Vikings wide receiver Laquon Treadwell took a world of criticism after he dropped multiple passes at Green Bay in Week 2, including one that led to an interception in the fourth quarter of an eventual 29-29 tie with the Packers.
But Treadwell didn’t let that game ruin his season and has instead become a reliable third option behind stars Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.
It has been a long road for Treadwell after he was selected No. 23 overall in 2016 out of Mississippi, making him the highest-drafted wideout for the Vikings since Percy Harvin in 2009.
Treadwell said he understands criticism, but he has worked to learn from that negative experience.
“That is part of the game. That’s part of every great athlete or every athlete in any sport gets criticized,” he said. “It’s not about what they say, it’s how you respond. I used that to respond in a better way and use it as more of a motivation factor than anything.”
He added that he actually thinks that fan criticism comes from a good place.
“The fans expect more, want to see more and want to see me more involved. I try my best to do everything to give them what they want and what they expect from me,” he said. “I think it’s just the standard that the fans want to see me play at. I take full accountability of that.”
Approaching career bests
It has taken a while for Treadwell to get involved in the Vikings offense. He only caught one pass as a rookie in 2016, when he was active for nine games.
Last year, he played in all 16 games, catching 20 passes for 200 yards. He has nearly matched that in six games this year, with 19 receptions for 180 yards and his first career touchdown in that tie at Lambeau Field.
Since that Packers game, Treadwell has done a better job securing the ball when it has been thrown to him. Kirk Cousins has targeted him 19 times in the past four games, and Treadwell has caught 15 passes, including all four thrown his way for 38 yards in last week’s 27-17 victory over Arizona.
“I played a fair amount of the game,” he said. “We got the ‘W,’ I did a lot of good things to help the team win, and it was a good game overall for everyone.”
Asked how he has liked working with the tandem of Thielen and Diggs, Treadwell said: “We are working really well. I have been here for quite some time now, three years, and I know it’s all about hard work in this organization. I’m doing a good job of doing that every day and I just continue to learn.”
Thielen enters Sunday’s game at the New York Jets trying to match the NFL record with his sixth consecutive 100-yard receiving game to start the season.
“I think he is a great person, most importantly. He is a great player on and off the field,” Treadwell said of Thielen. “He is doing a lot of things right. He continues to progress every year and every week. I try to do my best to keep him, as much as I can, keep him striving to do better every week.”
Dealing with pressure
Treadwell was the No. 1 receiver in the country when he was a high school senior, and he said he had offers from over 40 collegiate programs before picking Ole Miss.
He was a versatile player.
“I played quarterback, running back, defensive end, safety. I actually got an offer from Alabama to play defensive end coming out of high school,” Treadwell recalled. “I wasn’t that good, but I guess I got an offer because I was talented. I mean I played a lot of positions, quarterback, running back, I probably played every position.”
When he was picked by the Vikings he said he was very surprised, and that surprise turned into pressure that he had to learn how to handle.
“Of course I put a lot of pressure on myself to come in and be a good player,” he said of his first season. “I would say there was a lot of things off the field I needed to get figured out, and now I’m in Year 3 and have piece of mind on the field and an understanding of what’s called of me.
“I mean I’ve always known that, but if I do a better job of handling everything that comes with being a top pick, and that don’t matter when you get in here. It’s more about making the plays and competing every day and staying in the moment.”
At this point in his career, Treadwell is happy to keep learning.
“I think it’s just dealing with the highs and the lows of a career. You work hard to get to a high point, so when you get there — for me, I know what I went through to get to this point of being able to go out and make plays on a consistent basis. So I just keep that in my mind,” he said. “Nothing was given.
“At the end of the day, when I look at those guys like Diggs and Adam, I know no one gave them what they worked for. That gives me the right perspective — you always have to stay hungry, have to continue to work hard and this is a business. Every day, there’s a guy out here trying to actually try and take your job. You have to fight for it every day.”
• Does Mike Zimmer think Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are the best receiving duo he has ever coached? “It’s hard to tell. They’re good, productive players, we’ll wait and let somebody else [say] that.” Meanwhile, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell said one of the things he did not expect from this season was that Thielen would look like “the best wideout in league history.”
• The Vikings set a modern NFL record last year when they allowed only 25.2 percent conversions on third down. Through six weeks this season they have allowed 25.0 percent.
• Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said he knows how lucky this team is to have a backup such as Latavius Murray when Dalvin Cook is hurt. “We have other guys that can make plays,” he said. “I’ve been on teams before where you have one of your legit guys go down, and all of a sudden it’s tough sledding.”
• Former Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson said he feels settled now with the Vikings. “I’ve been battling through that and landed on a good team, a good situation, good family-oriented guys, good coaching staff,” he said. “You can’t really beat it.”
• Eden Prairie football coach Mike Grant on Cole Kramer, who has committed to the Gophers: “He’s as good of a quarterback as you can find in the country, not just the state. He has a great arm, he can run, he’s fast, has great composure. I mean, he has led our team and he is as good as we have seen in Minnesota. I know the Gophers are lucky to have him.”
• Only two players from Minnesota are active in the NBA, Tyus Jones with the Timberwolves and Zach Lofton with the Pistons. Detroit also has Jon Leuer, who is injured, as is the 76ers’ Mike Muscala. Cole Aldrich, Rashad Vaughn and Nate Wolters were on NBA teams last season but are not in the league to start this one, though Vaughn briefly was with the Mavericks in training camp.