There’s Been an Adam Thielen Disappearing Act

There's Been an Adam Thielen Disappearing Act
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Through two games, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen has been close to nonexistent during the meaningful portion of games.

And there is no digestible explanation for it.

The lack of attention to Thielen in the Vikings offense was masked in Week 1 for a simple reason — the Vikings beat the Green Bay Packers. Nobody cared about Thielen’s production because the most-hated foe was dismantled handily to start the season.

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Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Fast forward to the day after Minnesota lost to the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football, and folks do care because, well, the team lost. Losing amplifies irregularities. The Vikings finally targeted Thielen when the game was out of reach, better known as garbage time.

To date in 2022, in Quarters 1 thru 3, Adam Thielen has been targeted three times total in the first two games. Three times — that’s it. He ended up leading Minnesota in receiving yards after the loss to Philadelphia (52 yards), but that mark is fool’s good as Thielen did the damage in the 4th Quarter when it no longer mattered.

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Eagles Jalen Mills (31) and Avonte Maddox (29) confront Minnesota’s Adam Thielen. © Jerry Habraken, The News Journal.

After the game, the 32-year-old told reporters about his performance, “I got to look myself in the mirror. The first thing I do is go look myself in the mirror, go watch the film and see what I could have done better to get open.”

Yet, to the naked eye, it seems Minnesota’s offense merely isn’t emphasizing Thielen’s presence on the field. And, to be sure, Thielen has never had a problem in his 10-year career getting open. Compared to his first nine seasons, the only wildcard now is the new offense installed by Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell. The 2022 offense is the first version of which Thielen is participating [in the regular season] without Mike Zimmer as the head coach. Perhaps it’s ‘growing pains’ in a new system, although Thielen’s too savvy of a veteran not to figure out a fancy offense-first scheme.

Still, even with garbage-time stats allowed in the metric, Thielen is the NFL’s 66th-most targeted player through two weeks. It doesn’t make sense. Last year at this time, through two games, he ranked 21st in targets (17) and was only two behind teammate Justin Jefferson (19).

Something is wonky. Either Thielen is no longer adept at getting open — which would be very, very bizarre — or the Vikings offense is failing to focus on his skillset. Per 2022 cap hit, Thielen is the 11th highest-paid wide receiver in the business. Refusing to implement him in the offense isn’t wise — schematically or financially.

We shall see if that changes on Sunday as the Vikings host the Detroit Lions, a team suddenly explosive on offense, at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).