And now, the competition is adamant about taking him out of the Vikings’ game plan.
Head coach Kevin O’Connell counted just eight or nine snaps where Jefferson didn’t see “some variation” of a double team in a Week 3 victory over the Detroit Lions.
It led to the least productive game of Jefferson’s career — just three catches for 14 yards on six targets. With added attention on Jefferson, the Vikings’ other pass-catchers capitalized with Detroit’s defense surrendering other parts of the field to stop Jefferson.
The win was most important to Jefferson, however, he admitted there was plenty of frustration throughout the game.
Justin Jefferson: It Was ‘Difficult to Keep My Cool’ vs. Lions
After the win over the Lions where Jefferson was seen having a “lengthy” conversation with O’Connell on the sidelines, the star wide receiver was candid about his frustrations in facing double, sometimes triple coverage.
“It is frustrating for sure. Just being the type of player that I am double and triple teams are going to come,” Jefferson said in a September 25 postgame locker room interview, adding that his presence helped open up the field for the rest of the offense. “That is the luxury of having Adam [Thielen] and K.J. [Osborn] on the other side. Even when they want to double team me, I know that somebody will be open.”
While hearing a star Vikings receiver speaking openly about a lack of production brings back memories of other star wideouts who fled Minnesota, Jefferson is sticking to the system, knowing every team can’t afford to sell out to stop him.
“It’s definitely difficult to keep my cool during that moment. Of course, I want the ball. Of course, I want to be a playmaker — do stuff for my team. When that stuff comes I can’t do too much about it. Listen to the play calls do what I’m told. K.J and Adam are getting wide open ’cause they be getting those 1-on-1 coverages. This is definitely good to see them winning their battles and were going to keep doing this.”
Adam Thielen Admits Offense Needs to Take Pressure Off Justin Jefferson
Understanding the ebbs and flows of an NFL season, Thielen spoke to the need for the offense to continue to find its identity and have its secondary playmakers emerge to help take opposing defenses’ attention off Jefferson.
“We talk about it as an offense and as a team that you have to have multiple guys be able to make plays, and we have to take pressure off Justin. The running game has to take pressure off Justin,” Thielen said in a September 25 postgame locker room interview. He’s an unbelievable football player and we need him making plays. So we got to do our part as individuals outside of him to really make it tough on defenses.”
Kirk Cousins‘ game-winning touchdown connection to Osborn is case-in-point for the types of opportunities that can open up when the offense’s playmakers continue to press defenses throughout the game. Cousins and Thielen admitted that Osborn wasn’t who they expected to break free from coverage, however, the play design opened up Osborn on the deep route.
“The coaching staff has done just a great job of designing stuff and making sure Kirk has a read. If one guy’s doubled and there’s another guy doubled, then there’s another guy with 1-on-1 and you saw that on K.J.’s touchdown —maybe not necessarily designed to go to him — but they’re going to read it out and they’re going to play it true,” Thielen said. “When you do that and practice it that way and it pops in the game, you’re ready to throw it. [Cousins] made a great read and a great throw and K.J. did a great job as he does always and was ready for his opportunity even when he doesn’t get a whole lot of them sometimes.”