Maybe it’s becoming too predictable at this point, or maybe the greatness is simply getting overlooked. However, the NFL has taken notice, and Justin Jefferson is seen as a superstar. Even while not the one-and-only star of the show on Thursday night, a quick look at the box score brings on bewilderment about his impact.
Coming into the contest against the New England Patriots, there was no denying that future Hall of Fame head coach Bill Belichick would be looking to stifle the Minnesota Vikings passing attack. Justin Jefferson has been among the game’s most dynamic pass catchers since he entered the league, and his pace in 2022 has been otherworldly.
With Kevin O’Connell knowing he had a quarterback playing behind a banged-up line and a pass rush determined to bring him down, quickly developing plays seemed like the play. Then Jefferson got going, and the rest was history.
It may be hard to define the Thanksgiving game as among Jefferson’s best, but the gaudy stat line certainly reads of a great output. Even removing the 37-yard deep ball, Jefferson still racked up over 100 yards on eight receptions. He found the end zone, and while it wasn’t his catch that sealed it, his play throughout put Minnesota in position.
This game seemed like one in which both T.J. Hockenson and Adam Thielen could be relied upon more. Knowing that Matthew Judon would have his ears pinned back and be looking to sack Cousins, shorter routes to sure-handed checkdowns made a lot of sense. Although Thielen did get 10 targets (nine of which he pulled in), there was no shortage of Jefferson producing at his consistent All-Pro level.
Coming off a lackluster performance against the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota wanted the offense to get back to their usual high production level. Jefferson generated just 33 yards receiving in that contest, and while he wasn’t phased out of the gameplan, Dallas simply took him away. O’Connell responded by putting his superstar in position to make plays, and Jefferson turned in his seventh 100-yard performance in just 12 games.
As the odds on favorite to lead the NFL in receiving yards this year, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that Jefferson continues to put up numbers. Each time there’s a down game. However, he answers in a big way, and the production has been otherworldly more often than it hasn’t. For Vikings fans that watch Jefferson every week, it may be fair to suggest his performance gets overlooked due to a level of expectation.
At this point, we’re talking about a 23-year-old kid who is just 42 starts into his NFL career, and yet he’s emerged as a talent being talked about alongside Jerry Rice. There’s plenty of runway to go this season, and capping Jefferson’s production through any limiting lens seems foolish. Hopefully, he hasn’t already transcended to a point where his greatness goes overlooked as well.
Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.