The Minnesota Vikings may have a sleeper on their hands in wide receiver Adam Thielen. The Minnesota State, Mankato alum has been making quite the case for himself as to why he should be seeing more playing time heading into the 2016 season. The first two preseason games have had Thielen’s fingerprints all over, as the 26-year-old is definitely vying for perhaps even a starting spot.
Thielen started with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2013 and was relegated to the practice squad. He would not get another shot at making the pro level until 2014, where he started to impress the coaches with his work ethic and talent.
Inch-by-inch, he worked his way into the team rotations and became an important part of the special teams unit. His first scoring touchdown came late in the 2014 season against the Carolina Panthers when he blocked a punt and returned it for a score. Dreary eyes became opened ones after that single play.
While he started to carve out his place on special teams, Thielen’s main positon is playing wide receiver in which he did not get a lot of looks at in his first year on the field. Once the 2014 season came to a close, he racked up just eight receptions for 134 yards with one touchdown. He averaged a whopping 17.1 yards per reception.
His 2014 campaign may have saw him participate in all 16 games, but 2015 did not quite have the same results. Thielen did not start in any games and appeared in only 11, while gathering nine receptions and 116 yards with no scores.
A lot of the opportunities Thielen has received on the field with the Vikings have stemmed from injuries and he was able to fill that void. With the Vikings staying relatively healthy last year, it makes sense that he didn’t see much of an increase in his play time. As the 2016 season progresses, it seems injuries may once again come into play for Thielen.
Fellow wide receiver Jarius Wright has been a Viking a year longer than Thielen and heading into this year it seemed like Wright could be a solid option for the third spot on the depth chart for receivers. Unfortunately, Wright has suffered an injury to his leg which has caused him to miss time not only in practices but in the team’s first two preseason games.
Taking his place has been Thielen, who has used the increased reps to show why he should be upgraded on the depth chart. In the preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, Thielen caught only one ball for 22 yards but that catch ended up setting up the Vikings’ first touchdown of the night.
In the following game against the Seattle Seahawks, Thielen stood out as he led all receivers for the game. He snagged four catches for 61 yards with an average of just over 15 yards per catch. What stands out even more than the numbers are three of the six times he was targeted in the game came on third down. He was able to haul in two of those three chances.
For an up-and-coming receiver it is always a positive thing when the quarterback is looking their way and giving them a chance at for catches, but it is even better when the quarterback is trusting a receiver with passes on crucial plays such as converting a third down.
Thielen’s path to becoming a starter for the Minnesota Vikings is closer to becoming a reality than it has ever been predicted to be. However, it could still come down to what happens with Wright. If Wright can come back and produce the same way he has the past few seasons, it could still be a battle for playing time for Thielen.
Nonetheless, if there is one thing that Thielen has shown time-and-time again, it is the fact battling for a spot will not deter him from giving 100 percent effort while Maverick fans across Minnesota will be rooting for him to keep climbing the ladder on the Vikings’ roster.