Justin Jefferson’s Advice to the Rookie

Sep 16, 2023; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) throws against the Bowling Green Falcons in the first half at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings enter a new era in their franchise’s history after the exit of Kirk Cousins, who was under center in the past six seasons. Although the organization offered him a new contract, he opted to join the Atlanta Falcons, likely accepting the better offer. According to Albert Breer, the Vikings also told him they wanted to draft a passer, which the Falcons did not.

Justin Jefferson’s Advice to the Rookie

Advice to J.J. McCarthy
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy points down the field during the second half of the College Football Playoff national championship game against Washington at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024.

The Vikings, in fact, acquired a new signal-caller in the draft. J.J. McCarthy out of Michigan is the new shiny toy in Minnesota after months of speculations about whether the regime would prefer Drake Maye over him.

When the draft rolled around, McCarthy received a phone call from Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and became the newest Viking. His arrival changed things for wideout Justin Jefferson, who, outside of a handful of games that Cousins missed, has never played with a different quarterback in the NFL. His relationship with Cousins helped him win the Offensive Player of the Year trophy for his 2022 season, in which he led the league in receiving yards.

All the talk about him forcing his way out if there’s a change at the QB position turned out to be incorrect, as he signed his massive new contract in June. Getting on the same page with the new passer and forming a similar connection is key for the 25-year-old.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 31, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) looks on before the game against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Interestingly, the Vikings placed the rookie’s locker right next to Jefferson’s, perhaps to accelerate that process. Ideally, the duo will be the driving force behind a successful next five seasons (that’s how long they are under team control) for the franchise.

On Tuesday, Jefferson appeared on The Rich Eisen Show, and the host, Rich Eisen, asked him about his new teammate. The fifth-year player praised him for his curious mind: “I like J.J. He’s learning and asking questions. They put J.J.’s locker right next to mine. They want me to be the guy that J.J. can always talk to and ask questions, and he’s definitely that type of kid. He wants to ask questions; he wants to learn how to become a top quarterback; he wants to learn how to become a problem in this league. I love his attitude.”

But the receiver also shared some advice for the rookie.

Of course, there are a lot of expectations, but I always tell him: Don’t worry about the expectations. All you have to do is to carry yourself with confidence.

Justin Jefferson

In two seasons as Michigan’s starter in college, McCarthy’s crew lost only one game in the 2022 playoffs. He promised his fans that they would finish the job a year later, and he made it happen. That alone should give him the confidence he needs.

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy kisses the championship trophy to celebrate the Wolverines’ 34-13 win over Washington in the national championship game at NRG Stadium in Houston on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024.

Throughout his college career, McCarthy passed for 6,226 yards, 49 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions while showing his mobility to add ten more scores and 632 yards on the ground. His athleticism will provide the offense a new element after multiple years with a pocket passer. The rookie has all the athletic tools to become one of the better passers in the game.

However, that will take some time and careful development. The Vikings will not rush him into the starting unit, and Sam Darnold is expected to be the starter in Week 1.

NFL: Super Bowl LVIII Opening Night
Feb 5, 2024; Las Vegas, NV, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) is interviewed during Super Bowl LVIII Opening Night at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Head coach Kevin O’Connell said after the OTAs: “We haven’t had to put out a depth chart or anything like that, but I would say Sam would be the guy I would look to based on the spring he’s had and, really, where he’s at in his career and his quarterback journey, and what he’s been able to do coming in and [hitting] the ground running and taking advantage of the competitive situation.”

Still, at some point, McCarthy will be handed the keys to O’Connell’s offense, and having the trust of his star receiver will be important.

McCarthy will arrive for training camp on July 21 to compete with Darnold.

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 prefers Classic rock over other genres. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt