On Sunday, Minnesota Vikings’ wide receiver Justin Jefferson put together another outstanding performance in his team’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Jefferson was targeted 12 times and hauled in eight of those passes for 116 yards, setting the NFL record for receiving yardage in a player’s first two years in the process.
Yet in the Vikings’ five trips into the red zone, Jefferson was only targeted one time, which is enough to make anyone scratch their heads. . .including Jefferson himself.
In the post-game press conference, Jefferson made a statement that was right on the money and signals that a change is definitely needed in Minnesota.
When asked about the team’s red zone playcalling, Jefferson said this:
“I think we should be more aggressive when we get down there. As soon as we get down there. But I’m not the one calling the plays. I’m just here to do my job and do what’s told of me. But we can’t get down in the red zone that many times and come out with three points.”
One target for Jefferson in five red zone opportunities is just the latest in what continues to be the mystifying playcalling of offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak. This team has plenty of weapons and the ability to score points in bunches. . .we’ve seen both of those things on display numerous times this season. But there have been two themes that we’ve seen throughout the course of this year with this offense.
One of those is what we’ve mentioned already with the red zone offense. Yes, I understand that the Vikings have Dalvin Cook in the backfield most of the time to put the ball into the end zone, and guys like K.J. Osborn and Tyler Conklin are having nice seasons and have developed into solid options. But even then, Justin Jefferson has gotten to the point where he should be the first option on damn near every play this team runs in the red zone, particularly with Adam Thielen out of the lineup as he was for much of Sunday’s game.
The other one is the conservative nature of the playcalling a lot of the time. This is something that we touched on during the Vikings Report Rewind postgame show this afternoon. For some reason, this team doesn’t seem to open up the entirety of the playbook until they’re down by two scores. We saw that today early in the fourth quarter after the Stafford to Odell Beckham Jr. touchdown that put the Rams up 27-13. Prior to that, the Vikings’ only touchdown drive of the day covered exactly two yards, coming after Anthony Barr’s second interception of the day set the offense up in a goal-to-go situation.
Here’s what the drive after the OBJ touchdown looked like:
- Pass to Conklin - 19 yards
- Pass to Osborn - 19 yards
- Screen pass to Alexander Mattison - 14 yards
- Pass to Kene Nwangwu - 6 yards
- Pass to Conklin - 10 yards
- 1-yard run by Nwangwu
- Pass to Osborn for a 6-yard touchdown
And they made it look easy. It was the most impressive drive the Vikings put together all afternoon, and it took them seven plays and a total of three minutes and 16 seconds to do it.
Why can’t the offense be that aggressive before this team gets down by two scores? Somebody that’s a hell of a lot smarter than I am can probably supply a legitimate answer to that question, but I’m absolutely befuddled by the entire thing.’s a hell of a lot
This team should be able to drop 30 points on damn near any defense in the NFL any time they feel like it, despite their issues on the offensive line that have been there for years. (That’s another discussion for another time.) But they don’t. I don’t know if it’s Klint Kubiak’s philosophy or Mike Zimmer’s philosophy or something with Kirk Cousins. . .and I think Cousins deserves significantly less blame than the other two. . .but something isn’t right.
It certainly feels like that we’re approaching the last two games of the Mike Zimmer era in Minnesota, and we’re already getting articles like this one from Pro Football Talk musing about whether or not Justin Jefferson is going to try to follow the path of Randy Moss, Percy Harvin, and Stefon Diggs to find his way out of Minnesota. (Yes, I know that Moss really doesn’t fit in with the other two. . .it’s not my article.)
The Minnesota Vikings, presumably, are going to be hiring a new head coach sooner rather than later. . .it should be as close to “sooner” as they can get, given the new rules about when teams can start interviewing coaching candidates. And when the new General Manager. . .because Rick Spielman can pack his bags and head out of town with Mike Zimmer. . .starts interviewing candidates, one of the first two questions they’re asked should be, “How do you plan to utilize Justin Jefferson?”
The Vikings have three years to make sure that Jefferson doesn’t, in fact, follow the same path that Harvin and Diggs blazed before him. He has two years left on his rookie contract, and the only reason his fifth-year option hasn’t already been picked up is because I don’t think the rules allow the team to do so. There are any number of coaches out there that would love to be able to work with #18 and can come up with a way to maximize his productivity, and that’s going to need to be one of the primary factors in deciding who the tenth head coach in Minnesota Vikings’ history is going to be.