How Will Jefferson’s Return Impact Vikings Offense?

Mel Kiper Envisions Receiver for Vikings
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When the Minnesota Vikings take the field on Sunday night in Denver, there’s a 50/50 chance that Justin Jefferson could be back in uniform. With his insertion back into Kevin O’Connell’s offense, things should change for the team, but how does he impact those around him?

How Will Jefferson’s Return Impact Vikings Offense?

First and foremost, there is no downside to adding the best wide receiver across the NFL back into the fold. Justin Jefferson is an otherworldly talent, and he had gotten out to a strong start this season to prove that. After leading the league in both receptions and yardage a year ago, Jefferson had already posted 571 yards through his first five games this season. He should be immediately expected to step back in and contribute.

Although the Vikings now employ a different quarterback under center as Josh Dobbs has taken over for Kirk Cousins, handing him another weapon should only further take pressure off of him as he fills in. Dobbs has already been working on timing with Jefferson in practice, and while that isn’t game speed, the pair have established at least a brief amount of chemistry.

How Will Jefferson’s Return Impact Vikings Offense?
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How Dobbs and Jefferson translate their practice reps to game action remains to be seen, but it should be relatively straightforward for veterans who have been performing at this level for quite some time. What Jefferson also does is open up the rest of the offense.

It has largely been the T.J. Hockenson and Jordan Addison show in his absence. The superstar tight end has continued to take hits on a weekly basis, and while he did get off to a slow start, he has drastically stepped up his production of late. With 11 catches for over 130 yards a week ago, Hockenson has truly become a menace for opposing defenses.

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Maybe developing sooner than expected, Addison has thrived in the top wide receiver role. His hands have shown a great ability to pull in throws, and his footwork and route running look the part of a polished veteran. He has drawn some shadow coverage in recent weeks on his own, and now defenses will have to shift their focus elsewhere.

While Addison and Hockenson will see some of their target share drop, they should find themselves in more advantageous situations to do damage. As defenses are forced to focus on Jefferson, making the most of every opportunity must be a focal point for everyone else. It’s entirely possible for pass catchers not named Jefferson to see fewer targets but have each catch be more impactful.

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Beyond the top three, the Vikings have now also established a solid rotation of depth pieces. Brandon Powell has emerged as a threat, while Jalen Nailor also began to see action. K.J. Osborn has been an ideal third wide receiver for a while, and although he’s working his way back from a concussion, he stepped up as well.

There has never really been a lull in the passing game, and that’s incredible after both the star quarterback and wide receiver went out. If Jefferson can open things up even further and potentially provide additional opportunities for the running game, Minnesota may find a new level yet to be experienced this season.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.