Justin Jefferson Quietly Backing up His Rookie Season

Sep 26, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) catches a pass against the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

It has by no means been a spectacular start to the season for Justin Jefferson. After his record-breaking rookie season, people are waiting on tremendous performances. So far, there has been a steady build in performance level. There have been some drops that he would like to have back but also some outstanding catches. Overall the first two games of the season were good, but not great.

In front of his home fans for the first this past Sunday, he had his best game yet. You can see how much the former LSU Tiger enjoyed his first experience of a packed US Bank Stadium as he was “mic’d up” for the occasion.

That is a man enjoying his football, as we all were this past Sunday. Jefferson caught nine of his eleven targets for 118 yards and a touchdown. As much as Alexander Mattison successfully stepping in for the injured Dalvin Cook was necessary, the Vikings needed Jefferson to up his game.

And he did.

According to Pro Football Focus, he led the way with a grade of 88.5., six points greater than quarterback Kirk Cousins in second place. The route for his touchdown was, frankly, a thing of beauty, perfected from a touchdown pass last season against the Panthers. It was a route that looked impossible for opposing cornerbacks to cover.

Setting a Good Pace

If Jefferson maintains his current pace – and there’s no reason he shouldn’t increase it – he would be looking at over 1400 yards for the season and 11 touchdowns. When I wrote about how Justin Jefferson can climb to a top 5 WR threw weeks back. An increase on his seven touchdowns was the only improvement I could point to. To see him setting the pace to do that with two scores in the first three games is sheer pleasure. It should be three in three as he was called short of a touchdown in the one game he didn’t score (the season opener against the Bengals). It was close and looked like a touchdown from where I was sitting.

Let’s not forget Jefferson was forced to sit out of pre-season due to a sprained AC joint in his shoulder. This could be a factor in why he hasn’t completely exploded out of the blocks this season. By the standards of other mere mortals, he has been terrific. He ranks third in PFF’s grading system for Vikings players through the opening three games of the 2021 season, with a grade of 80.3. Only Danielle Hunter (80.5) and Kirk Cousins (89.1) are graded higher.

The Best Is Yet to Come

It is a testament to how good Jefferson is — I feel there is much more still to come. With Cleveland’s star rookie cornerback Greg Newsome already ruled out for this Sunday’s game. This could be a week for Jefferson to go really big in a favorable matchup. If – and it’s a big if – the Vikings improved offensive line can keep the formidable Browns pass rush at bay.

Jefferson looks to me like a player who will particularly thrive in front of his home supporters. If it’s not this week, it will be another, but some huge outings inside US Bank stadium are indeed on the horizon.