Watch: Vikings Tease Three Deep 2.0
The Minnesota Vikings open their 2023 regular season on Sunday with a home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that will be without Tom Brady after having the GOAT leading the offense for three years. Baker Mayfield, his successor, has the luxury to throw to a couple of fantastic wideouts — Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
Watch: Vikings Tease Three Deep 2.0
The Vikings have also been famous for having strong receivers. In the last few years, the team mainly featured two of Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and Stefon Diggs simultaneously. Most fans remember the 1998 receiving cast, a group so good it earned the nickname Three Deep.
Randy Moss joined Cris Carter and Jake Reed to form an unstoppable squad of wideouts, resulting in the most explosive offense ever at the time. And in 2023, the Vikings apparently envision something similar. They posted the following video on their social media platforms:
In 1998, the Vikings already had the great Cris Carter and Jake Reed on the roster. Reed came fresh off his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season. Carter, meanwhile, just finished his fifth successive campaign recording four-digit receiving yards. While both were on the wrong side of the 30-year mark, a receiver wasn’t the Vikings’ top priority in the draft. That changed when Randy Moss somehow was available at pick 21.
The Freak was a 21-year-old, cocky receiver from Marshall University. He dominated college football, firing up 1,820 yards and 26 touchdowns in his 1997 season. The Vikings selected the dynamic athlete and formed a scary trio.
The modern-day Vikings have Justin Jefferson on the team, widely considered the best receiver in the NFL. His running-mate Adam Thielen was released and joined the Carolina Panthers. WR3 K.J. Osborn is still on the team, and the duo got some help in the draft when GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah selected Jordan Addiison in the first round.
Osborn hasn’t had success anywhere near Carter’s or Reed’s level, so the comparison is kind of flawed. However, he still logged over 1,300 yards in the last two seasons combined as the third option in the passing game. His numbers would’ve looked better had he been the second wideout like Reed.
One similarity to 1998 is that a rookie joined the team. Of course, comparing any player to Moss is absurd until a receiver is a legit MVP candidate like Jefferson, but Addison is still a talented player. Unlike Moss, he is not dominating with his otherworldly physical skills but with smooth route running and excellent technique.
Addison racked up more than 3,000 yards and 29 TDs in three college seasons, including a dominant sophomore season that led to him winning the Biletnikoff Award as the country’s top receiver.
The results in 1998 were electric. Minnesota’s offense was absolutely unstoppable. Moss broke the rookie receiving yards record since the merger — a record that has since been broken by Anquan Boldin in 2003, Jefferson in 2020, and Ja’Marr Chase in 2021. His rookie record of 17 touchdowns is still the benchmark for today’s first-year players.
Moss’ Thanksgiving game against the Cowboys is still considered one of the greatest performances by a rookie ever. He torched the Cowboys with just three catches. Moss took all three to the house. His stat line of three catches for 163 yards and three touchdowns is unforgettable.
Carter had 1,011 yards and 12 touchdowns in 1998. Reed had just 474 yards and four touchdowns, appearing in only 11 games because of injury.
The three receivers were a crucial part of one of the most explosive offenses in NFL history. The 556 scored points were an NFL record at that time and stood until the Patriots scored 589 in 2007. Moss was also part of that team. Only the Patriots and four other teams scored more points in a single season than the 1998 Vikings.
The Vikings want to replicate that level of success in 2023. Justin Jefferson will get his production. It remains to be seen how much the other guys can do. The presence of T.J. Hockenson is also notable, as the Vikings just paid him a boatload of money to be a second option in the passing game.
Osborn and Addison must take advantage of defenses keying in on Jefferson with frequent double-teams. That’s why many are intrigued by Addison, who has turned some heads in training camp. Also crucial for an explosive offense is the quarterback. Kirk Cousins has shown the ability to get the ball to his playmakers, and he surely has enough of those in the upcoming season.
If the offensive line can keep him clean, he will spread the ball around under the guidance of offensive-minded head coach and play-caller Kevin O’Connell. The group’s first test is just a few days away.
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