The Beginning:humble beginings
It's September of 2015. The Vikings are fresh off of a 7-9 season under their new Head Coach, Mike Zimmer. The Minnesota Defense went from allowing 30 points per game in 2013, to allowing 21.4, ranked 11th in 2014. The Minnesota identity had begun to shift from a former aerial powerhouse of the 1990's to a much more classic Minnesota look: a hard-nosed defense. Everson Griffen filled the shoes of Jared Allen without hitch, Xavier Rhodes had established himself as a lock-down corner, and the veteran leadership of Harrison Smith and Chad Greenway primed the young defense for another year of growth.
On the other side of the ball, the seemingly never-declining, future Hall-of-Fame running back, Adrian Peterson, was back after a 15 game absence in 2014. But, beyond the ball-carrier, hope/hype was building for the Vikings' passing attack. Teddy Bridgewater, entering his second year, showed all the flashes of a franchise QB that the Vikings had missed for over a decade. Equipped with athletic receivers like Mike Wallace and Cordarrelle Patterson, and the highly-revered Norv Turner running the offense, it seemed that an offensive explosion was inevitable.
It was not to be.
The offense produced a run-heavy attack, and a game-managing and fairly unproductive passing scheme. However, it worked. The Vikings won the NFC North for the first time since Brett Favre pulled one last miracle season out of his pads in 2009. Despite the return of the Vikings kicker curse and an abrupt wild-card exit in the 2015 playoffs, hope was high for a 2016 campaign that would erase the bitter end if 2015. Why? The Vikings knew that they found a receiver. What they didn't know...
They had two.
The Progress: Years' in the making.
Entering the 2016 season, the Vikings were poised for a strong season and a deep playoff run. Stefon Diggs, a 5th round pick a year ago, was primed to be the Vikings star wide-out, the former MVP, Adrian Peterson, was coming off of his third rushing title, and it was to be the year that Teddy Bridgewater finally had the talent around him to take the next step. And then...
August 30th, 2016. Teddy Bridgewater took a practice snap. He dropped back, and then collapsed, screaming in pain. His teammates gathered around him, fraught with concern, some barely able to keep from vomiting. There was no need to wait for an MRI. Teddy was done for the year, and he would maybe never play again. In fact, if it wasn't for the quick thinking of the team's training staff, Teddy could have easily lost his leg (Thankfully he did heal, and is currently playing with the Saints).
The season was two weeks away. The Vikings scrambled, and eventually gave up their 2017 first-round pick, and a conditional 2018 pick in exchange for the very rich journeyman QB, Sam Bradford. Needless to say, the 2016 season did not go as planned. Bradford played well, despite a host of Offensive Line injuries, and the defense held up well, but the season resulted in a .500 record and missing the playoffs.
Though the season did not turn out as planned, it was not without its' bright spots; chief among them is that the Vikings had two receivers who tallied over 900-yards a-piece. To no ones surprise, Stefon Diggs was one of them. To everyone's surprise, Adam Thielen was the other.
Adam Thielen, an undrafted former D-II standout and Detroit Lakes, MN native, who worked his way from barely making the practice squad to starting Wide Receiver in the NFL, burst onto the scene with 967 yards and 5 touchdowns. He lead the team in receiving yards, and Stefon Diggs lead in receptions, with 84.
Despite the great year, Thielen's production was largely seen as a fluke. Diggs' play was viewed as the next step for a budding star, but the humble Thielen was slotted as nothing more than a WR#2 for the 2017 season.
Thielen silenced the doubters in 2017 with 91 receptions for 1276 yards, 5th in the entire league. Diggs chipped in another solid, though incomplete, year with 64 receptions for 849 yards and 8 touchdowns. The exciting play continued into the playoffs, and culminated with the Minneapolis Miracle. A 61-yard play where Case Keenum hit Stefon Diggs for a crazy touchdown that will forever be remembered in the NFL Hall of Fame in the form of Stefon Diggs' cleats.
