Justin Jefferson’s rookie season was nothing short of spectacular. The exciting news for Vikings fans is he’s putting in the work to be even better in his second season in Minnesota.
Credit Justin Jefferson for understanding the challenges heading towards him in his second season in the NFL. He understands that opposing defenses have spent a lot of time this offseason studying what made him so successful as a rookie. That’s why the talented wideout has worked hard this summer to add new moves to his impressive repertoire.
Jefferson racked up 88 catches for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns during his rookie campaign. That wasn’t good enough to pilot the Vikings to a playoff berth, but it did earn Jefferson second-team All-Pro honors. The natural expectation is for him to combine with Adam Thielen to form one of the league’s most productive receiving duos in 2021.
Some receivers might be content to rest on their laurels. Jefferson isn’t that sort of player. He recently told the Pioneer Press he knew he had to “put some new moves into (his) inventory.” That work is designed to help him improve on his individual statistics from a season ago.
“That’s the hard part about the league and doing great things in the league,’’ Jefferson said. “There’s always someone watching your tape and studying your games, so definitely during this offseason I had to learn some new moves and put some new moves into my inventory.’’
That’d bad news for secondaries who want to slow down Minnesota’s passing attack this season. The Vikings made significant moves to upgrade their offensive line by drafting Christian Darrisaw and Wyatt Davis. That’s designed to help improve Dalvin Cook’s rushing ability, but the primary focus will be to give Kirk Cousins more time to throw.
What can Justin Jefferson realistically do better?
The biggest challenge for Jefferson this season will be ascending to the role of being the Vikings’ unquestioned No. 1 wide receiver. That role was held by Thielen for stretches of the 2020 campaign. Jefferson ended up narrowly edging out the veteran in terms of total receptions, but that gap needs to increase in 2021 if he truly wants to improve.
That might cause Jefferson to drop his yards per catch average slightly, but the Vikings offense can benefit from him amassing more receptions to keep the chains moving. Minnesota’s pass game had plenty of explosive plays last year but struggled to keep the ball away from more talented offenses in big games.
The bottom line for Jefferson is that he came into the NFL as a polished receiver. That might limit his upside compared to other wideouts from his draft class. Of course, bursting on the scene as an All-Pro means he’s already a great player. Adding one or two new moves or techniques to his repertoire could make him one of the top-five receivers in football in the very near future.