Thielen has had a role on with the Vikings ever since he first earned a spot on the 53-man roster back in 2014. However, a majority of his playing time came on special teams and then he would see the field on offense from time to time, most often because of injuries.
This year seems to be a little different, as he was getting first-team reps in training camp as the No. 3 receiver, even when Jarius Wright, the No. 3 receiver last year, was healthy. Head coach Mike Zimmer said not to read into Thielen playing with the first-team too much, but Wright suffered an injury soon after Zimmer said that and Thielen has been looking good during the team’s first two preseason games, which Wright was forced to miss.
Zimmer has been happy with what he has seen from his third-year receiver thus far, but doesn’t seem to be surprised by his production.
“I don’t know about a different level because Adam’s always been (a guy who) comes out and works hard every single day,” Zimmer said. “He’s made some good plays and made a really nice catch on the one ball over the middle that was a little bit behind him. You know kind of like he did in Cincinnati, too, same kind of scenario. The more you make plays, the more you get to play.”
Thielen has been a go-to guy for Vikings quarterbacks so far through the preseason. He only recorded one catch during the first preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals, but it came on a pivotal third-and-7 when he went up over two defenders, in the middle of the field, and came down with a 22-yard reception.
He then led all Vikings receivers in their second preseason game with four receptions on six targets for 61 yards. Again, the quarterbacks seemed to look towards Thielen in crucial situations, as three of his targets came on third downs, two of which were completed. It was also Thielen that Joel Stave targeted with 18 seconds left in the first half as they tried to get into a reasonable distance for a Blair Walsh field goal. Thielen was able to come down with an 18-yard reception that set up a 27-yard field goal attempt.
Thielen loves that he has been a player quarterbacks look to in those crucial times during a game, as they help him prove himself to the coaches even more.
“Anytime you get the ball thrown your way it’s always a positive thing,” he explained. “It’s fun to have those opportunities and then you just got to make the most of them.”
As previously mentioned, Wright was the No. 3 wide receiver last year and it was initially believed that he would hold onto that position this season. Unfortunately, he got injured during training camp and has had to miss a lot of time, including the first two preseason games. His absence led to an increased amount of reps for Thielen, which he has taken advantage of.
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Thielen is also a bigger receiver, measuring in at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, compared to Wright who is 5-10, 191 pounds. That extra size allows Thielen the ability to play both on the outside and in the slot, whereas Wright is almost strictly a slot receiver. Being able to move players around and line them up in different spots for any given play allows the offense to do more and give a defense different looks for any given play.
Now, Wright has proven year in and year out that he is a reliable receiver and has the ability to make a big play when it matters most. He is still going to see the field come the regular season, but it seems as though Thielen is going to be getting plenty of offensive reps, too. And the more reps Thielen gets, the less Wright gets, as both of them seem to be working as the No. 3 receiver in the offense at this point in time.