Jefferson Reignites Rivalry with Chase

Never Played in the Playoffs
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In 2019, Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, and Joe Burrow teamed up to set college football on fire. Burrow and Chase now form the deadly passer-receiver combination of the Cincinnati Bengals.

The duo surprisingly went to the Super Bowl with their team in 2021, Chase’s rookie season. Jefferson, now playing for the Minnesota Vikings, is on a record-breaking start to his NFL career. He formed a great connection with quarterback Kirk Cousins. The two star wideouts are regularly sending each other some words. It could be titled ‘taunting.’

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A few weeks ago, on CBSSportsHQ, Chase was asked who the better receiver is between the two.

I’mma say me, of course.

Ja’Marr Chase

“What would he say?” Chase was asked.

“Him, but he knows that’s not true,” Chase said. “Why are you better?” Chase was asked. “He stole all my moves,” Chase said. “And now he went first to the league and it looked like his moves.”

“So he copies your stuff. Oh, he’s going to love you for that, isn’t he?” Chase was asked. “He’s gonna hate it,” Chase said. “He’s gonna call me later.”

Jefferson and Chase Dominate in College and NFL

The two are now rivals but once formed a formidable duo in the SEC. In 2018, Chase caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns to win the Biletnikoff Award for the best college receiver. Jefferson had a more productive season in terms of receptions, as he caught 111 passes. His 1,540 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns were impressive numbers but couldn’t match up with Chase’s numbers.

Jefferson was drafted in the first round of the 2020 draft at position 22. The Vikings received the pick for trading Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills. Despite not starting the first two games, Jefferson has been the most productive receiver since his draft day. No other player has more yards than his 3,016 — a record in a player’s first two seasons.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports.

He also set the rookie record for most yards at 1,400. However, Chase broke that mark just one year later when he recorded 1,455 yards. The Bengals selected the standout receiver with the fifth overall pick, only behind three quarterbacks and tight end Kyle Pitts. They made the selection despite facing heavy criticism for not picking an offensive lineman, but the gamble surely paid off.

Vikings Receiver Claps Back

Jefferson appeared on the “All Things Covered with Patrick Peterson & Bryant McFadden” podcast and explained why Chase’s comments missed the mark, “Ja’Marr knows I didn’t steal any moves from him,” he said. “You can look at the film. We don’t play alike. He’s more of a physical, deep threat type of receiver. I’m more shifty, but I can do both. I’m more versatile. I can play in the slot. I can go outside, I can do whatever you want.”

Indeed, his versatility is a big component of his greatness. In college, Jefferson moved to the slot, but not because he’s better there. He moved because it was the best way to combine the powers of both standout receivers. Jefferson still put up his big numbers.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – DECEMBER 05: Justin Jefferson. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

In the pros, Jefferson mostly plays outside, especially in the Vikings offense that featured only two wideouts. It’s certainly possible he plays more in the slot in the new offensive system, designed by head coach Kevin O’Connell. The number of plays with three wideouts in 11-personnel is expected to grow immensely.

Both Are Great

Per PFF, Jefferson recorded 29 catches in the slot last season for 421 yards and two scores. He had 42 targets, a lot more than Chase’s 18.

Interestingly, Chase was primarily used on deep passes and short passes. Jefferson, meanwhile, on intermediate and deep passes.

Jefferson had more yards in man and zone coverage than Chase. However, both are at or near the top of the league in every situation. They are two of the best players in the league, and to try to choose the better one, is splitting hairs.

It will undoubtedly be fun to watch their career unfold. Barring any unfortunate injuries, the two will continue to break record after record and be compared to each other for a long time.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt

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