New Minnesota Vikings’ wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell has seen some pretty great receivers in his time as an NFL player and coach. He’s coached a lot of them during his time as a coach and, you know, he was one himself during his NFL career.
But McCardell has compared two of his newest charges, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, to one of the most dominant wide receiver pairings of the late 90s and early 2000s. That combo is the former Jacksonville Jaguars pairing of Jimmy Smith and. . .get this. . .Keenan McCardell.
“I had this conversation with Adam [on Tuesday], and I was just like, ‘You guys are similar to myself and Jimmy Smith.’ I think you guys push each other,” McCardell said. “You guys have fun playing with each other. I said I want you guys to continue that, because I’ve been a part of that. I understand that.”
Frankly, that’s a pretty great pairing to be compared to. In his six seasons in Jacksonville, McCardell went over the 1,000-yard mark four times, racking up a total of 499 catches, 6,393 yards, and 30 touchdowns in his time with the Jaguars. Smith was even more dominant during the six seasons the pair played together (1996 - 2001). Smith’s lowest receiving total during that six-year stretch was 1,182 yards in 1998, and he found the end zone 41 times during that span.
I’m not sure who in this equation is Smith and who is McCardell, but I’m not sure that it matters. Being compared to either of those guys is pretty lofty praise. If the Vikings want Jefferson to build on his record-setting rookie campaign, McCardell seems like the kind of coach that can help him to do just that.
It would also help if McCardell could help a third option. . .whether it’s someone like Bisi Johnson or someone that isn’t on the Vikings’ roster yet. . .the emerge as someone that can take the heat off of Thielen and Jefferson in the passing game. The Vikings don’t utilize three-wide receiver sets as much as they probably should, and I’m curious as to how much of that has to do with the lack of a legitimate third option on the depth chart at receiver and how much of it is the fact that the style of offense Mike Zimmer wants to run simply favors multiple tight ends more than it does three and four-wide sets.
In any event, it’s always nice to see two of your biggest offensive weapons get compared to one of the most prolific wide receiving duos in recent history. If Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson can (continue to) live up to that hefty billing, the Vikings will be able to focus on other areas that need shoring up.