Vikings

What Does the Jalen Reagor Trade Mean For Minnesota's Offense?

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday afternoon, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and the Minnesota Vikings traded for Jalen Reagor, the Philadelphia Eagels’ former first-round pick in 2020. Have you ever heard that once upon a time, Reagor was picked directly in front of Justin Jefferson? Of course you have, because no one loves beating you over the head with the same information more than the football world.

Speaking of which, have you ever heard that Adam Thielen is from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota?

I digress.

Eagles fans will tell you that Reagor is much ado about nothing after two seasons. He didn’t come close to meeting expectations. But Minnesota’s decision to trade for him generates a lot of intrigue. On the surface, Reagor doesn’t appear to be much more than the starting punt returner and WR4. But when you look back on Kevin O’Connell and Sean McVay’s recent history, Reagor’s role in Minnesota could be larger than initially anticipated.

Last November, the Los Angeles Rams offense was humming with Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Van Jefferson. The Rams were leading the NFL in 11-personnel (one running back, one tight end, and three wide receivers) when they decided to sign free-agent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

How did the Rams seal the deal for Beckham? McVay and O’Connell planned to get more receivers on the field and create more mismatch opportunities for the offense.

Unfortunately for the Rams, this plan never came to fruition. Beckham signed in LA, but Woods tore his ACL the following day at practice.

It should go without saying, but Reagor isn’t the same caliber player as Beckham. Few receivers are. But, similar to OBJ’s arrival in Los Angeles last year, Reagor’s presence allows O’Connell to dive back into the 10-personnel concepts that the Rams never got to use once Woods went down for the year.

The best part about Reagor unlocking 10-personnel opportunities for Minnesota? The rest of the NFL never saw the LA’s big ideas with their 10-personnel concepts, giving O’Connell and the Vikings a tremendous advantage.

Reagor’s horizontal ability in the jet game also makes Reagor interesting for this particular scheme. He has displayed good burst when getting out on the edge, and his skill set as a returner indicates that he’s a dynamic player with the ball in space.

To maximize The Illusion of Complexity, players like Reagor can force defenses to account for the horizontal threat in the jet game. It also presents him with an opportunity to win against favorable coverages, which could make him an extremely impactful role player. Simply put, if and when opposing defenses load up on Jefferson or Thielen, they’re essentially daring the offense for someone else to beat them.

The production wasn’t there for Reagor in Philadelphia with Carson Wentz (72.8 passer rating in 2020) and Jalen Hurts (87.2 passer rating in 2021) as his quarterbacks. However, he will now slide into a WR4 role for a team that figures to be one of the most prolific passing offenses in the NFL this year.

Last but certainly not least, Reagor provides a pretty solid insurance policy for Minnesota’s receiving corps. After all, Thielen just turned 32 in August, and he’s missed 11 games since 2019.

The offense took a considerable step back with Thielen on the sidelines from Week 13 to 18 last season. In the four games with little to no Thielen to close last season, Kirk Cousins‘ passer rating dipped to 90.8. That includes a 142.0 passer rating in Week 18 against the Chicago Bears in what will forever be remembered as the game where Mike Zimmer refused to allow Jefferson to break Randy Moss‘ franchise receiving record.

If you remove that Week 18 Bears game from the sample, Cousins’ passer rating without Thielen dips to 77.3.

Even though it wasn’t part of the original plan, OBJ allowed the Rams to continue to use 11-personnel last season. Reagor can help the Vikings continue to live in 11-personnel if one of their top three wideouts is forced to miss time at any point throughout the year. And if all four of their top wideouts are healthy and active for most of the season? I wouldn’t be surprised if the Vikings found themselves near the top of the league in 10-personnel rate in 2022.

Last season, the Arizona Cardinals (13%), New York Jets (8%), and Buffalo Bills (7%) were the top three in 10-personnel frequency. That alone should tell you that it won’t necessarily be an extensive component of the offense. But after McVay, O’Connell, and the Rams never had an opportunity to roll out their desired 10-personnel concepts; one should expect O’Connell to take this blueprint for an occasional spin with the Vikings and Jefferson, Thielen, Osborn, and Reagor.

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