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The Vikings need to improve their passing attack and Laquon Treadwell could be the difference maker. Daniel House breaks down his film from Ole Miss and justifies his fit within the Vikings' offensive scheme.
Updated: June 8th, 2016 2:35pm
Updated: June 8th, 2016 2:35pm
By: Daniel House
By: Daniel House
When the Vikings selected Laquon Treadwell with the 23rd pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, they added a weapon that can improve their passing game. Last season, the Vikings ranked 31st in passing offense among the 32 NFL teams. Not to mention, the Vikings had the sixth-worst red zone touchdown scoring percentage in 2015. The combination of poor offensive line play and limited weapons contributed to their struggles offensively. The obvious goal entering the offseason was to address this glaring weakness within the offense. Laquon Treadwell is the perfect option to improve the Vikings passing game, along with their weak red zone offense.
Treadwell was the all-time leading pass catcher in Ole Miss history with 202 career receptions (seventh-most in SEC history) in three seasons. He finished his career ranked third in school history with 2,393 receiving yards, third with 21 touchdown catches and tied for second with nine career 100-yard receiving games.
He suffered a broken fibula in 2014 and it was a long and difficult road back for Treadwell who felt he wasn't at full strength until week five of last season at Ole Miss. As the season progressed, one could see Treadwell mold back into the player he was in 2013 before he suffered the debilitating injury.
In what ways will Laquon Treadwell improve the overall success of the Vikings' offense? I broke down some of his tape and took a look at how he'll fit in the scheme.
Laquon Treadwell is excellent at getting open in the red zone and winning physical battles that require him to high point the football. The below example shows his ability to shield the defender and high point the ball over the top of the defensive back. He is physical and not afraid to throw his body around to make a tough play in traffic. The Vikings didn't call many of these plays last season and when they did, the contested catch battle wasn't won.
Here is an example of Treadwell winning off the line of scrimmage and shielding himself away from the defender. He didn't even need to battle for the ball, which is actually his speciality. He won't get this type of separation in the NFL, but he has the ball skills and physicality to win the battle against press coverage. The above example really illustrates this superior trait Treadwell has in his game.
The Fade with Last Year's Vikings
The Vikings love to run this fade play and did so several times last season. Many times they were unsuccessful because they lacked solid resources at the wide receiver position. In fact, the play calling often favored short passing or running the ball in the red zone. This instance is an example of Stefon Diggs' beautiful footwork at the line of scrimmage and an extremely accurate touch pass by Teddy Bridgewater. Teams eventually figured out how to defend this play against Diggs and the Vikings didn't really have any threats to make a play like this by the end of the season. However, as we've seen throughout the Laquon Treadwell film examples, this is a play he can make with ease. Additionally, he can haul in tougher catches when he is forced to play physical. There was no better receiver in this draft class at making difficult catches in traffic. Treadwell will give the Vikings a weapon to improve their red zone efficiency rates. Not to mention, this is a route Treadwell ran consistently at Ole Miss. I watched a significant amount of his tape and many of the route combinations are going to transition nicely to the Vikings' offense.
Again, I found another example of a play that the Vikings couldn't execute last year. This might not be the best decision by Bridgewater as he steps into a collapsed pocket, but this is a ball that he can throw confidently next year. Treadwell is known for making these type of catches. Stefon Diggs just doesn't have the size or physicality to handle this play. In order for Bridgewater to take the next step, he will need to have some faith in his receivers to win 50/50 battles. Treadwell will be the perfect player to boost Bridgewater's confidence in these situations.
Shield the defender, win the battle
Below is another example of how well Laquon Treadwell plays in the red zone. The Vikings need to convert in the red zone if they want their offense to take the next step. Bridgewater must have the confidence and resources to sling a pass like this. Having a wide receiver like Treadwell and an improved offensive line should allow him to step into his throws, improve his mechanics, and play more consistent. All of that will lead to improved performance in the red zone. Last year, the Vikings far too frequently settled for field goals and that definitely has to change. Treadwell knows how to get open and uses his physicality to make plays after the catch. This will be a huge asset not only in the red zone, but across the playing field. His success and dependability running intermediate routes such as slants is a nice addition to this offense as well.
