During their search for a new head coach, you would have to believe that one of the most important questions that Minnesota Vikings management was asking the candidates was how they planned on using star wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Jefferson has been re-writing the record books in his first two seasons, both with the Vikings and league-wide, and is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the franchise as things stand right now.
Well, Kevin O’Connell apparently had a pretty good answer to that question, and he elaborated on that yesterday.
O’Connell, appearing on PFT Live with Mike Florio on Thursday, said that he wants to use Jefferson in the same manner that the Los Angeles Rams use their star wide receiver, Cooper Kupp. Kupp had one of the all-time great receiving seasons in NFL history in 2021, catching 145 passes for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was also named the MVP of the Rams’ Super Bowl victory over the Cincinnati Bengals last month.
“Absolutely,” O’Connell said. “The one thing about Cooper Kupp this past season is he lined up in a lot of different spots. It was hard for defenses to really know where he was. He did a lot of different things. He had an impact in a lot of phases of our offense beyond just catching a lot of balls and scoring a lot of touchdowns. There was a huge role for Cooper because of his willingness to be completely solidified in every phase, both the run and the pass.
“I see that with Justin. I see an incredible, incredible skillset, but I also see a player we can move around. We can make it hard for defenses to know where he’s going to be. He doesn’t have to line up in the same spot all the time. He doesn’t have to run the same type of routes all the time. He’s dynamic with the ball in his hands. He’s willing in the run game. This guy’s a special, special player. I loved him a couple years ago when he was coming out of the draft. We obviously weren’t in a position to possibly get a chance to coach him. You still go through the process. You see the traits, you see the skillset. He’s really just grown from day one.
If anyone can fit into the same sort of role as Kupp did in a new-look Minnesota offense, it would be Jefferson, who has shown that he’s just about uncoverable in the slot or out wide. He did most of his best work in college in the slot but has developed into a complete wide receiver in his first two seasons with the Vikings.
I don’t know if Justin Jefferson is going to catch over 140 passes in 2022 or anything like that, but it certainly sounds like Kevin O’Connell wants to give him the opportunity to do so.