Vikings Offense Unleashes an Even Scarier Justin Jefferson

Nov 21, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings employ the second-best player in football. Justin Jefferson is unquestionably the greatest wide receiver in the league. That became fact last season, and through two weeks of the 2023 regular season, it’s scary to think of what he may accomplish.

Vikings Offense Unleashes an Even Scarier Justin Jefferson

A year ago, Justin Jefferson put the league on notice when he went out and put up gaudy numbers to lead the league in yardage and receptions. It earned him the title of second-best player in the league and a spot in the Madden 99 club. Looking to get him more opportunities, the Vikings added some help.

By trading for T.J. Hockenson last season and drafting Jordan Addison this spring, Minnesota gave Kirk Cousins additional weapons and brought in more of a challenge for opposing defenses. K.J. Osborn has been with the Vikings since he came into the league but has not developed into a consistent threat. Irv Smith Jr. was always seen as a darling but couldn’t stay on the field. Adam Thielen had lost a step and is now gone. The former talents have made way for Jefferson’s new running mates.

Vikings Offense Unleashes an Even Scarier Justin Jefferson
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) and wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) warm up before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Through two weeks of the 2023 season, we are seeing how much it helps to have additional threats. Opposing defenses can’t completely scheme Jefferson out of the game, and both Hockenson and Addison are capable on their own. Jefferson is still given the utmost attention and respect, but he’s provided much more space to work with.

All of this was on display Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Coming into the game, Jefferson was looking to make up for a Week 2 slip-up in 2022. Darius Slay held him under 50 yards, and it was the first of back-to-back lackluster performances for the NFL’s best wideout. On Thursday night, Jefferson racked up 159 yards on 11 catches and just narrowly missed reaching the end zone.

The Vikings got those numbers out of Jefferson while Hockenson went off for 66 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Addison also added 72 yards on his own with a touchdown for the second straight week. Minnesota gets an elite tight end in Hockenson, and Addison looks like a first-round wideout talent capable of beating man coverage on his own.

Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

For Jefferson to have these types of players as running mates, the Vikings offense through the air could become among the scariest in the NFL. Cousins doesn’t have an adequate line protecting him at the moment, but he could serve up dimes all over the field, and his 364 yards resulted in four touchdown passes as well.

Through two games, Jefferson has already amassed 309 yards on 20 catches. That’s a pace of over 2,600 yards across 17 games. He would become the first player to reach the 2,000-yard mark as a receiver and blow by Calvin Johnson’s single-season record. Doing so with an extra game is noteworthy, but flying that far past the record has to make that point moot.

Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) tackles Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Christian Izien (29) in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

It stands to reason that Jefferson won’t top the century mark in every game this year, but we’re quickly seeing how much it matters to allow him some room. With other talented options around him, Jefferson can exploit defenders and create space for his quarterback to get him the football.

If the Vikings season goes poorly, it will be tough for anyone from the organization to win yearly awards. That said, if Jefferson is going to pop off for this kind of yardage, putting him atop the MVP conversation is more than a fair stance.

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.