The main theme I've been coming back to in this breakdown is the physicality and ball skills of Laquon Treadwell. The example below shows how relentless Treadwell is in the passing game. He uses his frame to shield the defender and make a nice play after the catch. A quarterback can throw a pass in traffic towards Treadwell and he'll come down with it. Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly had so much confidence in Treadwell by season's end that he could throw the pass into tight spaces and Laquon would make a play on the ball. He won't blow you away with speed, but he has the finesse and physicality to make the really tough plays.
Screen me, Norv
Anyone who has watched Vikings football since Norv Turner joined the team knows he loves to run the bubble screen to his wide receivers. Jarius Wright and even Stefon Diggs ran this bubble screen at least once or twice per game last year. The good news is, Laquon Treadwell was so good at this play at Ole Miss. He is so tough to bring down after the catch and has the ability to run through defenders. Treadwell has a fearless personality after the catch and is fantastic when he gets a head of steam going.
Look at the mirror image of this play as Jarius Wright scored the game-winning touchdown against the Jets in 2014. Treadwell can run this play and pick up some tough yardage after the catch. Treadwell won't be a burning vertical threat, but can still make tough plays up the field. Aside from that, there isn't a route he can't run effectively in the Vikings' offensive scheme. Many analysts have gotten caught up in his poor combine numbers, but GM Rick Spielman isn't lying when he says Treadwell plays faster on tape. After all the games I've watched, I'm confident he can be the all-around package as a big-frame wide receiver for the Vikings.
This is my final in-game clip of Laquon Treadwell. In this example, he is willing to draw contact between two defenders as he hauls in a tough touchdown grab. Treadwell again puts his physicality and fearless playing style on display. He can make any tough catch in traffic you need him to make. The 50/50 balls the Vikings couldn't complete won't be an issue this season. Not to mention, Teddy can have more confidence to throw passes into tight windows with a receiver like Treadwell.
Finally, Laquon Treadwell has such a strong work ethic and really works to improve his game. He has been training with David Robinson recently during his off time. This video shows Treadwell working on his hands and hauling in passes. It is a pretty impressive sequence as he makes a series of catches while laying on his back.
— David Robinson (@drobsports1) June 4, 2016Conclusion
Treadwell is very motivated to show those who doubted him that he can be a complete wide receiver at the NFL level. Anyone who has worked with Laquon at any level continues to discuss the type of player the Vikings added to their roster. Without a poor combine, he could have easily been a top-ten pick. However, his injury and prolonged recovery worried some teams as he made the transition to the NFL. After watching Laquon's games at Ole Miss since 2013, I have made a few observations as he joins this team. The first being that Laquon is extremely physical and successful when a 50/50 battle is unleashed. He is willing to put his body on the line to make a play. Secondly, his ability to make plays after the catch is underrated. Treadwell gets a head of steam and is hard to wrap up with his large frame. Finally, his success with intermediate routes (slants, crossers) is really impressive. He can shield his body and get excellent position in alignment with the defensive back. Treadwell does have some problems with passes that really require him to focus. He had a significant amount of drops on those type of passes. Additionally, he won't take the top off the defense with speed, but will physically and methodically win battles over the top by using his frame/physicality to his advantage. He has so many unique attributes in his playing style that this type of flaw can be compensated for. However, the coaches will need to use quick passing to eventually set up chances down the field for Treadwell and Stefon Diggs. This starts by running more shotgun looks that allow Teddy Bridgewater to excel in the pocket. That means Adrian Peterson will either need to improve out of the shotgun or Jerick McKinnon will need to take more snaps on passing downs.
I'll break down the steps needed in order to improve the offensive balance in a future post coming soon!