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Zulgad: Justin Jefferson should be applauded for telling it like it is when it comes to Kirk Cousins

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Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates after catching a touchdown pass in the third quarter during an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Minneapolis. The Titans defeated the Vikings 31-20. (AP Photo/David Berding)

There was an attempt to dissect Justin Jefferson’s comments after the wide receiver appeared on Colin Cowherd’s national television and radio show Tuesday and gave his thoughts on a couple of topics regarding quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Jefferson, asked to compare Cousins to Joe Burrow, who had been Jefferson’s quarterback at LSU, gave a candid assessment.

“Kirk and Joe throw similar balls,” he said. “They’re not the strongest arms, but they’re going to get it to you exactly where you need them to throw it. The thing about Joe that’s a little bit different — I feel like Joe has a little bit more swagger. He has that confidence on the field, he’s not scared to get hit. I feel like as a quarterback, that’s a big trait to have, especially to be as young as he is. He’s a phenomenal quarterback.”

Jefferson, the Vikings’ first-round pick in 2020, also was asked about the rumors that the Vikings had interest in Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields in the first round. The Bears traded up to the 11th pick to get Fields, and the Vikings took Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond in the third round. “We have to build on for after Kirk, or whatever the case may be,” Jefferson said. “Having Justin Fields brings a little bit more pressure to other teams by having a dominant quarterback like he is.”

Some felt that Jefferson was doing his best Stefon Diggs impersonation, but as much as I like controversy I don’t see it here. What we have is a soon-to-be 22-year-old star player who is being honest.

Many still don’t believe it, but the word when Diggs forced his way out of Minnesota was that it had far more to do with how the Vikings ran their offense than anything Cousins was doing wrong. Look at Jefferson’s comments on Burrow and Cousins and the only thing you really have to pick apart is the line about Burrow having “more swagger.”

That’s also absolutely true. Cousins, 32, isn’t a guy who has a lot of swagger, or looks like he plays with a ton of confidence, and it should come as no surprise the 24-year-old Burrow carries himself with more of an edge. Burrow also was the No. 1 pick in 2020 draft, player quarterback in the SEC and (along with Jefferson) won a national championship. Cousins was the 102nd pick in the fourth round of the 2012 draft out of Michigan State.

Odds are by the age of 32, Burrow also won’t embrace taking hits. That might come this season given he’s returning from a torn ACL and MCL that ended his rookie season in Week 11. Cousins receives plenty of criticism, but he has managed to avoid injuries. Since taking over as the starter in Washington in 2015, Cousins has missed one game and that was because the Vikings sat him out in the final week of the regular season in 2019 because their playoff spot was secured.

Jefferson, who had 88 catches for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns in a fantastic rookie season in 2020, was spot on when talking about the future. There is a good chance Cousins won’t be back after his contract expires in 2022, and there is the possibility that 2021 will be his final season Minnesota.

That means Jefferson is likely to spend the majority of his career catching passes from Mond or another quarterback the Vikings draft or sign. Jefferson’s comments about Fields, and the future, are acknowledging the reality of that situation.

This doesn’t mean that Jefferson won’t grow unhappy with the Vikings’ offensive philosophy at some point and speak out, but when it comes to Cousins, Jefferson wasn’t creating controversy. He was simply being more candid and truthful than most. Hopefully, that doesn’t change.