Minnesota Vikings: Where is K.J. Osborn after his hot start to the season?

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) K.J. Osborn
(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) K.J. Osborn /

The Minnesota Vikings have not utilized their third wide receiver consistently this season.

After making a name for himself in the first two weeks of the 2021 season, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn has found himself back in the dark. Osborn broke out in the team’s Week 1 loss to the Bengals with seven catches for 76 yards and followed it up with 91 yards and a touchdown in Week 2.

However, things got pretty quiet for the sophomore wide receiver after the loss to the Cardinals. He racked up just 66 yards on eight catches over the next three games before finally getting involved again in Week 6. His walk-off touchdown over the Carolina Panthers was a signature moment for the young wide receivers but that was really the last we have heard from him.

Since his Week 6 heroics, Osborn has accumulated three catches for 30 yards on six total targets. He was shut out in the team’s win over the Chargers in Week 10 with only one target thrown his way.

The Vikings are far from a good team but have shown some promise all season long. Osborn’s arrival as a potential third receiver was exactly what the team needed, especially with Irv Smith Jr. being placed on Injured Reserve for the entire season. Minnesota does not need a star to fill that third receiver spot next to Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen but having a reliable target to keep defenses honest would be massive.

What happened to the once-promising wide receiver? Osborn has been basically a non-factor for the Vikings since the Bye Week and really hasn’t made a huge impact since the second game of the season. That should be a little concerning for a team that cannot find consistency on offense.

Do the Minnesota Vikings need more from K.J. Osborn?

One of the key discussions among fans over the past offseason was whether or not the Vikings needed to address the wide receiver group. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen make up one of the best duos in the NFL but they lacked depth behind them.

Irv Smith Jr. and Tyler Conklin were set to be a good receiving duo at tight end and Dalvin Cook is no stranger to the passing game either. With five realistic weapons at their disposal, the need for a third wide receiver became much less of an issue.

However, with Smith Jr. going down with an injury, a huge hole was created in the offense. Osborn picked up the slack in the early stages of 2021 but the need for more help has shown itself once again.

It is fair to be concerned with Irv’s injury history and just how available he will be moving forward. While he is expected to return next season and help the passing attack, there is no guarantee that he will be fully healthy when the season starts given how his first three seasons have gone.

Adam Thielen will also be 32 when next season begins, making his future with the team very short. Osborn has to step up if he wants to remain a part of the offense beyond just this season. Still, he should be part of the offense for the remainder of this season to take some of the pressure off of Jefferson and Cook.

Justin Jefferson was understandably frustrated with his lack of targets heading into the Week 10 matchup with the Chargers. Not throwing to your best receiver is a sure-fire way to lose important games and the Vikings found that out.

The first priority in the passing game should always be Jefferson and Thielen is the perfect second option for Kirk Cousins. The simple fact is Tyler Conklin and Alexander Mattison are not going to cut it as the tertiary targets if the Vikings want to be successful.

Yes, the Vikings run the ball and try to live through their stars, which is acceptable. The guys making the big bucks are going to be involved in the offense but they need help from the next level of talent. K.J. Osborn may not be a star or even a crucial piece in the offense but he should be used a lot more than he has been lately.

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If Osborn cannot make more plays with how slim the passing weapons currently are, he will be at risk of losing his spot in 2022. The next eight weeks will make be huge for his career with the Minnesota Vikings.