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Will Vikings Soon Have A Justin Jefferson Problem?

  • The Draft Network
  • December 31, 2021
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The Minnesota Vikings are quickly inching toward yet another lost campaign. The Vikings enter Sunday's primetime contest against the surging Green Bay Packers with just a 13% chance of qualifying for the postseason. A defeat at the hands of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers would plummet Minnesota's playoff chances to a grim 3%. With starting quarterback Kirk Cousins now set to miss the crucial showdown due to COVID-related protocols, Minnesota's chances of upsetting the Packers just dropped significantly. In a less-than-ideal situation, backup quarterback Sean Mannion is expected to start in Cousins’ place. A defeat would guarantee Minnesota's second consecutive losing season.

The Vikings, unfortunately, have issues that extend far beyond a disappointing lack of team success over the past two seasons. Star receiver Justin Jefferson vehemently voiced frustration with Minnesota's lack of energy and red-zone play-calling in their Week 16 home loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The defeat delivered a significant blow to Minnesota's playoff chances and Jefferson sounded off at the conclusion of the contest.

"I think we should be more aggressive when we get down there,” Jefferson said. "I’m not the one calling the plays. I felt like after the first half we had a little bit more energy than what we came out with."

Jefferson reportedly hasn't spoken with head coach Mike Zimmer since. Jefferson's frustration is easy to understand. The Vikings scored only two touchdowns on five red-zone trips against the Rams, with Jefferson getting just one target inside the 20. It's a frustrating lack of usage inside the crucial red area for one of the league's brightest young stars. 

The former LSU standout entered the pro ranks as a winner, having played a crucial role in LSU's historic undefeated season in 2019 that resulted in just the second undefeated championship in the College Football Playoff era. Jefferson has found life considerably more difficult since being drafted by the Vikings. Despite Jefferson's overwhelming amount of individual success, he's yet to play a single game while enjoying a record above .500. It pales in comparison to the comforts he became familiar with in Baton Rouge.

Vikings fans may be reminded of former star receiver Stefon Diggs voicing similar frustrations and displeasures before his situation reached a boiling point and ended with a messy breakup that saw him get traded to the Buffalo Bills. Drawing similarities between the two occurrences may come rather easy to concerned Minnesota fans, but Jefferson's situation is far from reaching that level of dysfunction. The parallels are worth noting, however, and impossible to ignore.

The future direction of the Vikings franchise hangs in the balance. A defeat at the hands of their arch-nemesis Packers on Sunday would nearly eliminate them from playoff contention. It reflects poorly on Zimmer, who's been in charge since 2014. Perhaps things have gotten stale in Minnesota and a change may be warranted. Cousins will enter the final year of a large two-year extension in 2022, but will almost certainly remain under center due to the difficult logistics his contract entails from a salary cap perspective. Cousins will turn 34 in 2022, however, and is no longer viewed as the long-term solution at quarterback. Change is undeniably afloat in Minnesota, but Vikings fans can rest easy. Jefferson is part of the solution, not the problem.

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