Despite a rollercoaster start to their season, in Week 10 on the road against the Los Angeles Chargers, the impressive version of the Minnesota Vikings was on display en route to taking down a solid Chargers squad to inch back closer to the .500 mark on the year. In the game, we saw a different Minnesota team that displayed aggressiveness often lacking in previous weeks, mainly on the offensive side of the ball. The Vikings showed the ability to take shots down the field and not settle for field goals or empty drives, resulting in the team taking it to Los Angeles on its home field. Among the various things learned and displayed in the Week 10 win, it was evident that the Vikings offense should run through young star wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who finished the game with nine catches for a season-best 143 yards. That performance was further evidence that Minnesota’s talented offense should continue to run through Jefferson.
Justin Jefferson Should be Focal Point of Minnesota Vikings Offense
Jefferson Production in Wins vs. Losses
Since he broke onto the NFL scene a season ago during his rookie campaign, Jefferson has proven he is able to be a key piece to the Vikings offense and specifically the passing game. During an impressive rookie year in 2020, the now 22-year-old wideout finished the year with 88 catches for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 87.5 yards per game and 15.9 yards per catch in all 16 regular season games.
Entering Week 11 in his sophomore season, Jefferson’s production has taken a bit of a step back, and most of that isn’t his doing, but the lack of the offense targeting him on the outside of the field alongside Adam Thielen. In nine games, Jefferson has recorded 55 catches for 775 yards, averaging 86.1 yards per game and 14.1 yards per reception.
When Jefferson does see a large volume of targets, catches and increased production has oftentimes followed and has resulted in a positive outcome for the team at the end of the week. That has clearly been displayed when comparing Jefferson’s production in wins versus losses to this point in the year.
In four wins this season, Jefferson has been targeted 11 times per game, resulting in 8.3 catches and 116.3 receiving yards per game, and 10.6 yards per target. In five losses, the Jefferson has been targeted seven times a game, averaging 4.4 catches and 62 receiving yards per game, along with 8.9 yards per target. It’s clear that when the Vikings give Justin Jefferson more opportunities to produce, he does just that. And more often than not, when Minnesota targets its star wide receiver in the passing game, wins have followed.
Opens Up Offense, Shows Aggressiveness
Outside of the production itself that has been displayed by Jefferson when he sees an increased amount of involvement in the offense, it also benefits the entire offensive unit as a whole and allows the team to be more aggressive to try and jump out to early leads against teams.
When Jefferson is featured as the dominant deep threat that we have seen numerous times throughout his young NFL career, it greatly opens up the possibilities for the rest of the offense to hurt opposing defenses both on the ground and through the air. When you have a player like Jefferson, who grabs the attention of defenses, it automatically opens things up for Thielen and other receivers to haul in passes from quarterback Kirk Cousins. And when the passing game is working well, that also opens up the rushing attack led by Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook and the rest of the running back group.
Along with opening up the rest of the offense and being able to have more of a balanced attack that keeps opponents guessing, Minnesota is able to be more aggressive and take shots down the field rather than relying on the run game to try and put together some breakout plays. Featuring Jefferson and the rest of the receiving unit in the offense has resulted in taking deep shots down the field and going for the end zone more often than not rather than settling for field goals or coming up with empty drives, like what has occurred often in Vikings losses this season.
There is plenty of talent that floods the offensive side of the ball for Minnesota, but Jefferson, the newest star to have joined that unit, is someone the Vikings should run the offense through moving forward. If they do, they will come out on top more often than not which hasn’t been the case to this point in the 2021 campaign.
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