The Minnesota Vikings as a whole are exceeding expectations. New head coach Kevin O’Connell turned a program around that underachieved in back-to-back seasons and missed the postseason in both campaigns.
The Vikings clinched the NFC North with three games to go and are in a good position to secure the second seed in the NFC. A few Vikings, however, have not met expectations in the season.
The wideout is a Minnesota fan favorite, and it’s not fun to see him losing his abilities. Unfortunately, however, it’s a reality in 2022. In the last few seasons, Thielen was still effective on the field but missed a few games in every season. His hands are still incredible, and he rarely drops a pass, but his athleticism is slowly dwindling, and he can no longer run away from defenders as he used to in his prime. Thielen was a sneaky good athlete in his heyday.
He is also a disaster after the catch. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Thielen records an average of 0.9 yards below expectation after the catch. The Vikings will have to decide after the season about his future.
It would hurt not to see Thielen play for the Vikings, but it may be an intelligent business decision. He’s clearly no longer an above-average No. 2 receiver, and his WR2 status will be in question sooner rather than later. T.J. Hockenson usurped him as the second fiddle in the passing offense.
5 Vikings Have Not Met Expectations in 2022
Irv Smith Jr.
The Vikings tight end was the projected breakout star in back-to-back years but struggled partly because of injuries in both. Smith missed the 2021 season after undergoing meniscus surgery right before the season started. In the 2022 training camp, Smith broke his thumb and had to undergo another surgery, but he was ready at the start of the season.
In Week 7, Smith sprained his ankle and has been on IR since. He could return soon, but his season is still a huge letdown, as he averaged about three catches and 24 yards per game before his ankle injury. The Vikings replaced him by trading for T.J. Hockenson. It’s unlikely he’ll play for the Vikings in 2023 after his rookie contract expires.
Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth
The two top rookies of the 2022 draft class have not made a big impact so far in their careers. Minnesota’s defense desperately needed some youth and some good football players as reinforcements. Booth struggled with injuries in his college career, and once again, he is dealing with injuries. He’s on IR and only played 105 snaps on defense.
Meanwhile, Cine fractured his leg against the Saints in London. The safety played only two defensive snaps and was primarily a special teamer. He could not take the starting spot from Camryn Bynum, and even Josh Metellus started over him when Harrison Smith missed time in Week 3.
Both players disappointed but are far away from deserving the “bust” label, as it’s still early in their careers. They will get a new chance next season, and the coaching staff handpicked them to be future starters, so fans need to stay patient.
The Vikings cornerback was supposed to finally have a career year after landing in Zimmer’s doghouse for a year [for some reason]. Closing in on the end of the campaign, Dantzler is no longer an unquestioned starter, and allegedly getting his confidence back hasn’t changed much.
When he played, he was the weak spot of the defense, and then he missed all but nine games due to injury. During his time on the shelf, the Vikings tried out rookie Akayleb Evans, Andrew Booth, and Duke Shelley.
The most unlikely character of the group to steal his starting job was Shelley, but that was precisely what he has been doing with some excellent play. It’s up in the air if Dantzler will get his job back, and it’s even a bigger question mark if he can win the starting job next season.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt