Against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, wide receiver Justin Jefferson demonstrated the importance of the role he plays in the Minnesota Vikings success.
Justin Jefferson is cutting up defenses again! The Minnesota Vikings 22-year-old standout wide receiver had a very efficient day against the Los Angeles Chargers en route to a crucial 27-20 win on Sunday.
Against a talented secondary, Jefferson came down with nine receptions for a season-high 143 yards on 11 targets. He also had a rushing attempt for a loss of four yards.
This performance comes immediately after first-year offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak expressed his desire to get Jefferson more involved in games after the wideout was targeted only nine times across eight quarters of football against the Dallas Cowboys and the Baltimore Ravens.
Jefferson exited those two games with a combined total of five catches for 90 yards and a touchdown.
As this brief stretch of perplexing usage had fans and analysts wondering why the Vikings would almost willingly take their most explosive asset out of the game plan, Minnesota’s two-game slump also provided a very clear demonstration of just how important it is to get their young star playmaker involved early and often throughout every contest.
How did Minnesota Vikings WR Justin Jefferson prove he needs to be a consistent focal point of the offensive game plan?
In the two games Jefferson was seemingly forgotten, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins failed to reach 200 passing yards, and he looked as if he had no faith in passes to receivers downfield. In every other matchup this season, Cousins never fell below that mark. On Sunday, he finished with 294 passing yards along with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
As the Star Tribune’s Andrew Krammer also points out, Cousins targeted Jefferson five times on third down against the Chargers, successfully connecting on three of those attempts for a fresh set of downs. Of the other two attempts, one was an incomplete pass, the other was called for defensive pass interference.
Yes, Jefferson accounted for four of Minnesota’s five third-down conversions. He is a safety blanket for Cousins that needs to be turned to whenever the Vikings need to move the sticks.
After the game, head coach Mike Zimmer explained the Vikings made a conscious effort to feature Jefferson heavily in the offensive attack. He also mentioned the stud receiver shared his frustration with not being as involved as he should’ve been.
By acknowledging the error of their ways and making a concerted effort to correct the mistake, Jefferson seems to be back on track as the team prepares for the second half of their tough stretch of games to close out the season.
Taking a look at the bigger picture, the Vikings have a 4-2 record in games Jefferson is targeted at least eight times this season. Those losses came as a direct result of an overtime Dalvin Cook fumble and a missed last-second 37-yard field goal attempt.
In games where he receives less than eight looks, Minnesota is 0-3.
It’s no surprise there is a direct correlation between Jefferson’s involvement and the Vikings’ success. It is clear and obvious he is their most explosive weapon. But by not utilizing him like the true game-breaker he is, Minnesota is gift-wrapping opposing defenses with the day off. Good teams maximize their player’s potential, not stifle it.
The Vikings need to continue feeding Jefferson every week if they want to have any shot at making the postseason.
Jefferson now has 775 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 55 catches across nine games. The dynamic deep threat is on pace to surpass his receiving totals from his rookie year with eight games remaining on Minnesota’s schedule.
Jefferson and the Vikings get an opportunity to follow up this performance with a potential season-defining game at home against the Green Bay Packers next Sunday.