Captain Munnerlyn, a Minnesota Viking from 2014 to 2016, believed in Adam Thielen before it was cool.
Munnerlyn became a Thielever while practicing against the former undrafted receiver after the Vikings had picked him up following a rookie tryout session in 2013..
“He’s a guy that when I first got there, I was like, ‘Man, why isn’t this guy playing?’” said Munnerlyn. “He was going out there and making catches against the first-teamers, against us. And it was like, ‘Man, this guy can really play.’”
Munnerlyn is preparing to take the majority of the nickel snaps he normally shares with hybrid linebacker Shaq Thompson on Sunday. Thompson is dealing with what head coach Ron Rivera believes is plantar fasciitis in his foot, and Rivera did not sound optimistic about the chances of Thompson getting activated against Minnesota.
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But it’s a great matchup for Munnerlyn, the smaller and speedier nickel, because the nature of his position lines up well against slot receivers.
“I’m expecting to see (Thielen) and Stefon Diggs a lot,” he said. “Those are my boys. They know how I compete. They know that I’m going to be very physical with them. They know me. I played three years with those guys.”
Thielen has gone from an undrafted no-name to one of the more prolific receivers in the NFL this season. He has 1,056 yards on 74 catches and is averaging 14.3 yards per catch.
Diggs has also drawn some attention this season, with 42 catches for 630 yards.
“He was a fifth-round pick,” said Munnerlyn. “Nobody gave him a chance in the beginning. I’ll never forget, he wasn’t even active the first five weeks of the season when I was up there and he turned it on, man, he got an opportunity. Someone got hurt. And he never looked back.
“I’ll never forget his little tweet he put out, we were messing with him (about it). He’s like, ‘I got my opportunity, I’ll never look back,’ and that’s a true statement. He got his opportunity, and he never looked back.”
Munnerlyn knows the two dynamic receivers well, and he also knows how he’ll play them.
He said disrupting their timing is the most important thing he can do to hinder the production of Diggs and Thielen.
“You have to. You have to knock off their timing,” he said. “You can’t be afraid to get up and press those guys. This league is about timing. Quarterbacks want to hit their back foot and let the ball go, and do different things like that. So you have to knock off their timing, and try to discourage them a little bit at the line of scrimmage.
“And these guys both can run. So you’ve got to be on your p's and q's. You have to keep your eyes on your luggage, I always say, when you play man-to-man, you can’t look off to the quarterback too soon, because if you do, they’re going to go the other way.”