Can Jefferson Catch Megatron in 2023?

Ever Struggled So Mightily?
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Last season one of the best secondary storylines for a good Minnesota Vikings team was superstar wide receiver Justin Jefferson tracking down Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving yardage record. It didn’t happen, but can it be in the year ahead?

It’s hard to call what Justin Jefferson did in 2023 anything but wildly successful. However, it felt like some air was released from the proverbial balloon when he put up a stinker in Week 16 against the Green Bay Packers. That one catch for 15 yards all but ended a chance to track down the former Detroit Lions great, and even sporadic usage during a meaningless Week 17 Bears game wouldn’t get him there.

Can Jefferson Catch Megatron in 2023?

Jefferson finished with a league-leading 1,809 yards on 128 receptions when the dust settled. Despite not being a quarterback, he was named a first-team All-Pro and was a finalist for the MVP award. By all measurements, it was an amazing year. For a guy that constantly strives for more, though, it’s not a surprise that he would still want to put his name atop the record books. In 2023, two seemingly different avenues could come into play to help him get there.

A Running Mate

Gone is Adam Thielen, and while K.J. Osborn remains in the building, it seems evident he is not yet ready or capable of being a true number two wide receiver. The Vikings brought in T.J. Hockenson as an addition to the passing game, but he assumed the absence of Irv Smith Jr. in that role. For 2023, Kevin O’Connell’s pass-heavy offense needs another wideout on the opposite side that can draw safety coverage and keep some focus off Jefferson. A year ago, teams provided safety help more often than not, and opposing cornerbacks could take extra chances with the Vikings star.

Can Jefferson Catch
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There will never be a point in which the opposition isn’t entirely aware of Jefferson’s presence, but avoiding them being able to sell out on him is a must. The Vikings have essentially sat out of the free-agent market regarding wideouts, and they’ll probably target the position through the draft.

Garbage Time

How good Minnesota is a year after winning 13 games remains to be seen. I think it’s more than fair to suggest that regression could be expected, though, and the 2022 team saw plenty of coin flips go their way. O’Connell proved that good leadership matters during adversity, but continuing to play with fire will eventually burn a team.

Justin Jefferson Quietly
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings are not considered a clear favorite in the NFC North, and they’ll be underdogs in plenty of games this season. Jefferson never really saw garbage time usage last year, but he could be in for more during 2023. I’d assume his preference would be to rack up victories again and make a deeper playoff run, but if Minnesota is going to fall off in contests, there should be plenty of opportunity for him to pad individual stats.

The Vikings Can Afford
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At the end of the day, surpassing Megatron’s single-season receiving record is no small task. Jefferson toyed with the notion just a year ago, and like a shark in water, having smelled blood, he’ll now be looking to attack.

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.