Laquon Treadwell almost doubled the number of snaps he has gotten in the first 10 games when he played in 34 snaps on Thursday against the Detroit Lions, but his increased playing time has been a few weeks in the making.
Treadwell didn’t have a catch and officially wasn’t targeted – the only time the ball went his way was a play wiped off the books by a penalty – but the rookie first-round pick has been looking better in practice in recent weeks and beginning to earn a bigger role.
Zimmer said Treadwell’s “quickness, his stop and starts, his acceleration” have all improved recently as he puts his college ankle injury behind him.
Two weeks ago, Treadwell said he could still feel his ankle injury that was suffered in college but that it was no longer affecting his quickness, and he does appear to have added burst in recent practices. He said on Monday the injury is all behind him.
Zimmer said a change of shoes in recent weeks has helped Treadwell’s feet feel better, but Treadwell dismissed the foot problem, saying he has plenty of cleats from which to choose.
The real difference, Treadwell says, has been gaining confidence through increased playing time, even if his catch total remains at one for the season.
“I was competing every day in practice, making plays, but once you’re in a game it’s a whole new edge of intensity that you play with,” he said. “Coming to practice it makes it a lot easier and gives you a better perspective on it. That helped me out.”
Zimmer believes Treadwell might have been pressing too hard early in the season. From what has been witnessed after practices, few work harder than Treadwell.
This week, he commissioned Xavier Rhodes to stay after practice and help him to beat coverages. His next post-practice stop was the JUGS machine, which was a daily after-practice routine in training camp that often took an additional half hour or more. Then it was off to another part of the practice field to work on more routes.
“I was just working hard, challenging myself and it probably hurt me when it was time to show it, but it will help me in the long run,” Treadwell said of his early-season “pressing” issues. “I feel comfortable now. I can do extra stuff after practice now. I’m really in shape. That game (Thursday) actually put me in the game perspective and knowing that I could go a whole game without coming out and I feel good.”
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Treadwell proved he was a good player at Ole Miss. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder set 12 Ole Miss records, including single-season receptions (82), single-season receiving yards (1,153), single-season receiving touchdowns (11) and career catches (202).
He should continue to be involved in the offense moving forward, even with Stefon Diggs returning, but whether or not he is targeted more often in the passing game remains to be seen.
“I’m not going to say, ‘Hey, throw it to this guy or throw it to that guy,’” Zimmer said. “Sometimes that’s just how things come up.”
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Treadwell remains the youngest player on the Vikings roster, having turned 21 in June, but by all accounts he is starting to find a comfort level in the NFL.
“For a while there he was pressing and trying to do everything. It’s probably been a few weeks now that he’s starting to look better,” Zimmer said. “… But he’s a diligent, hard worker. He’ll be a good player.”