Stefon Diggs: Minnesota Vikings 'expected' breakout year for Adam Thielen

Dec. 17 (UPI) — Stefon Diggs considers Adam Thielen a brother of his, so it was no surprise to him to see the fellow Minnesota Vikings wide receiver breakout in 2017.

“Thats a brother of mine,” Diggs told UPI. “Of course, you expect high things from your brother. Especially when everybody else didn’t know Adam. We, the team, we’ve known Adam for awhile and his commitment to the game. We know he’s one of the guys you can count on. So as far as expecting, yeah we did expect it. We knew what he was capable of doing. It’s no surprise to our team.”

While the Vikings have had the luxury of watching Thielen behind closed doors, football fans have been delighted about his emergence.

Thielen is a bonafide No. 1 wide receiver, perfectly complimenting the lightning-fast Diggs. He had 967 yards and five scores on 69 receptions in 2016.

This season, the Minnesota State and Detroit Lakes High School (Minn.) product has 1,161 yards and four scores on 80 receptions.

Thielen was an undrafted college free agent, while Diggs was picked up in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Maryland.

“When guys aren’t respecting you on the field, are smacking talking you and downplaying you, I think that kind of brings that dog out in you,” Thielen told earlier this month.

Diggs is also closing in on 1,000 yards this season. He has 48 grabs for 694 yards and five scores. He has also played in two fewer games than Thielen in 2017.

“I don’t know, the stars align the way they are supposed to,” Diggs said of Thielen. “He got the opportunity and is taking full advantage. So it’s kind of one of those things that worked itself out. When you put the time in and grind, it kind of handles itself. It all paid off for him.”

Diggs paid off for the Vikings in Week 1, cashing in for 93 yards and two touchdowns in a Monday Night Football victory over the New Orleans Saints.

He is now serving as an NFL Style Ambassador, joining New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard.

Diggs described the opportunity as a blessing.

“It means a lot, especially considering the fact that I’m into fashion,” Diggs said. “I’m into that whole thing of wearing what you want and dressing comfortable. This opportunity kind of fell into my lap. It was a blessing. Sometimes things just happen the way they are supposed to and this is one of those times. God made it for me, so it’s definitely something that I embrace and I’m happy to be a part of.”

Shepard and Diggs will be the face of the new men’s NFL apparel collection. They want to encourage fans to express fandom everyday.

“Just making people aware more than anything,” Diggs said. “You can rock your team apparel and feel comfortable without worrying about it.”

Vikings fans have likely been worried a time or two when it came to quarterback play in the last few years. A revolving door of Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford and Case Keenum has now stopped at Keenum.

And the 29-year-old is baring a light of optimism.

Keenum has responded to the assignment by completing a career-best 66.8 percent of his passes for 2,983 yards, 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

“I knew a little bit about his story before he got here,” Thielen said of Keenum last week in an interview with “Very relatable. Obviously, going undrafted, kind of worked for everything. Never got anything handed to him. You kind of appreciate guys that make it the hard way.”

The sixth-year journeyman was the NFC Player of the Month in November.

“I have confidence in him, as far as what he can do, never been a second guess or anything like that,” Diggs said. “He was the second string quarterback, but he’s been a starter before. He has our respect and confidence so him going out there and slinging the ball around is no surprise.”

Keenum told reporters Wednesday that the Vikings are reenergized and refocussed, following a 31-24 loss in Week 14 to the Carolina Panthers. The loss was the Vikings’ first since Oct. 1.

“I think we all looked at how we prepared last week,” said Keenum, who is 8-3 as a starter this season. “Anytime you aren’t successful, you look at ‘how can we do better?’ Really this week, we have to do better. I think guys are refocussed and I think we are reenergized and I think we are already back at work and playing hard. Looking forward to coming back and playing at home.”

The Vikings host the Cincinnati Bengals at 1 p.m. Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium. Minnesota can clinch the NFC North win a victory. Beyond that, the Vikings will face the Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay Packers in Week 16 and the Chicago Bears – another NFC North foe – in Week 17.

“We need to beat Cincinnati,” Diggs said. “Thats the first thing we need to do. After that, ill let you know.”

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