In 2021, despite an offense that was far more basic and limited than it could or should have been, Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson generated 1,616 receiving yards. This year, with new coach Kevin O’Connell installing an offense that helped Rams receiver Cooper Kupp threaten Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving yardage record of 1,964 yards with a 17-game total of 1,947, Jefferson has a new goal.
He wants to be the first receiver to crack the 2,000-yard barrier.
“I think I can,” Jefferson said Monday, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “Hopefully, everything goes right and I can get that 2,000. That’s my goal.”
So what about Kupp?
“Coop is good, but I’ll say he’s behind me,” Jefferson said.
Jefferson has been talking for months about his expected uptick in production given the arrival of O’Connell. O’Connell, for his part, has said he “absolutely” intends to make Jefferson the Cooper Kupp of the Vikings offense.
“[O’Connell] can do a lot,” Jefferson said, via Tomasson. “He’ll put me in different positions, put me in motion, put me in different spots to get the ball, So we’re excited about this new offense. I feel great about all the different coaches coming into the building. Everybody’s having a great connection with all the players.
“We’re definitely all excited about the new people coming in and what we’re going to bring to the table. I feel like this year, with the new coaches, we’re more laid back, we’re more comfortable with the new coaches. I just feel like with the new style of offense, I think it’s going to be great for us.”
The last coach, Mike Zimmer, didn’t specifically try to give Jefferson a chance to break the team’s single-season receiving yardage record in the 2021 season finale. Jefferson’s 1,616 yards fell short of Randy Moss’s 1,632.
“I wasn’t even too much worrying about it then,” Jefferson said. “It is what it is. At the end of the day, I was just going to break it the next year.”
If he breaks either the team record or gets to 2,000 yards, the next thing Jefferson will break is the bank. If he shows he’s the best receiver in the NFL this year, he’ll want to be the highest-paid. And he’ll deserve it.