Julio to the Titans Bumps Vikings WR Duo Down the Rankings, a Bit

Justin Jefferson / Adam Thielen
Sep 27, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) celebrates his touchdown with wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) in the second quarter against the Tennessee Titans at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

After about a month’s worth of foreplay, Julio Jones was finally dealt elsewhere, landing with the Tennessee Titans after a 10-year stint with the Atlanta Falcons. Jones was a mainstay in Atlanta, leading the NFL in receiving yards from the moment he was drafted until his exodus to Tennessee last weekend.

His injection into the Titans offense adds instant excitement and legitimacy — to a unit that arguably didn’t need much of an upgrade. Since Ryan Tannehill took over as the quarterback in 2019, the Titans have averaged 28 points per game or fifth-most in the NFL, just ahead of the Green Bay Packers.

Jones joins A.J. Brown on the Titans a depth chart, giving birth to a high-octane one-two tandem. So much so that the Minnesota Vikings esteemed combination of Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen slid down the NFL rankings one notch.

Bleacher Report nudged the Vikings duo of Jefferson and Thielen to #5 in the NFL for top receiving duos. The Jones-Brown doublet rose to #2, only trailing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers twosome of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

Here’s what Maurice Moton of Bleacher Report said about the Vikings pass-catchers:

“Last offseason, the Minnesota Vikings traded Stefon Diggs and may have added another star on a much cheaper contract. In the first round of the 2020 draft, the front office selected Justin Jefferson, who had a legitimate case for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Jefferson caught 88 passes for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns with a 70.4 percent catch rate. He holds the all-time rookie record in receiving yards. Even more impressively, the LSU product posted those numbers in an offense that ranked 27th in pass attempts with an established two-time Pro Bowl wideout on the opposite side of the field. Jefferson’s strong year propelled the Vikings’ duo onto the receiver radar, though Adam Thielen had a solid bounce-back campaign after he missed six outings in 2019. The eighth-year veteran ranked third in touchdown receptions (14) in 2020. For the upcoming campaign, Jefferson and Thielen could clear the 1,100-yard mark. Quarterback Kirk Cousins may also have more incentive to show off his arm with a new offensive coordinator (Klint Kubiak) and rookie third-rounder Kellen Mond behind him on the depth chart.”

Between the Vikings and Titans are D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett of the Seattle Seahawks at #3 and Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb from the Dallas Cowboys at #2.

Missing from the Vikings compared to the only teams in the Top 5? A notable WR3. The Buccaneers have a couple with Antonio Brown and Scott Miller. The Titans signed Josh Reynolds from the Los Angeles Rams this offseason in free agency. Seattle will immediately audition rookie D’Wayne Eskridge. And the Cowboys employ Michael Gallup, a talented young wide receiver.

The Vikings have Chad Beebe and Olabisi Johnson. This “problem” is nothing new, though. Under head coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings notoriously use an “oh well” strategy at WR3, instead utilizing halfback Dalvin Cook out of the backfield, splitting targets between two tight ends as a WR3-like solution, or simply not caring about the importance of WR3. The last part is interpretive.

Should the Vikings seek to finally use a WR3 that has name recognition, well, Dede Westbrook, Golden Tate, and Larry Fitzgerald are available. Rumors are circulating, too, that Jamison Crowder — a teammate of quarterback Kirk Cousins from the Washington days — will be available before too long.

If no Crowder, Westbrook, Tate, or Fitzgerald, then Minnesota will lean heavily on Jefferson and Thielen — a gameplan that is nothing new for Vikings fans.