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Justin Jefferson’s debut in Kevin O’Connell era reminding fans of Randy Moss

Andrew Buller-Russ

Much was made of the coaching change from Mike Zimmer to Kevin O’Connell this past offseason for the Minnesota Vikings. In doing so, the plan was to start fresh with a modern offense that aligned more with the high-scoring passing attacks seen in Los Angeles in the past few seasons. Of course, this meant Justin Jefferson would be the main attraction.

It’s a scary proposition, as Jefferson has already developed into one of the most lethal weapons in the NFL, just two years into his career. In fact, Jefferson currently holds the NFL record for the most receiving yards in a player’s first two seasons with 3,016.

Now the 23-year-old has a long way to go before he starts getting anywhere near Jerry Rice’s career mark of 22,895, but even the GOAT receiver only had 2,497 receiving yards in his first two seasons in the league. Jefferson’s biggest hurdle to even come close to that legendary mark will be his career longevity, to which Rice’s 20 NFL seasons is another incredible feat.

Of course, they didn’t pass the ball nearly as much in Rice’s heyday, making his mark all the more impressive. But in comparison to another player who had a chance to become the greatest of all time and certainly the best receiver to ever wear the purple and gold, Jefferson is reminding fans more and more of the Randy Ratio days with Randy Moss. That was on full display in Week 1.

Related: Justin Jefferson: ‘I’ll be the best receiver in the NFL in 2023’

Is that Justin Jefferson or Randy Moss?

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Right from the start of the game, it was evident the game plan to beat the Green Bay Packers in Week 1 was to target Jefferson in all areas of the field. Instead of just lining up from the slot or even outside near both sidelines, Jefferson also worked from the backfield (though that attempt wasn’t as successful).

But in typical fashion, Jefferson was at his best downfield, where Kirk Cousins consistently found the third-year receiver in open space with the nearest Packer defender nowhere in sight.

After just the first half, Jefferson had already racked up six catches on seven targets for 158 yards and two receiving touchdowns.

Related: How the Minnesota Vikings can be Super Bowl contenders in 2022

In other words, thanks to a strong first half, let’s just say he was drawing comparisons to Randy Moss’s heyday, where he was absolutely dominant against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day in 1998. This was the same year they led the NFL in scoring with a whopping 34.8 points per game.

Jefferson ended up with nine catches for 184 yards and the two scores on the day. Not bad for Week 1 against a division rival that reached the postseason a year ago. The yards are a new personal best for Jefferson, topping his 182-yard effort in Week 13 against the Detroit Lions in a losing effort in 2021.

Sammy White still holds the Vikings’ all-time single-game receiving record with 210 yards, a mark he hit in 1976 with Fran Tarkenton.

If we want to get technical, Jefferson’s on pace for 3,128 receiving yards and 34 receiving yards for the season. But that’s absolutely ridiculous, he’ll never come close to those marks, which would completely shatter the NFL all-time marks of Calvin Johnson’s 1,964 receiving yards, and Moss’s 23 touchdowns. Or can he?

If there’s anyone who could even come close to either of these marks, it just might be Jefferson. And for the first time ever, he’s finally in an offense that’s built to feed him as the primary option instead of playing second fiddle to Dalvin Cook. But he still can’t come close to having the deep speed that Randy Moss had, he was a Hall of Fame talent for a reason, but Jefferson’s route-running and ability to separate are second to none, and that’s why he’s so successful.

Related: Love the Vikings? Get involved in the discussion on the Purple Pain forums