Justin Jefferson has been a force to be reckoned with since entering the NFL in 2020. He put up outstanding numbers in his first two campaigns, averaging over 1500 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns in 2020-21. Jefferson has evidently had an exceptional and historical start to his career. The adjectives are abundant to describe his statistical magnificence. Now in Kevin O’Connell’s offense, Jefferson should reach new heights!
When the Vikings hired Kevin O’Connell to be their head coach in February, Jefferson’s ceiling opened up new mouth-watering possibilities. O’Connell, the former Rams offensive coordinator, was coming off a season in which he transformed the Rams offense around Cooper Kupp. O’Connell’s offense used new ways to scheme Kupp open in 2021 as he transformed the offense around Kupp, having him line up all over the field and getting him the ball in any way he could. This led to Kupp dwarfing his previous season’s statistics and having a legendary 2021 season. Kupp had 1947 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns, consistently dominating throughout the season and solving every formation defenses threw at him.
O’Connell’s offense succeeded with Kupp and made Jefferson’s expectations sky-high entering the 2022 season, and for good reason. Jefferson was already a bona-fide star before O’Connell and an elite level athlete capable of lining up in the slot or out wide. Jefferson is simply the perfect fit for the “Cooper Kupp scheme,” perhaps even better than Kupp himself.
Which legendary NFL defense would love to resurrect?
1985 Chicago Bears
1976 Pittsburgh Steelers
2000 Baltimore Ravens
2002 Tampa Bay Bucs
1986 New York Giants
2013 Seattle Seahawks
Jefferson entered the season with a gaudy goal of reaching 2000 receiving yards. So far, five weeks into the season, he has lived up to even the highest of expectations. Jefferson leads the league with 547 receiving yards at this point in the season. His 109.4 receiving yards per game put him on pace for an 1860 yard campaign. Albeit short of his goal to this point, that would put him 4th all-time in receiving yards in a season. This is despite the fact that Jefferson had just 14 receiving yards in Week 3 against the Lions. It would be shocking to see another clunker of a performance like that one, so you can expect his yards per game to continue to rise from here.
Kevin O’Connell’s Offense
O’Connell has lined Jefferson up all across the field, and it has worked with flying colors. In Sunday’s 27-22 win over the Bears, in which he had a career-high 12 receptions for 154 yards, Jefferson dominated Chicago’s defense everywhere. He lined up on the left side of the field for 27 routes, the right side for 14, and even took 12 routes from the slot (ESPN Stats & Information). Additionally, he ran 19 routes after pre-snap motion. O’Connell is keeping defenses on their toes with how he is scheming Jefferson open, an absolute nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators.
Not every play is a deep throw to Jefferson, with him constantly being able to run short routes and dominate after the catch. Jefferson’s 40 receptions on the year trail only aforementioned Kupp, and he is getting separation from defenders with ease. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Jefferson has had at least 3 yards of separation on 44% of his targets, which makes up 73% of his catches and 66% of his yards. Jefferson is simply dynamite with the ball in his hands, as he is leading the NFL in yards per touch for the second straight season, at 13.4.
Jefferson is the primary reason behind the Vikings’ roaring 4-1 start to the season. They are in pole position to win the NFC North in large part thanks to his overall dominance. As Adam Thielen as aged, Jefferson continues to take an even larger part of the offensive production in his third season. Kirk Cousins is not an elite-level quarterback, but is perennially underrated and has allowed Jefferson to shine despite his limited athletic capabilities as a QB. The tandem has become as potent as any QB-WR duo across the NFL in 2022.
Justin Jefferson had a Pro Bowl-caliber first two seasons in the NFL. He put up legendary numbers for a wide receiver of such a young age. He is now in line to get even better in year three, thanks to offensive mastermind Kevin O’Connell allowing him to get open in a variety of different forms. The league has already been on notice of Justin Jefferson, but he is becoming even scarier to guard this season. Is a 2000 yard season within reach? Or perhaps the receiving Triple Crown (leading the NFL in receptions, yards and touchdowns)? Anything seems possible with Justin Jefferson in this new Vikings offense. He is bound to finish this season as the best wide receiver in the game, and likely some new hardware for his trophy case.
Let us know your thoughts on Kevin O’Connell’s Offense in the comments below!
Main image credit Embed from Getty Images