Vikings’ Justin Jefferson Has a Bone to Pick With Eagles Star

Justin Jefferson

Getty Justin Jefferson on the sidelines at Soldier Field in 2023.

Last year, Minnesota Vikings star Justin Jefferson had a tough go against one of the NFL’s top corners in Philadelphia Eagles veteran Darius Slay.

According to Pro Football Focus, Jefferson secured only 1-of-6 targets for 7 yards when Slay was the closest man in coverage. The Eagles star also intercepted two passes in the end zone, which foiled any chance of a Vikings comeback in a 24-7 loss.

The Vikings return to Lincoln Financial Field for a primetime rematch on Thursday, and Jefferson was not shy about his unfinished business in Philly.

“It’s always going to be a great battle with the top corners in the league,” Jefferson said ahead of his matchup with Slay in a September 12 media conference. “I’m always excited to have those type of matchups. But definitely we have some things we’ve got to get back (at) them on. Having the loss last year, not having those plays we wanted last year. There’s definitely some tension going into the game.”

Eagles at the Epicenter of Justin Jefferson’s Draft-Day Grudge

Jefferson’s ascent to become the NFL’s best receiver began after five teams selected wide receivers before the Vikings landed hm with the No. 22 overall pick.

“Every single person that picked a receiver instead of me are going to pay,” Jefferson said in 2020 on “The Zach Gelb Show” on CBS Sports Radio. “I’m going to show them that I am the better receiver.”

The Eagles have been the most scrutinized of those teams. Philadelphia selected Jalen Reagor one pick ahead of where the Vikings landed Jefferson.

“Every mock draft had me going to Philly,” Jefferson told reporters approaching last year’s matchup with the Eagles. “So when Philly was on the board, getting the phone call and it being Minnesota, it was definitely a shocker. But I’m definitely happy, way more happier, to be here than there. Just like I said, I’m excited for it [playing the Eagles]. I can’t wait.”

Minnesota traded a pair of Day 3 draft picks to land Reagor as its punt returner in 2022. Reagor was released in August and is now with the New England Patriots, his third team in four seasons.

Meanwhile, Jefferson is the league’s most productive receiver all-time through his first three seasons and appears to be on a path to continue that trend this season.

However, the numbers aren’t enough for Jefferson, who was distraught after the Vikings’ Week 1 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers despite posting 9 catches for 150 yards.

“I hate losing,” he said. “I always want to be on that winning stage and celebrating with my teammates.

Vikings Would Be Advised to Keep Justin Jefferson Involved vs. Eagles

Jefferson started the 2023 season as dominant as ever, securing 7 receptions for 138 yards receiving in the first half against Tampa Bay.

However, he vanished from the game plan in the second half. Jefferson saw just two more targets come his way — both of which he secured for 12 yards.

Jefferson was not targeted once in the fourth quarter despite the Vikings needing a go-ahead score in the game’s final 12 minutes. Minnesota went three-and-out on its final two drives — a far cry from the clutch performances the Vikings executed often last season.

Jefferson did not complain about his lack of involvement in Sunday’s loss, but as an ultra competitor and the game’s top receiver, it would be wise to keep him busy on Thursday against the Eagles.

I feel like with the connection with me and Kirk, everyone knows when I should be able to be included in the offense,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s not my decision (when the ball comes to him). I have the confidence in Kirk and K.O. (coach Kevin O’Connell) to draw it up and give me the ball whenever it’s the right time.

“I’ll always try to prove to them and the rest of this team that I’m always going to be out there giving it my 100 percent. Whenever the ball is coming my way, I’m making the most of those opportunities. It’s all up to them when they want to throw me the ball or when they want to add me into the plan. My mindset is the same as always.”

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