Stifling Minnesota’s Aerial Attack Will Be No Small Feat

Reaction to Vikings Win over Giants
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings won’t go very far in 2023 if their offense isn’t among the league’s best. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell know that, so they doubled down on offense by selecting Jordan Addison at pick #23.

Minnesota’s aerial attack was already good. It now has the potential to be among the league’s very best, if not at the very top.

Obviously, Kirk Cousins is pretty far from the league’s best QB. Are there many spots, though, that can boast a QB as good as him with such a vast array of excellent skill?

At this point, Justin Jefferson has solidified himself as the best receiver in the league as he comes off his Offensive Player of the Year Award. K.J. Osborn is no joke and T.J. Hockenson is a top-5 tight end. Putting all of these players – as well as Addison – onto the field at one time is going to be deadly.

Oh, and the offensive line is ascending. The only thing slowing down Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill is health, or lack thereof. When healthy, they’re in contention for top tackle tandem in the NFL.

Minnesota’s aerial attack is, at least on paper, among the best in the NFL.

Imagine you’re a defensive coordinator. The priority still rests in slowing Jefferson and yet doing so means over-committing the defense’s finite resources (i.e. putting at least two or three defenders on Jefferson). Leaving Hockenson, Osborn, and/or Addison in one-on-one matchups has the potential to get ugly in a hurry.

Of course, we shouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves with Addison. After all, the kid hasn’t played a single snap in an NFL game, so much remains to be proven. Even as we acknowledge that reality, though, we think to how hyped Minnesota’s leadership was to get him where they did:

Clearly, the expectation is for the talented receiver to step in early and make a tangible difference in how the offense operates. Send 2+ defenders to Jefferson on every critical play? Fine, be our guest; we’ll just ensure Addison is working off of #18 as the play’s second read. We trust his shiftiness will lead to being open far more than he’s covered.

Over his final couple years in college, Addison put together some sizzling numbers. The 2021 season for Pittsburgh featured 1593 yards and 17 touchdowns. Eye-popping numbers. Last year, the production took a notable step back, coming down to solid-but-not-incredible levels with 875 yards and 8 TDs.

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Apr 27, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA; USC wide receiver Jordan Addison reacts after being selected by the Minnesota Vikings twenty third overall in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In all likelihood, Minnesota is hoping he’ll settle in somewhere between the statistical output from those couple seasons. Becoming a WR who gets to somewhere around 1200 yards and 10+ TDs is a massive win, especially since Jefferson has shown no signs of slowing down (PSA: don’t expect these numbers in Year 1).

Last year, Kevin O’Connell led his team to the league’s 8th-best offense, averaging 24.9 points per game. They did so with a reasonably inefficient run game, injuries aplenty on the OL, and a WR2 who struggled to produce like in yesteryear. Much of the offseason has rested in securing provisions and ironing out a plan to overcome those previous hindrances.

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Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) celebrates the win after the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

One final thought: Kirk Cousins finds himself in an odd position. Rather than secure an extension, he got left on the contract sideline as Kwesi Adofo-Mensah carved out cap room and then looked elsewhere for team improvement.

Do we see an ultra-motivated Cousins in 2023? Though older, he has shown no signs of slowing down. Another year working under O’Connell may be precisely what the doctor ordered, especially with an embarrassment of riches at the skill positions.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference helped with this piece.