Adam Thielen Is Doing the Thing
The Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers can safely embrace the Spider-man meme, as both clubs sit at 0-3 to start the 2023 season.
The only difference is most folks knew the Carolina Panthers would likely struggle, while the Vikings 0-3 troubles are mystifying.
Adam Thielen Is Doing the Thing
And the Vikings and Panthers share a common ancestor — wide receiver Adam Thielen.
Thielen joined the Panthers in March after Minnesota cut ties with the 33-year-old. He was on deck for a nearly $20 million cap hit in Minnesota for the 2023 season, too rich for the blood of a team competitively rebuilding. So, Thielen chased a three-year, $25 million deal in the NFC South, partnering with rookie quarterback Bryce Young.
Well, Young was injured last week, causing veteran and now-journeyman passer Andy Dalton to get the nod at QB1. Suddenly, between Week 2 and 3, Thielen is cooking in Carolina, albeit for a winless team.
Through three games and two quarterbacks, Thielen has nabbed 20 receptions for 211 yards and 2 touchdowns — not bad. If that pace continues, barring injury, Thielen is on pace for 113 receptions, 1,196 receiving yards, and 11 scores. And that would be quite the accomplishment for the Minnesota State alumnus who has not notched 1,000+ yards in a season since 2018, if that can be believed.
He’s leading the Panthers in receiving yards, with D.J. Chark at 101 yards and the closest WR thereafter as rookie Jonathan Mingo at 64 yards. Put simply, for the Panthers 0-3 aerial attack, it’s Thielen as the wide-receiving bellcow.
Meanwhile, with the winless start, Thielen had to know win-loss futility was a possibility. Few teams with rookie quarterbacks do damage out of the gate and reach the postseason. Thielen could’ve pursued a contender in free agency, like the Kansas City Chiefs, for example. But he grabbed the sure-thing cash in Carolina, plus the opportunity to be showcased in an offense.
He got his wish, ranking 14th in targets leaguewide as of September 25th. Thielen is the go-to playmaker in an otherwise floundering Panthers attack, and his statsheet is reaping the benefits.
Next up for Thielen and the Panthers? Wipe that smile off your face; NFL schedule makers aren’t joking. It’s the Vikings heading to North Carolina for a battle of 0-3 teams. Minnesota hopes to remedy an awful start and salvage a once-promising season, and Carolina will bide time until Young returns to continue his maturation. Young’s status for Sunday is unclear, and Dalton could once again get the start.
Moreover, these are the Vikings that just allowed Justin Herbert to slice and dice their secondary for 405 passing yards. Thielen isn’t quite as dynamic as Keenan Allen, but if Week 3 was a reasonable indicator, Thielen’s stat compilation shouldn’t screech to a halt versus his old team.
On the whole, Thielen got his wish. He’s stuffing box scores as WR1 on a team likely not trending toward the postseason. Every NFL fan and pundit everywhere knew that would happen in March when Thielen signed in Carolina. And now — it’s happening.
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 Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).