Star receiver Justin Jefferson has been working on his comeback from a hamstring injury suffered in Week 5. He was placed on IR a few days later and hasn’t been back on the field since, missing the following six contests. His next chance to return is Monday at the annual home matchup with the Bears or after the bye week in Las Vegas.
Justin Jefferson Enjoys the Thielen Role
Besides recovering from the injury, the first-year team captain has taken on a large role as a leader in the locker room, trying to help younger guys out. Of course, his main protege is rookie Jordan Addison, and JJ talked about their relationship:
I said it when he first came here, I wanted to take on that Adam Thielen role like he had for me. Whatever he needs on and off the field, I’m there for him. I know that him coming to Minnesota is a different culture shock for him, he doesn’t really have many people to talk to here so I just want to be that teammate for him that he can call on at any time to help him with either on the field or just in life in general.
Addison was Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s second first-round pick since taking over the organization, and through 11 games, it has been a wonderful choice. The rookie was brought in to play alongside Jefferson but has been asked to step up during his absence. Tight end T.J. Hockenson and Addison have taken the role as the primary targets in the passing game first for Kirk Cousins and then in Joshua Dobbs’ offense.
His tenure with the Vikings started as badly as possible with injuries in the offseason followed by his infamous speeding incident, but he has turned into a dangerous weapon on offense. In 11 games of his rookie season, he caught 48 passes for 647 yards and 7 touchdowns. He has logged at least three receptions in every game except in Week 4 when he was shut out against the Panthers. Among rookie receivers, he ranks third in yards and first in touchdowns.
It will be exciting to see the offense with Addison and Hockenson once Jefferson returns from his hamstring injury. Making sure Dobbs — the backup quarterback — is playing at a high level is the most critical task for the Vikes in the upcoming weeks to clinch a playoff spot. Giving him a bunch of explosive weapons is the easiest way to achieve that. Addison’s targets expectedly increased from 5.8 per game with Jefferson in the lineup to 7.2 without him, and his receptions from 3.8 to 4.8.
The 21-year-old is on pace to record 999.9 receiving yards in 2023. Becoming the third player (Randy Moss, Jefferson) in franchise history to have 1,000 yards in his rookie season is possible.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt