The impact wide receiver Justin Jefferson has made thus far for the Minnesota Vikings has been nothing short of miraculous as one of the game’s most dominant perimeter talents.
Jefferson totaled more than 3,000 receiving yards in just 31 games played or 91.4 yards per game. That’s good for second all-time at his current pace. While the names surrounding him in Julio Jones (1st—91.9) and Calvin Johnson (3rd—86.1) each played a massive amount of more NFL snaps, there’s no reason to believe Jefferson has reached his performance ceiling at just 22 years old.
Although Kirk Cousins is back in the saddle, Jefferson remains the hefty straw that stirs the drink that is the Vikings’ offense. While many will argue it’s running back Dalvin Cook, it’s a fallacy, and it would suffice to say that Jefferson’s continued improvement could provide the stepping stool Minnesota needs if they plan on overtaking the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North this fall.
When it comes to a talent like the former LSU standout who, despite playing a position where his numbers directly correlate due to another individual’s production, has become as ‘go-to’ of a target as we’ve seen in recent memory. No matter the down and distance, or the matchup, feeding Jefferson has become a weekly ‘to-do’. And as the old adage goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and Jefferson’s 292 targets in two seasons is a gaudy number that will only increase as his rapport grows with Cousins and the game—frighteningly—continually slows down to his tempo on the perimeter.
What makes his 2022 campaign—and onward—so intriguing has been the arrival of head coach Kevin O’Connell, who also spent time in the league as a quarterback himself. Working in tandem with offensive coordinator Wes Phillips—also a former quarterback—the onus on the two newest Vikings hirings to pump their young superstar with targets will remain paramount if Minnesota hopes to punch its ticket to the postseason.
O’Connell—a product of the McVay tree, if you will, after spending time with the Super Bowl-winning head coach in Washington and Los Angeles—has inserted a modern process into the Minnesota offense that hasn’t been there in years past. A young, charismatic, attention-to-detail bench boss with equilibrium centered around the offense, Jefferson is his kingpin, and O’Connell understands the cogs revolve around No. 18.
The quarterbacks coach for Cousins during their time in the nation’s capital, the rapport between the two has only grown this summer. A 2021 campaign that saw Cousins toss for 33 touchdowns compared to just seven interceptions, meshing the soon-to-be 34-year-old quarterback with his Ferrari on the perimeter should see the Vikings reach their performance ceiling this fall.
In a day and age where teams’ aerial attacks hold the key to the overall success on the offensive side of the football, touting a talent like Jefferson as a puzzle piece for O’Connell to jigsaw should elevate Minnesota in 2022. As good as Justin Jefferson has been in his first two campaigns, O’Connell’s leadership and experience from the eyes of a signal-caller could see the All-World wideout get even better in year three.
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