One Viking Needs a Serious Rebound Game

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The Minnesota Vikings are expected to place reigning Offensive Player of the Year Justin Jefferson on injured reserve soon, although the move has not formally occurred as of 10:30 a.m. CDT on October 11th.

One Viking Needs a Serious Rebound Game

Jefferson injured his hamstring in Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, a potential death blow to the 2023 Vikings.

In his stead, Minnesota will need a series of playmakers to pick up the slack, and no man has a greater calling at the moment than tight end T.J. Hockenson.

Needs a Serious
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The richest tight end in NFL history certainly hasn’t encountered a flatly bad start to 2023 — he’s on pace for 102 receptions. However, Hockenson has not yanked in passes that handsomely-paid football players should, and he fumbled once in a pivotal game against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell said after Sunday’s loss, “Can we just tighten everything up just a little bit more? That kind of goes in line with can we just do a little more? Do it a little bit cleaner. Do it a little bit better. A little bit more detail? A little bit more urgency on everything we do, and it starts with me, and I’m going to be driving that minute to minute here.”

Hockenson Chatter
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

While not exclusively directed at Hockenson, that quote feels like a checklist the former Detroit Lion can print and follow like gospel.

The catches below are not gimmes, but Hockenson should probably pull down one or two at his pricepoint:

The good news for Hockenson? Targets galore, at least for the next four games, are likely heading his way. The Vikings lean on Jefferson for over 10 targets per game, and with his hamstring situation, other players will now be on deck for the Jeffersonian workload.

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The attention won’t all flood to Hockenson’s hands, but he is the most trustworthy asset with Jefferson on the shelf. He patrols the middle of the field, no other Vikings WR will win individual battles quite like Jefferson, and Hockenson is generally dependable.

The time is now for Hockenson to atone for a few suspect plays in the previous three games.

Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota is also likely to embrace more balanced playcalling without Jefferson, currently ranking last in the NFL per rushing playcall percentage. The Vikings began the season through two games running the football at a historically low rate, starting to right the ship in Week 3.

Now, the club can do both: hand the ball to Alexander Mattison and Cam Akers while targeting Hockenson for a Travis Kelce-like target load.

If the Vikings don’t plan on utilizing the wealthiest tight end in history with Jefferson out for four games, when would be a better time?

There is none. Hockenson must rebound, deliver, and haul in contested catches.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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