Ihmir Smith-Marsette Can Replicate KJ Osborn’s Sophomore Season in 2022

Jan 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota Vikings rookie wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette went through the ups and downs In his first season.

The 5th round draft pick was a player I had high hopes for from day one. Such was the way of the Mike Zimmer incarnation of the Minnesota Vikings. There wasn’t much chance for a rookie wide receiver who was fifth on the depth chart because Zimmer didn’t seem to have much time for rookies. His early-season opportunity came when he was named the starting kick returner for the Week 1 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. Thus, he had four returns in the opening three games for 83 yards at an average of 20.8 yards.

A toe injury caused Smith-Marsette to miss the next two games, and eventually, Kene Nwangwu would secure the starting kick returners’ spot with a pair of touchdowns. That would leave Smith-Marsette having to fight for a place on the offense to secure any playing time. He caught his first catch in the Week 8 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. It was then five weeks before he suited up for another game and a further week before he saw another target in the passing game. 

In Week 15 at Soldier Field, he caught one of his two targets for seven yards and his first NFL touchdown. Then, the following week, he was a healthy scratch. He suited up at Lambeau Field in Week 17 but didn’t garner a single target. Finally, in the season finale at home against the Chicago Bears, Ihmir Smith-Marsette had his breakout game. He caught three passes from three targets for 103 yards and a touchdown at a huge 34.33 yards per reception. 

The important thing about this game was that Smith-Marsette was used in the role he should have going forward — the deep threat option. He has the speed to leave defensive backs behind on deep routes. Whoever comes in and takes charge of this team has a weapon that should be utilized often. The threat of the big play is important for many reasons, such as keeping defenses honest. Justin Jefferson and KJ Osborn are capable of a big play, but both do a lot of their beat work, beating defenders on the route and then yards after the catch.

Ihmir Smith-Marsette’s speed and ability to win on the deep routes as a genuine deep ball threat make him unique in the Vikings offense. It was something that had been noticeably missing. The next head coach should make it a staple of the Vikings offense moving forward, which may lead to us seeing more touchdowns as we did on the final day of this season.

KJ Osborn surprised everyone this season with his performances. I don’t think anyone saw a 655 yards and seven touchdowns season coming. Hopefully, with consistent involvement from the start of the season and avoidance of injury, these are the sort of numbers Ihmir Smith-Marsette should be looking to emulate. Having finished his rookie season strongly, he will carry more expectation and pressure on his shoulders than Osborn had. Adam Thielen isn’t getting any younger, which gives Smith-Marsette and Osborn the chance to stake their claims — to becoming the future at the wide receiver position alongside Justin Jefferson.

With the significant milestones of the first touchdown and first 100-yard game already under his belt. That gives him a good platform to build off in year two. He is an exciting player who I believed offered something different to the Vikings offense — speed and a big-play threat over the top, although it took a long time to finally se. Eventually, we did. Hopefully, under new coaching, he will thrive next season.