Even though the Vikings went on to be blown out by the future Super Bowl Champs, the Philadelphia Eagles, in the NFC Championship game, the word was out. The Vikings receivers are for real.
Stefon Diggs And Adam Thielen: How Good Are They?
Immediately following the Minneapolis Miracle, the expectations for Stefon Diggs shot through the roof. Fantasy experts jumped all over it, slating him as a top-10 receiver. He was a regular guest on talk-shows and broadcasts. Adam Thielen, yet again, was projected to regress from his previous mark.
To an extent, the projections made sense. If Stefon Diggs continued to emerge as a start target, how could Adam Thielen continue grow his role?
Answer: John Defilippo and Kirk Cousins.
Losing Pat Shurmur to the New York Giants, and take a pass on locking down Case Keenum after his spectacular and seemingly impossible year, the Vikings went out and bought themselves a proven franchise Quarterback. Kirk Cousins brought the arm, and Defilippo brought the scheme.
Through the 5 games the Vikings have played in the 2018 NFL Season, the Vikings have thrown the ball 226 times (3rd in the NFL) for 161 completions (2nd in the NFL) and 1,688 yards (2nd in the NFL).
Adam Thielen has caught 29.2% of those completions, and Stefon Diggs has caught 23% of them.
Adam Thielen is currently 2nd in the league in receiving yards with 589, and first in the league in receptions with 47. Additionally, he is the only player in the Super Bowl Era to gain 100-yards receiving through each of the first five games of the NFL season.
Stefon Diggs is currently 19th in the league in receiving yards with 402, and tied for 6th (Davante Adams) in the league in receptions with 37. The duo has combined for six TD's, three-a-piece, and are the leading receiving duo in the league. They currently hold a 101-yard lead on the Rams Cooper Kupp and Brandin Cooks in combined yardage, and a 14 reception lead on the Steelers Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster with 84 combined receptions.
This is the best receiving duo in the NFL and, right now, it's not even close.
Between The Numbers: Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs Making History.
If you have ever talked football with a Minnesota Vikings' fan, you probably know that the names Cris Carter and Randy Moss are untouchable. Like Michael Jordan to the NBA or Babe Ruth to Baseball, Carter and Moss are Minnesota's mythical duo. This is justly deserved. And, I will say, that I am in no way contending that Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are the historically better duo. They haven't built the resume for long enough.
That being said...
What Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen have done through the first five games of the NFL season has NEVER been done before by anyone in a Vikings uniform, and as far as I know, has never been done in the NFL. No two WR's have had a start like this.
Cris Carter and Randy Moss's best start was 18 years ago. They combined for 816 yards on 48 receptions, and 5 TD's through the first five games of the 2000 NFL season. So, I decided to take their individual best starts and combine them. Moss, in 2003, tallied 515 yards and 6 TD's on 29 receptions, and Carter in 1994 racked up 418 yards and 3 TD's on 41 receptions through the first five games that year. Combined, that is 933 yards, on 70 receptions and 9 TD's. This falls 58 yards and 14 receptions short of where Diggs and Thielen stand in 2018.
Jerry Rice and Terrelle Owens never had this hot of a start. Julio Jones and Roddy White never had a start like this. Randy Moss and Cris Carter never did. Randy Moss and Wes Welker never did. Demaryius Thomas/Emanuel Sanders, Jordy Nelson/Randall Cobb, Brandin Cooks/Michael Thomas, Rob Gronkowski/Julian Edelman, etc... The only occasion where I have found a WR duo that had more yards through the first five games than Diggs and Thielen is Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald in 2005. But, they still had 14 less receptions.
Now, I can't emphatically say that the Vikings duo is having the best receiving year in the history of the NFL. What I can say, is that they are definitely on pace to do so in both yards and receptions.
Will they slow down? Possibly. Maybe even probably. But, what they have done so far has never been done by any two receivers to ever put on an NFL jersey in the same season. Even if they fall off, what they have done so far is historic and deserves to be viewed as such.