When you think about the best wide receivers in the NFL today, names like Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and DeAndre Hopkins come to mind and rightfully so, but the Minnesota Vikings have a pair of wideouts who have given opposing secondaries fits.
This season, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have been the perfect complement to each other. Thielen finished the regular season with 91 receptions (eighth-best in the league), 1276 yards (fifth-best) and his 20 catches for 20 or more yards tied for fifth-best overall. As for Diggs, he finished with 64 receptions for 849 yards.
Together, Thielen and Diggs accounted for 54 percent of the Vikings' receiving yards this season. They also combined for 12 touchdowns. In the Vikes' miraculous playoff win over the New Orleans Saints, they accounted for 66 percent of the passing game. They have been the safety valves for Case Keenum all season long.
Minnesota offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has the rare luxury of lining up either one of them on the inside or outside on any given play. Both are excellent route runners — whether it's doing deep or intermediate routes or crossing routes, and both are excellent blockers.
So how should Jim Schwartz defend against these two? Some believe help over the top on Thielen and playing single coverage on Diggs is the way to go. We may see that concept occasionally in the NFC Championship Game but I have a feeling Schwartz will come up with some variation we have not seen before. The Eagles are not going to completely shut these two down, but their damage can be minimized. Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson and the other DBs will put in a full day’s work shadowing these two.
The right choice isn't always the easy one. Ultimately, we won't know for some time if the Eagles' tabbing Mike Groh for the job of offensive coordinator over Duce Staley was the correct call. But we know they didn't take the easy way out.
Staley has spent 14 seasons with the Eagles as a player and coach. He's been in charge of the Eagles' running backs since 2013 and even interviewed for the head coaching spot after Chip Kelly was fired following the 2015 season. He has the utmost respect of the guys who have played for him and from the organization. His time coaching in Philadelphia has spanned three head coaches (Andy Reid, Kelly, Doug Pederson). That tells you how the folks in the executive offices feel about him. He would have been the easier choice. He juggled egos and the Eagles' crowded backfield skillfully. He smoothly integrated Jay Ajayi into the Birds' system after a midseason trade.
Duce checked a lot of boxes. But Pederson and the Birds chose to go with Groh, who has been with the club for just one season. (They did, according to a league source, reward Staley with a new title: Assistant head coach/running backs.)
The 46-year-old Groh coached the Eagles' wide receivers last year and is credited with helping Nelson Agholor find his game and confidence. Groh has coached in college and the pros for 18 seasons, including a stint as the offensive coordinator at his alma mater, Virginia. Perhaps that gave him the edge in Pederson's and the team's eyes.
Despite Pederson's calling the plays, the job of offensive coordinator is not just a title. Frank Reich played a huge role game-planning and acting as a sounding board.
Can't imagine Staley is too happy about this development. It will be interesting to see if he chooses to stay or go elsewhere. But if the track record of Pederson and Roseman is any indication, they did a pretty good job putting together the staff that helped them win their first Super Bowl. So they've earned some trust on the hiring end.
Doug Pederson has made his decision.
The Eagles are promoting wide receivers coach Mike Groh to offensive coordinator, a league source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN's Tim McManus first reported the move.
On Monday, Pederson interviewed Groh and running backs coach Duce Staley for the vacant offensive coordinator job after Frank Reich became the Colts' head coach earlier this month.
Groh, 46, just joined the Eagles last offseason, taking over for Greg Lewis. In his first year in Philly, he did a masterful job with the Eagles' receivers and had a bigger role in the offense and game-planning than a typical receivers coach.
There had been a report that Pederson was thinking about not having an official offensive coordinator for the 2018 season. He already calls the plays. But it looks like he saw the value in filling Reich's old spot.
Staley did get a consolation prize though. According to a league source, the longtime Eagle will get a new title of assistant head coach/running backs. Staley has been with the Eagles as a coach since 2011 and has been in his current role as running backs coach since 2013. He has previously expressed interest in moving up the ladder.
When Pederson hired Reich to be his offensive coordinator, he said he was interested in what Reich could bring to the downfield passing game. If that's still important, it would make sense for him to hire a receivers coach with a background as a quarterback over a former running back and running backs coach.
The 2018 staff is starting to come together. Press Taylor is expected to be named the team's quarterbacks coach (filling in for John DeFilippo), Groh is OC and Staley will stay with the running backs. The last shoe to drop appears to be filling Groh's old post of receivers coach.