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Vikings offensive arsenal among the NFL’s best

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That’s what our friend Bill Barnwell tells us, anyway

NFL: DEC 16 Dolphins at Vikings Photo by Rich Gabrielson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s hard to deny that the Minnesota Vikings have some pretty talented players on the offensive side of the football, and quite possibly the best wide receiver duo in the league in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Our friend Bill Barnwell echoes those sentiments in his recent piece on ESPN ranking the offensive “arsenals” in the National Football League from best to worst.

Minnesota’s offensive personnel checks in on this year’s list at the same spot they did on last year’s, at #5 in the NFL. Here’s what he had to say about them:

How far can two star wide receivers take you? The Vikings have the best one-two punch in the game with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, and though the eight consecutive 100-yard games Thielen posted to start the 2018 season probably won’t pop up again this season, the 28-year-old has topped his receiving yardage total four consecutive times. Mike Zimmer still insists on Minnesota running the football -- a curious emphasis given that the Vikes have these two wideouts and are paying their quarterback $28 million per season -- but don’t bet against Thielen making it five in a row.

The Vikings were able to bring back Kyle Rudolph on a restructured deal and drafted Irv Smith Jr., though the Alabama product will likely be a part-time player until Rudolph eventually moves on. Rudolph’s injury concerns have faded, as the Notre Dame product hasn’t missed a game in four years. We can’t say the same about Dalvin Cook, who has missed 17 games in two NFL seasons. If Cook can’t stay healthy, the Vikings would have to turn to rookie third-round pick Alexander Mattison as their starting back.

First off, I didn’t realize that about Thielen’s receiving yardage. . .though I probably should have. . .but Barnwell is right. Here’s what Thielen has done every year in terms of receiving yardage:

  • 2014: 137 yards
  • 2015: 144 yards (a small increase, but an increase nonetheless)
  • 2016: 967 yards
  • 2017: 1,276 yards
  • 2018: 1,373 yards

He’s capable of doing it again, but it’s going to take a heck of a performance to make that happen. I thought that Diggs had increased his total each year as well, but he actually had less yardage in 2017 than he did in 2016, so that’s not the case.

While Barnwell admits that his rankings do lean heavily towards wide receivers, saying as much in the introduction to the piece, I can’t help but think that the Vikings’ spot in these rankings could fall. . .or even rise. . .based on the health of Dalvin Cook. I know that’s something that we’ve been preaching all offseason to this point, but it can’t be overemphasized. This offense is just different with Dalvin Cook lining up next to or behind Kirk Cousins. We don’t know if Alexander Mattison is capable of carrying the load in the Minnesota backfield. But, with all due respect to him and his abilities, I’d rather we wait a while to find out.

We know that the Vikings have the talent to make a run in 2019. Are they going to be able to get it done? I damn sure hope so.