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Skol Schemes, Week 12: Justin Time

Offensive Player of the Year?

New England Patriots v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

In season 1, episode 11 of the beloved Nickelodeon show Hey Arnold!, Coach Wittenberg delivered his game plan to his team: get the ball to Tucker. Kevin O’Connell, who may or may not have watched this pivotal episode in the arc of our beloved football head, has built an offense that takes advantage of Minnesota’s Tucker (minus the free throw issues) in Justin Jefferson. Bill Belichick is fully aware of this.

And yet, Justin Jefferson tallied 9 receptions, 139 yards, and a touchdown on the way to a 33-26 Vikings victory. Jefferson created issues for the Patriots off play action, in contested catch situations, and even split a double team for a big play. It is my pleasure to once again share some Justin Jefferson film with you all.

Off play action

The Vikings are a shining example that you do not need to establish the run in order to have a successful play action game. Instead, the threat of the run, formational manipulation, and getting the defense into advantageous looks can make play action work.

Drift (Strike under McVay) is a Shanahan tree favorite off play action. You will see this route almost every single Sunday and you saw it on Sunday night as Christian Watson broke a big touchdown for the Green Bay Packers.

Drift (the name of the play concept as well as the route) takes advantage of Cover 3 and is often run from offensive formations that encourage the defense to be in loaded boxes with 1 high safety. First, the Cornerback has outside leverage against a condensed Receiver and is protecting a deep third of the field. The Linebackers are usually drawn in by the play fake, the Quarterback can time their steps to the Receiver’s, and the Receiver can find the hole between the two levels, catch the ball in stride, and make a play. Jefferson did just that early in the 2nd quarter:

Justin Jefferson has also benefitted from a more aggressive Kirk Cousins. Cousins’ willingness to throw into more tight windows and dealing with pressure better lead to more opportunities for Jefferson:

No contest

In recent weeks, it feels like whenever the ball is in the air, #18 comes down with it. Against the Patriots, Jefferson held onto the ball through contact and survived a big hit from the defense multiple times. Though Vikings fans surely want to see Jefferson walk into the end zone clean, the ability to secure the ball through violent collisions increases the margin of error for the Vikings offense. Jefferson’s talent allows for Cousins to throw into tighter windows with confidence knowing that success can be had even when defenders are closing in on the superstar:

Double or nothing

One way to deal with a star Wide Receiver is with a double team. There are a variety of double teams, and Justin Jefferson has seen many of them this year. He has seen a high low bracket where a Cornerback bumps him and has a Safety over the top of his route. Against New England, he saw an in and out bracket (with the Safety likely also being responsible for a vertical route) that placed a defender on either side of his route break. Jefferson reminded us that when you can’t run around them, you might be able to run through them! Jefferson split the double, floated back into a spot where Cousins had more room to throw the ball, and completed the catch through contact:

Did I mention he can pass too?

Each week, Justin Jefferson reminds us that he is a top Receiver in the league. Aside from the entertainment value, he fuels the Vikings offense and how teams deal with him speaks volumes about his talent. Defensive Coordinators will continue to draw up what they can for Jefferson who is poised to prove to the NFL that he is indeed always open.