Justin Jefferson Out to a Nice Lead
The Minnesota Vikings are 0-2 through the first two weeks of the NFL regular season, and while they have plenty of things to work on, the performance of Justin Jefferson isn’t among them. Picking up where he left off last year, Jefferson could blow by his previous numbers.
Justin Jefferson Out to a Nice Lead
A season ago, the Minnesota Vikings superstar wideout led the league in receptions and receiving yards. For weeks, he tracked right on pace with Detroit Lions great Calvin Johnson’s single-season record. The pursuit ultimately fell short, but he’s back at it again.
In Week 1, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill put up a whopping 215 yards against the Los Angeles Chargers. Even with Jefferson topping 150 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he was still looking up on the leaderboard. Looking to get revenge against Darius Slay for the 2022 game in Philadelphia, Jefferson was a focal point of the offense on Thursday night and became the first wide receiver to surpass 300 yards this season.
Now, with two weeks behind him, Jefferson’s 309 yards receiving leads the NFL and is nearly 50 yards more than Los Angeles Rams wideout Puka Nacua. The Dolphins’ Hill finds himself third with 255 yards, and a paltry 40-yard performance on Sunday night against the New England Patriots held him in check.
Not only does Jefferson currently lead the league, but he also has to feel good about future opportunity. In Week 3, Jefferson gets a date with the same Chargers secondary that got burned for 215 yards by Hill just a couple of weeks ago. Minnesota hasn’t needed to force-feed Jefferson through the air, and yet he’s still found ample opportunity to produce.
Plenty of the expanded opportunity for Jefferson comes as a bonus to rostering better offensive weapons. T.J. Hockenson is among the league’s best tight ends and gives Kirk Cousins something he could never rely upon Irv Smith Jr. to produce. Beyond that, the Vikings needed a true second wideout that could separate, and while that was once Adam Thielen, the 2022 version could no longer make that claim. Jordan Addison has looked the part of a very good number two, and that unquestionably forces the defense to relax a singular focus.
As the Vikings continue through their regular season slate, Jefferson hopes to rack up accolades in 2023. While he may not see the same target share from a season ago, it stands to reason that his per-catch production may increase. With the ability to get behind a defender without safety help over the top, Jefferson can utilize a true big-play ability.
If the Vikings are going to turn their season around, and they’ll have the opportunity given the current state of the NFC North, then Jefferson continuing to be a focal point of the offense is a must. Alexander Mattison has flopped thus far as a lead running back, and head coach Kevin O’Connell must ride what he knows will always be there.
For Jefferson to reach heights he came short of last season doesn’t require weekly mega performances. He simply must avoid the lackluster duds, and doing that with defensive focus on other players becomes more straightforward.
The Vikings would certainly love to see Jefferson compete for another receiving yardage title, and if he can surpass the 2022 mark, he’ll again be in the MVP discussion. Pairing his production with team wins can give O’Connell another year to write home about, and that’s a scenario everyone can get behind.
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.