders back and allow Cousins simple passing lanes, the Vikings should be in business.
Matthew Judon will tackle Blake Brandel at left tackle on Thanksgiving. That will put extra pressure on Cousins, and O’Connell will have to spend this week finding ways to move the ball quickly. KJ Osborn showed his ability to work in the middle of the field, while Justin Jefferson stretched the defense. Since TJ Hockenson joined the team, there have been other options for shortstops, but the veteran Thielen still represents the gold standard.
Thielen faced the Patriots only twice in his career, and only once did he become a prominent member of the offense. In a 2018 loss to Minnesota, he was five of 10 for 28 yards and a touchdown. It’s probably fair to say that a win on Thursday will require a higher yardage output, and his play could go a long way to take the pressure off other talents on the same side of the battle.
Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities who focuses on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. It is active Twitter writes weekly for Gemini Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, passionately covering our professional teams always seemed like a natural outlet.