The Minnesota Vikings have a problem on their hands, but it is shaping into a good problem. When the Vikings played in their last game two weeks ago, Charles Johnson was forced to miss the entire game and Jarius Wright only played in one snap.
That meant other players had to step up into a bigger role than they were used to. Players such as Adam Thielen and Cordarrelle Patterson, who were primarily used on special teams, and then rookie Stefon Diggs who had never dressed for an NFL game before.
Diggs and Thielen played very well, and now with Johnson and Wright looking as though they will be healthy this Sunday, the Vikings have to decide if they will dress all six receivers or not. And if they don’t which player do they choose to sit?
“You can’t ask to be in a better position,” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. “When you have two guys get hurt and the guys that go and play for them catch five and six balls. We’ve got a good group of guys, and throughout the year we’re going to need them all.”
Johnson agrees with Turner’s thinking that the team is going to need all six of the receivers as the season progresses and doesn’t seem to think that any of the players are going to sit this Sunday. Instead, he believes the offense needs all of them in order to keep rolling.
“(Diggs) is going to still fit in,” Johnson said. “Him, (Thielen), C.P. – everybody’s still going to fit in. We want to have as many people as we can rolling, going out there and contributing and that’s going to make us a better team. I don’t think we’re going to push nobody out. Diggs showed up the game he got in. (Thielen) showed up the game he got to get in a little bit more and we want those guys playing for us because we know those guys can contribute.”
After the performance Diggs put on in his NFL debut, where he recorded six receptions for a team-high 87 yards, the assumption is the coaching staff would want to continue to get him on the field. He appeared to have a good connection with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Turner said that he did everything they asked of him.
“Stefon, I thought, did everything we asked him to do,” Turner said. “His first time playing, I thought he ran his routes good, he was very sharp mentally and obviously he showed the same thing he’s shown us since he got here. He’s very good at attacking the ball, catching the ball in tight areas.”
The problem if the coaching staff decides to dress all six receivers is that they would then have to sit someone else on the roster and a lot of the players that dress on a regular basis play an important role on special teams. Even some of the receivers, such as Thielen and Patterson, play a big role on special teams.
Thielen is a player that is often underrated, but the way he plays the game of football he is able to help the special teams change games. Look back to just a season ago when he was able to block a punt, recover it himself and then take it into the end zone for a touchdown.
“Adam has an attitude,” special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. “He’s tough, he can run, he’s smart, he does a lot of different things for us on special teams and when he’s out there we’re a better team.”
If the Vikings sit any receiver this weekend, after Diggs proved what he is capable of, it would seem as though Patterson is the logical choice. When Johnson and Wright were out, he had a chance to step up but instead he saw the field just 17 times on offense and recorded one catch for 9 yards.
Patterson is a very dangerous kickoff return specialist, but the problem is he doesn’t get the ball all that often. In four games this season, he has recorded seven returns so justifying keeping him active just for the sole purpose of returning kicks seems to be a little ridiculous, especially when there are other players on the roster capable of returning kicks.
“Absolutely,” Priefer said when asked if he would be comfortable with Marcus Sherels returning kicks. “Sherels, Stefon Diggs, Cordarrelle, they’re all very solid kickoff returners and Marcus has done it here before. He’s subbed in for Cordarrelle before in the last couple years.”
At this point in time, though, everything is just speculation because the Vikings coaching staff doesn’t want to give up their strategy to the Kansas City Chiefs. They know they have a wide variety of options they can take advantage of this Sunday, but they are keeping those hole cards hidden.
“Those are decisions that Coach Zimmer will make over the next 2½ days, three days,” Turner said when asked what the plan was if all six receivers were healthy on Sunday. “It’s just really not in our best interest to tell Kansas City what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and why we’re doing it. So that will all play out.”