The Vikings Upgraded Biggest Weakness on Offense

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Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8), wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18), and wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) celebrate the win against the New England Patriots after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings’ top weakness that had to be addressed was obviously the defensive unit – a horrendous group in most statistics, especially the third-most allowed points are a disaster and not much better than the second-most allowed yards. Minnesota pulled the trigger and fired defensive coordinator Ed Donatell for Brian Flores and made multiple changes to the roster. But not only the defense had to change.

The Vikings Upgraded Biggest Weakness on Offense

The offense in the first year under head coach and play caller Kevin O’Connell was a mixed bag. Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson formed once again an outstanding duo in the passing attack, while the running game was inefficient and must improve. Also necessary to improve is the supporting cast of Jefferson, who, at times, led a one-dimensional receiving group.

The Vikings Upgraded Their Biggest Weakness on Offense
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) warms up before a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Bill Barnwell from ESPN ranked the teams according to their wideouts, tight ends, and running backs, and the Vikings clocked in sixth, but more important is what he wrote about the purple team’s attack:

The Vikings also upgraded their biggest weakness this offseason by swapping out Adam Thielen for first-round pick Jordan Addison. Even allowing for the wide range of outcomes we see from first-round picks in their debut seasons, Thielen had grown long in the tooth. He ranked 83rd among 97 wideouts in yards per route run last season, just one spot ahead of teammate K.J. Osborn. Kirk Cousins’ QBR was nearly 20 points better (in a small sample) with Thielen off the field in 2022; Addison should make an immediate impact across from Jefferson.

Besides his efficiency, Adam Thielen’s overall production also declined. His last 1,000-yard campaign came in 2018, and the six receiving touchdowns in 2022 were his lowest total since 2019. The average of 10.2 yards per catch was his lowest number ever. It should also be noted that Thielen did all that despite Jefferson drawing double teams on many plays. None of that should remove anything from Thielen’s status as a Vikings legend after a decade with the team. He will turn 33 in August and was replaced by Jordan Addison, who was selected 23rd overall in April’s draft. He will not turn 22 before next January.

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Apr 27, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA; USC wide receiver Jordan Addison on stage after being selected by the Minnesota Vikings twenty-third overall in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Addison was an extremely productive receiver in college. He produced 3,134 receiving yards and 29 touchdowns over three seasons. His best year came in his sophomore season when he put up 100 catches for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns. The numbers were good enough to earn him the Biletnikoff Award for the nation’s best receiver. After that year, he transferred to USC and played in Lincoln Riley’s spread offense. His numbers dropped, but he still led the team in all receiving categories.

He is a refined route-runner and a pro-ready player. However, he missed the OTAs and the mandatory minicamp because of an undisclosed injury. It is supposed to be a minor injury, and he is expected to be healthy when training camp kicks off in July.

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Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) celebrates the win against the Indianapolis Colts after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. With the win, the Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The competition between Addison and K.J. Osborn for the WR2 duties will be one of the top storylines leading up to the season opener on September 10 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town.

Rookie wideouts have totally different starts to their career. Jefferson needed only two games to become one of the league’s best at his position, and Osborn broke out in his second offseason. There’s a lot of variance, and as Barnwell mentioned, the range of outcomes is massive.

The average yardage from first-round receivers outside of the top 10 picks is in the range of 500-600 yards, but he could certainly top that because of the potential opportunity in Minnesota’s pass-heavy offense and his pro-readiness. But if he is closer to the top rookie performers in recent years, the Vikings’ offense could become an unstoppable force.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt