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Vikings’ Next Gen Stats and the Cousins to Thielen connection

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One slot to rule them all...

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Next Gen Stats has been rolling out all kinds of interesting new data and it’s a great resource when trying to get a better understanding of the opponent. In this case, the opponent for the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles is the Minnesota Vikings. So what does the data tell us about them?

Cousins’ lack of aggression...

  • AGG%: 12.2% (33rd of 35)
  • Air Yards to Sticks: -2.0 (29th of 35)
  • Air Yards: 6.6 (29th of 35)

Maybe this is a bad omen considering Marcus Mariota was low in all of these categories coming into last week, but Cousins didn’t have a half-numb hand. Instead, he’s had a half-existent line that has put him under insane amounts of pressure.

I don’t blame Cousins for getting the ball out fast and the way the offense is currently constructed, it calls for that to happen. Still, he’s going to have to threaten downfield at some point and it seems like this would be the week to do it.

On the plus side, and unlike Mariota at the time, he ranks in the top five for xCOMP% differential, which points to the accuracy and anticipation with which he’s thrown this year.

The least probable of probabilities possible...

One play that boosted Cousins’ xCOMP% differential was his crazy completion to Adam Thielen in the Vikings Week 2 tilt against the Green Bay Packers. You can place some blame on the secondary for allowing this nonsense to happen, but it shows some excellent concentration by Thielen, who was working an out-and-out double move (oh boy).

Thielen’s marketable market share...

I’m of the opinion that Adam Thielen doesn’t get nearly enough love. A technical, nuanced route runner with sneaky sub-4.50 speed, he’s been super consistent for the Vikings over the last two years plus and is on pace for the biggest statistical season of his career (40-473-2).

An underrated aspect of Thielen’s game is his ability to stretch defenses vertically and make plays downfield. This year he ranks 5th in NFL for Team Air Yards market share (explained below).

“The sum of the receivers total intended air yards (all attempts) over the sum of his team’s total intended air yards. Represented as a percentage, this statistic represents how much of a team’s deep yards does the player account for.”

Thielen leads the Vikings in big plays as a receiver, hauling in 6 passes over 20+ yards this year. Last year he hauled in a team-leading 20 explosive receptions, 6 more than his cohort Stefon Diggs. He’s not doing it against scrubs either, as evidenced by his torching of Washington Redskins’ cornerback Josh Norman last year.

If you’re noticing a theme to this article, congratulations, you cracked the code. The match-up I’m most fascinated with heading into Week 5 is Adam Thielen on Sidney Jones. Thielen’s slot usage is up nearly 20% from last year as he’s spent 65% of his route running snaps operating from that alignment. How Jones fares will tell us a lot about how the secondary fares on Sunday.