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Zulgad’s Roundup: Justin Jefferson says he will step into more of a leadership role next season

Nfl: Green Bay Packers At Minnesota Vikings
Nov 21, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

In Justin Jefferson’s first two seasons the wide receiver set the NFL record for most receiving yards in a player’s first two years (3,016) and his 196 receptions tied him with Michael Thomas for catches in that time. But Jefferson made it clear during an appearance on Pro Football Talk’s show at the Super Bowl that he’s far from satisfied.

“I feel like I want to get better at every category,” Jefferson said.  “Just get my hands better, route running, getting more explosive, getting faster. There are so many more things that I feel I’m a little bit weaker at (in) my game. I feel like once I touch those things up I’ll be on a whole different level. … There are people that I’m still wanting to work with.”

Jefferson said he plans to workout with former Vikings star and Hall of Famer Randy Moss in Florida and also will join Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry to work at the House of Athlete complex in South Florida. “(I’m) working out with different people all around the league,” said Jefferson, the 22nd pick in the first round of the 2020 draft and the fifth receiver taken. “Just getting some new little moves. … We’ve got to get better. I had a 1,600-yard season, so I’ve got to get better than that.”

Jefferson, 22, caught five passes for 107 yards in the Vikings’ final game this season, putting him at 1,616 yards for the year. That left him 17 yards shy of passing Moss’ single-season Vikings record of 1,632 yards set in a 16-game season in 2003. Despite his personal success, the Vikings are 15-18 in Jefferson’s first two seasons and have missed the playoffs both years.

Jefferson, who won a national championship at LSU in 2019 with quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, just watched his former college teammates make it to the Super Bowl in Burrow’s second NFL season and Chase’s rookie year with the Bengals.

Jefferson, meanwhile, will be playing for a new coach next season after Mike Zimmer was fired and Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell reportedly was selected to replace him. Jefferson sees himself moving into more of a leadership role in 2022.

“Now that it’s becoming year three and I did the things that I did in my first two seasons, I feel like this is the year that I become more of a leader, more captain of the team,” Jefferson told PFT. “Just being more vocal. The first two seasons you’re new to the building, you’re the rookie, you’re the new guy. So a lot of people don’t really … not technically (not) listen to you, but it’s different. I feel like I’ve got to take on that (leadership) role now.”

As for criticism directed at Kirk Cousins, Jefferson said if the Vikings begin winning more often that the quarterback will find the heat on him gets turned down.

“A lot of people say things about Kirk and it is what it is,” Jefferson said. “To be honest, all people really care about is wins. So at the end of the day if you don’t get any wins then people are going to be a little harsh on you. If we start winning, get some dubs, get in the playoffs, get high in the playoffs, maybe reach the Super Bowl, I’m pretty sure people aren’t going to be on him then.”

  • The Vikings won’t lack coaching experience on the defensive side of the ball under O’Connell. With Ed Donatell already set to be named as defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine also is expected to be part of the defensive coaching staff. Tom Pelissero of NFL Network was the first with the Pettine news but said his title hasn’t been determined. Donatell, 65, has been an NFL assistant since 1990 and brings 11 years of experience as a coordinator, including the past three with the Broncos. Pettine, 55, has been a defensive coordinator for three teams over eight years and was the Browns’ head coach for two seasons. He has been in the NFL since 2002, but did take a one-year break in 2016 after being fired by the Browns.
  • As reported by Darren (Doogie) Wolfson on his Scoop podcast, Wes Phillips is expected to leave the Rams’ coaching staff to become O’Connell’s offensive coordinator or passing game coordinator in Minnesota. Phillips, 42, the son of former NFL coach Wade Phillips and the grandson of Bum Phillips, has been the Rams’ tight ends coach and passing game coordinator.
  • The Rams are set to have their Super Bowl parade on Wednesday, so look for O’Connell to be introduced as the Vikings coach on Thursday or Friday.
  • The Vikings are ranked 20th in ESPN’s way-too-early NFL power rankings. The top five teams are Kansas City, Buffalo, the Rams, Green Bay and Cincinnati. Minnesota’s other two NFC North rivals, Chicago and Detroit, are ranked 26th and 30th, respectively. If Aaron Rodgers leaves the Packers, Green Bay will be far closer to the Vikings than Kansas City in these rankings.
  • It’s no secret that Claude Giroux would help the Wild in many ways, but what could really hurt is if the Flyers captain is traded to one of Minnesota’s NHL Central rivals before the March 21 trade deadline. There appears to be a chance that could happen as the Flyers reportedly are scouting the Avalanche in anticipation of a possible trade that would move the center/winger to one of the NHL’s best teams. Giroux, 34, will be a free agent after the season and while he has a no-move clause, meaning he would have to approve a trade, it’s expected he would OK a move from the last-place team in the Metropolitan Division.  One issue would be the Avalanche’s salary-cap situation. Colorado has only $287,716 in space, according to the website CapFriendly, and Giroux has a $8.275 million cap hit. However, the Denver Post reports that if the Flyers get what they want in a trade, they might be willing to retain salary.