Justin Jefferson Takes Next Step in Comeback Plans

Only Week 6
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The Minnesota Vikings have been battling injuries all year.

Justin Jefferson Takes Next Step in Comeback Plans

Quarterback Kirk Cousins is out for the year, and running back Cam Akers suffered a similar injury just one week later. Kevin O’Connell’s team also missed star left tackle Christian Darrisaw for a few games, and Justin Jefferson has been on IR for four weeks. That is a pivotal date, as he is now eligible to return.

Justin Jefferson Takes Next Step in Comeback Plans
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When a player is placed on injured reserve, he misses the next four games before he is eligible to return. The Vikings surprisingly have won those four contests after starting 1-4. Earlier in the week, head coach Kevin O’Connell gave a vague update about his superstar and stated that they will be cautious with JJ and ensure he is back at full strength before trotting him out.

On Wednesday, the Vikes announced that the reigning Offensive Player of the Year has been designated to return to practice. He will likely start to work on a limited basis before ramping up his workload.

Minnesota has 21 days to activate him to the 53-man roster. His return to practice doesn’t ensure his availability for Sunday’s contest against the New Orleans Saints, but it increases the likelihood.

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When Jefferson was placed on IR, the Vikings were 1-4, and it seemed like a real scenario for the Vikings to fall apart without their top player. A lost season and an eventual fire sale at the trade deadline was the envisioned strategy of many pundits. But the franchise didn’t give up, continued to fight, won four straight, and is now in the position to win the final wild card spot with a solid 5-4 record despite the tough schedule.

Jefferson’s potential return is another significant boost for morale. He is the face of the franchise and one of the league’s elite players. Minnesota’s receiving corps has helped to ease the blow, especially rookie sensation Jordan Addison and star tight end T.J. Hockenson have taken over as the top options in the passing game. However, with Joshua Dobbs under center, the Vikes need all weapons on board to stay in playoff contention.

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While his replacements, Brandon Powell and Trishton Jackson, made some big plays, the upgrade Jefferson provides over those guys is undeniable. He led the league last season and started into the 2023 campaign red hot. The hamstring injury has slowed him down in terms of production, but he is still an unguardable force and will be a scary matchup for any defender in the NFL.

If the wideout returns for Sunday’s contest, he will face his hometown Saints and cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Last season, facing the Saints, Jefferson produced 13 catches for 147 yards and reached London’s endzone on a rushing play.

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The franchise leader in receiving yards and receptions in a single season still ranks 18th in receiving yards in the 2023 season despite missing four games. He has tabulated 114.2 yards per game, ranking him second in the league. JJ’s next game will be the second in his career without Kirk Cousins.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt