The Other WR Making His Mark in Jefferson’s Absence 

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

In the NFL, injuries are widespread, which is why roster depth is so important. NFL coaches have a consistent mantra about this: “Next man up.”

When Justin Jefferson went down injured, it was Jordan Addison who was expected to fill his shoes. With Addison moving up to be the Vikings WR1, it left a space available along with K.J. Osborn to be the Vikings third receiver. Brandon Powell is the other WR making his mark in Jefferson’s, and over the last three games, he has made quite the impression.

The Other WR Making His Mark in Jefferson’s Absence 

Powell was brought in as competition for the Vikings punt returner job during the offseason, a position he would ultimately win from Jalen Reagor. Powell has shown no real explosion as a punt returner, averaging just 6.1 yards per return with a long of 20 yards. He has shown himself to be a safe pair of hands, aside from one fumble during the early season Vikings fumble epidemic. Since Jefferson’s injury, he has had the opportunity to showcase those safe hands in offense and has been making the most of his chance.

The Other WR Making
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Never more so than in last week’s game against San Francisco when Jordan Addison was out of the game for a period of time did it feel the Vikings were in dire need of a “next man up,” and Powell was the man to step forward. He finished up third in receiving yards on the night, with 64 yards from four catches, including two catches for first downs on the drive Addison was out.

He also had a rushing attempt for five yards, which was the third game in a row the former college running back was given the ball for a rushing attempt. It’s something the Vikings should continue to use in their offense.

Powell was an afterthought in a Vikings offense that revolved heavily around Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson. He only caught a single pass for five yards in the first four games but now has 11 receptions for 127 yards in the last three games.

One positive from Jefferson’s injury is that the Vikings don’t need to rely solely on their superstar wide receiver. Other talent is in the building, and a more balanced offense will lead the Vikings to be a better team. Jefferson will miss at least two more games before returning, so what does that mean for Powell?

Powell Must Continue to Seize Opportunity 

Over the course of his first four seasons in the league, opportunities for Powell to showcase his ability on offense were limited. During those opportunities, he tallied 46 receptions from 83 targets for 354 and a couple of touchdowns. Last season with the Rams was his best season to date, with 24  receptions off 32 targets for 156 yards. Powell is on course to comfortably beat that this season with the Vikings, but how much of a role will he keep once Jefferson comes back into the fold?

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Jefferson, Hockenson,  and Addison will be the main guys in this Vikings offense, but there are roles to be had behind them. Powell has two more games (minimum) to carve out a piece of the pie when Jefferson returns. What will that look like? Competing with Osborn for the other WR touches.

The Vikings have tried jet sweeps and screens with many players this season, often without much success. Powell’s skillset is ideal for those plays, as he has showcased in recent games. That should see him carve out a role in the offense, but he has also shown the ability to go out on routes, create separation, and bring in catches – as pointed out by Kirk Cousins.

There’s no better way of garnering a role in the offense than gaining the trust of the quarterback. If Powell is on the field, Cousins has enough confidence in him to feed him the ball. The following two games could be defining in Powell’s career. If he doesn’t produce much, he could quickly return to almost exclusively punt return duties. If he continues his upward trend with a couple more good outings, he will give Kevin O’Connell plenty to consider regarding his position in this Vikings offense.