Lost in Minnesota trying to kick their fans in the junk again Thursday night like they have so many times this season — or last — was the performance of Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson.
His stats — 79 yards, sevens catches and a touchdown — don’t stand out in a lead-your-piece-with-it kind of way, but when you look at what he could’ve done, it could’ve been the kind of eye-popping, primetime performance that makes you understand why he’s hitting marks that only Randy Moss and Odell Beckham Jr. reached in the first two years of their careers.
Yeah, he dropped one of those, and a couple more hit his fingers, but being on the other end of passes from Kirk Cousins is like being at the pool with your brother and you tell him to throw you bad passes so you can dive to catch them. The games when Cousins is feeling it, which do happen, have led to big days for Jefferson, which is why he’s hit 1,250 yards receiving in each of his first two seasons, and is only the third receiver to do that along with, you guessed it, Moss and Beckham.
I could find more stats and numbers and receivers to compare him with, but I want to focus on Moss and Beckham because of the overlap in each player’s career, and how Jefferson can avoid Moss and OBJ’s Blue Period — or, for those of you unfamiliar with Pablo Picasso, their depressing stints with the Raiders and Browns (not to be confused with Odell’s Big Blue Period).
Jefferson, like Beckham, played at LSU, and has a similar game and frame, as well. Jefferson, like Moss, started his career in Minnesota, is excelling and doesn’t exactly hide his frustration. He isn’t the sensation those two were, though. Moss was transcendent the moment he stepped on the field, and Beckham had 1,300-plus yards in 12 games as a rookie, 1,450 yards in 15 games his second season, and that Sunday night three-finger catch against Dallas his rookie year.
I don’t know if Jefferson is the kind of guy who would overstay his welcome the way Moss and Beckham did, but wide receivers have a history of volatility, and Stephon Diggs already forced his way out of Minnesota because of Cousins. I don’t want to see that happen with Jefferson, because Vikings fans deserve better — like all fans of cursed or miserable teams deserve better.
And to be sure, the wideout has heard rumors of a rift between him and his QB because we’ve seen and heard his reactions to bad misses from Cousins, but he attributed that to his competitive fire and remained professional when asked about the alleged rift recently (via Heavy.com).
“It’s just all about knowing who you really are. A lot of people in this building know what type of person I am. So me ‘being a diva’ or ‘wanting too much’ that’s not in my character that’s not who I am. I just love to win, love to compete and love to be a part of this game.
“I don’t worry about too much of the outside noise. These guys in this [locker] room know what’s going on in the huddle and the plays being called. It’s really all the connection with me and Kirk. At the end of the day, as long as we’re on the same page, then we’re all good.”
Jefferson’s willingness to still work with Cousins is good because not every Diggs and DeAndre Hopkins finds their Josh Allen or Kyler Murray, respectively, and a lot of times it looks more like Moss in Oakland or Beckham in Cleveland. Even scarier than that thought is there may not be a second prime like Moss had in New England because, as appears to be the case for Beckham, not all bodies last long enough to take advantage of multiple opportunities.
I hate to be so forward-writing and negative in a piece that’s celebrating how fucking good Jefferson is, so allow me to say this, it’s no wonder the LSU team that had him, Joe Burrow, and Ja’marr Chase waltzed to the national title. I mean, good lord, that’s not only three Pro Bowlers but maybe three Hall of Famers. If Jefferson had Burrow throwing to him like Chase has, this would be the full-blown puff piece it should be.
Here’s some more highlights because it’s not because he’s playing for a 6-7 team that has their fans sending me, “Here it comes. I’ve seen this hundreds of times” texts before Pittsburgh’s final drive Thursday. Even though they were able to stop the Steelers on the last play of the game from the Vikings’ 12-yard line, it still got to that point after they had a 29-0 lead late in the third quarter.
Those early Vikings teams with Moss were good, and those early Giants teams with Beckham in New York were as well, so they got the flowers they deserved. Jefferson had 182 yards and a touchdown on 11 catches in that Lions game. I don’t want to see him frowning for a few seasons on a bench in Jacksonville, or Vikings fans frowning because they’re left with Cousins.
Can we please get this guy some better PR and a good quarterback and coach? Or how about just a good quarterback? There has to be a Matt Stafford-type trade out there.
A good quarterback is all we ever really want for great wide receivers — and less than two years into his career, Jefferson definitely qualifies as a great wide receiver.