Adam Thielen is Still Getting Open

Photo: Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings are 5-1 but, as we’ve talked about at nauseum, the offense has plenty of room for improvement through six games. One of the biggest questions is at wide receiver. Are Adam Thielen and KJ Osborn requisite pass catching options next to Justin Jefferson or do the Vikings need more firepower outside for Kirk Cousins?

It appears Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is open to adding more talent. The Vikings have reportedly had dialogue with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Talks that have included Chase Claypool. Kwesi’s also been in contact with the Denver Broncos, who have a plethora of tight ends and wide receivers who could help the purple passing attack for their playoff push.

Is Adam Thielen the problem?

But how determined should Minnesota Vikings leadership be in their quest to add receiving help to their roster? Well, that question probably starts with Adam Thielen. His stats are down (29 REC, 284 YDS, 2 TD) and the NextGen stats say he’s struggling to create separation. Thus, questions are being asked about his age. At 32-years-old, is the Mankato State, Detroit Lakes legend washed up?

Well, “Locked on Vikings” host and creative Vikings contenter, Luke Braun (@LukeBraunNFL), went to the film. All of it. Something Braun is very good at. And after watching every single rep Adam Thielen has ran this season, Luke’s conclusion was clear. Thielen may not be in his prime, but he’s still beating defenders on the regular. The problems in getting him the ball are elsewhere.

That video is just a teaser. Braun did a more in-depth film breakdown on his Patreon account. The video is now free but he releases content early for subscribers. Check out his approximately $4/mo subscriptions and what they include.

What’s “Holding” Thielen Back?

After watching the full breakdown, you’ll see what’s holding Adam Thielen back this season. Including “holding” itself. A technique used aggressively by Saints and Lions defensive backs earlier in the year.

Some of the holds have been called by referees, but many haven’t. Clearly, some opponents are choosing a 5-yard holding penalty over letting Thielen break coverage. A punishment the NFL needs to review, if they want more open receivers. Overly aggressive and grabby defensive backs aren’t the only issue in getting the ball to #19.

Many times (a lot — seriously, go watch the video), Adam Thielen is open and Kirk Cousins misses him. Is that Kirk’s fault? Not necessarily. Reads are made to get Justin Jefferson open much more often and, by design, Adam’s routes take longer to develop. Pressure arrives before routes bear fruit or the ball is already out to another open receiver (usually JJ).

Thielen’s touchdown in Miami is a great example. He appears to be Kirk’s final read. Without great protection and a nice display of patience by Cousins, this TD route never has time to develop.

What’s Next for Thielen, Vikings offense?

Sure, there are some games where Thielen struggled to shake loose. Braun points to matchups vs Philadelphia and Miami, where Adam looked a step slow. But let’s be real, Thielen has never been a burner-type. If he’s playing a fundamentally sound CB with speed, he’s not going to win every rep.

But that isn’t news. Nor does it mean Adam Thielen is washed up. After watching all 30 of the minutes in Luke Braun’s video breakdown of Thielen’s routes, I feel confident he will feast in the second half of this Minnesota Vikings season.

As Kirk gets more comfortable with Kevin O’Connell’s offense, he’ll get a better idea of which routes are most likely to come open vs certain looks and/or coverages. And you know Thielen is going over film with his QB, making sure Cousins knows he’s open quite often.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan