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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Thielen could be in for his toughest test vs. Gilmore

By Matthew Coller

EAGAN, Minn. — If you go through the history of the NFL in the passing era, you won’t find too many better performances through 11 games than Adam Thielen’s 93 receptions for 1,138 yards.

Since 2000, only Julio Jones (94) in 2015 and Marvin Harrison (100) have topped Thielen’s mark for receptions through 11 contests and just 10 players have cleared his current yards mark at this point in the year (per Pro-Football Reference).

But Thielen’s one down statistical game, a four-catch, 22-yard performance against Detroit, came without fellow top-notch receiver Stefon Diggs in the lineup.

Diggs’ status is unclear for Sunday’s matchup with the New England Patriots. He has missed Wednesday and Thursday’s practices with a knee injury.

That could leave Thielen to face off with the Patriots’ shutdown corner Stephon Gilmore.

This year the former first-round pick of the Buffalo Bills has given up just 27 receptions on 61 targets and a quarterback rating against of 70.9, per Pro Football Focus. His rating against ranks 11th in the NFL and he is graded by PFF as the second best corner in the league.

We won’t find out until Sunday whether Gilmore will shadow Thielen or if Patriots coach Bill Belichick has something else in mind, but Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday that Belichick’s strength is taking away the opponent’s top weapon.

“He’s going to try to take your best players away all the time,” Zimmer said. “He’s going to try to exploit your weaknesses best he possibly can. He does a great job in everything as well. I have a lot of respect for him and the fact that his teams are extremely disciplined. They don’t beat themselves. To be able to maintain the success that they’ve had year in and year out, different.”

Thielen hasn’t seen many of the NFL’s best DBs this year one-on-one, in part because he lines up so often in the slot.

Last week, Thielen lit up young corner Jaire Alexander, who has been a rising star for the Packers. Thielen caught four passes on five targets for 88 yards (per PFF). The Saints did not use top corner Marshon Lattimore on Thielen, instead allowing him to have a huge day against PJ Williams and Eli Apple. When the Vikings went against Patrick Peterson, he shadowed Diggs. The Bills used Tre’Davius White against Diggs as well.

The Vikings’ other weapons have been hot and cold this year. Tight end Kyle Rudolph grabbed seven passes last week after only making nine receptions over the previous four weeks and running Dalvin Cook picked up 47 yards through the air on three catches against Green Bay, but was shut down the previous week by the Bears.

“I think [Belichick is] big on understanding our personnel – each guy from one to 53,” Zimmer said. “Then trying to figure out, ‘How we can beat this one particular one and how can we scheme it all together?’”

The post Thielen could be in for his toughest test vs. Gilmore appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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