The last time the Vikings drafted a defensive lineman in the second round, their plan turned out to be to use him as a swing tackle. They played young tackle Shamar Stephen a lot in an effort to get him ready to succeed Kevin Williams, but when he faltered they rocked him back and forth between outside and inside linebacker depending on the need. So, when the Vikings drafted Justin Jefferson, they were hoping he could be their replacement for Williams.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater finds a new weapon to throw to in third-round pick, Justin Jefferson. The former wide receiver and tight end from Hawaii has impressed in training camp so far, and the Vikings are banking on him to be a big help this season. “He’s extremely fast. He’s got really good hands. He’s very versatile. He’s played at the receiver position, too, so he’s a guy that’s experienced and can make that transition,” Bridgewater said. For the Vikings, playing both ways is a must.
The Vikings have a lot of talented players on the defensive side of the ball, but no one is more talented than fifth-round draft pick Justin Jefferson. Even though he was a 4-year starter for the University of Washington, many people did not know who he was, because he had been overshadowed by his older brother, Sean.
EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — As a rookie in 2020, nothing went as planned for Minnesota Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson.
His NFL career started during a pandemic that kept him from having a regular offseason. He didn’t have to wait long to form a bond with Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins or learn the ropes from Pro Bowl wide receiver Adam Thielen.
He didn’t have a preseason game to test the waters, so he learned a playbook digitally. Dealing with the ever-changing environment of COVID-19 disruptions and diversions put a kink in his preparations after another.
Even though Jefferson didn’t play until Week 3 of the 2020 season, he set a new personal best. The Vikings’ 2020 first-round pick enjoyed a spectacular rookie season, shattering marks set by Hall of Famer Randy Moss for decades. He has the most receiving yards of any rookie in Super Bowl history (1,400). (since 1966).
So it’s no wonder that when Jefferson, 22, speaks about the pressure to outperform last season, the difficulties of 2020 are the driving force behind his confidence.
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To be honest, I think it’ll be my confidence,” Jefferson stated when asked what would help him get out of his sophomore rut. “Having a season like I had last year, with so many various annoyances. Now that I’ve spent a year with Kirk and the rest of the men on this squad, I’m feeling a lot more secure. I think I’ll accomplish even more this year, and even better than last year.”
Those annoyances had no effect on Jefferson. He has three 100-yard receiving performances at the midway point of the 2020 season. Before he suited up for his eighth game in the NFL, Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur called Jefferson a No. 1 receiver, prompting plaudits from other coaches and players around the league, often in the form of increased defensive attention.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Jefferson had 606 receiving yards versus press coverage (less than a 3-yard cushion) last season, the highest of any player. On seven separate routes, he recorded 100 yards or more, making it difficult for cornerback to cover him one-on-one.
It’s one of the first things Vikings CB Patrick Peterson noticed in Jefferson, who he’s known since he was a teenager.
Peterson remarked, “He executes his routes like a wise vet.” “He makes everything seem the same,” says the narrator. Most young men are incapable of doing so. I’m not sure whether it’s because he came from LSU or because he was properly taught, but he’s a pro, just like I was when I first arrived. When a player enters the league at that age and immediately understands the game, he’s going to be something exceptional.
“I think it will be tough to cover him in a different manner this year. All you have to do now is roll the punches and hope he misses.”
So, what does Year 2 hold for Jefferson? Nine receivers have had at least 1,000 receiving yards as a rookie in the last ten seasons. With the exception of Jefferson, six of the previous eight players had 1,000 yards in their second season.
Teams took notice as Jefferson developed into one of the most productive receivers in the league, averaging the second-most receiving yards per route run last season (2.76), behind the Packers’ Davante Adams, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Despite the high expectations that come with such statistics, the Vikings don’t anticipate Jefferson to slow down. Those statistics may drop in the conventional sense – receiving metrics – but Jefferson being the greatest receiver on the field might mean he’s absorbing coverage to open up others.
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Coach Mike Zimmer said, “I don’t believe he’ll have any regression or whatever it is because he’s in a terrific state of mind out here.” “He runs, he loves football, and he’s a terrific route runner. But what’s going to happen is that these teams are going to start rotating coverage and double coverage on him, so he won’t be able to get angry in some of these situations. But it’s a positive thing if he realizes how much he’s contributing to the squad.
“Now, his statistics may be better or worse, I’m not sure, but he’s helping the team because one of those guys who’s doubling him now isn’t in the box for [running back Dalvin] Cook to run against, [tight end] Irv Smith to go one-on-one with, or against Thielen to go one-on-one with. So he has to understand that, and we’re working on some of those things now, not on the first day, but as we become a little more settled here. Part of it is simply him seeing that I’m assisting the football team despite the fact that they’re double-covering me.”
Jefferson’s performance as a rookie under the most unexpected circumstances gives teammates hope that a repeat performance is feasible. After all, what can he accomplish in a more regular season if he had such a remarkable season with all those setbacks?
“If he had the exact same season he had last year and did it 12 or 13 times, I would assume he would go to Canton,” Cousins said. “I’m not saying anything to put him under duress. When you ask, “What’s the next step?” it’s not about altering who he is; it’s about doing it all over again. And then doing it again, and again, and again, and again, and I believe it’s more about consistency than change.
“So the difficulty in football, and I’ve seen it happen in my career seeing people return to Michigan State, is to not just be a one-year wonder, a flash for a couple of years, or someone who has a terrific run. I believe the difficulty will be to find someone who can maintain it.”
Justin Jefferson has been selected to play in four games during the first two weeks of the regular season, but he has not been able to complete any of them. He has played just 36 snaps and has recorded three tackles and one pass deflection.. Read more about justin jefferson and let us know what you think.
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