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Lunchbreak: Justin Jefferson & Vikings Will Keep Opposing Defenses Guessing

Justin Jefferson set big expectations for himself going into his third season.

Those expectations for the Vikings wide receiver were certainly backed up during their season-opening 23-7 victory against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Jefferson shredded the Green Bay secondary, catching nine passes for a career-high 184 yards and two touchdowns.

Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune said opposing defenses will definitely learn from Jefferson and the Vikings performance on offense, especially the Philadelphia Eagles, who will host Minnesota at 7:30 p.m. (CT) Monday.

The Eagles will most likely place star cornerback Darius Slay on Jefferson, but Goessling added the Vikings will make it tougher for opponents by moving Jefferson around the field. He wrote:

On Sunday, Kevin O'Connell called plays that had Jefferson lined up in the backfield for a third-quarter swing pass, motioning across the formation for free releases, catching shallow crossing routes that put him on a linebacker in zone coverage and streaking across the middle of the field on deep over routes that gave him room to run after the catch.

Moving Jefferson can help the Vikings gain clues about a defense's coverage scheme on a certain play, but they can also do it to get the matchups they want for him.

Goessling noted O'Connell said the ability to shift Jefferson will allow him to counter the way teams set up to try to take his wide receiver out of the play.

"It's one of those things where, depending on if it's a man-based coverage or zone-based coverage, if there's pressure or not, there's a lot that goes into that for a defense when you're talking about a guy that's not just going to line up in one spot," O'Connell said. "And then ultimately how it affects the other 10 guys — or nine guys, if there's a double team — and their jobs of being in position to have success against some of our other [eligible receivers] and still have the same type of teeth to the rush."

Jefferson's outing on Sunday also placed him eighth on NFL Network analyst David Carr's Top 15 Offensive Players list after Week 1. Carr, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, will look at all offensive players each week and base his rankings on two aspects: 1. Accomplishments from the 2021 season and 2. The player's weekly performance while factoring their team's strength of opponent.

Carr said Jefferson moved up two spots from his previous ranking. He wrote:

The Packers have arguably the best cornerback tandem in the NFL with Jaire Alexander and Eric Stokes, and Jefferson ran around them and the rest of the Packers' defense all game long. Jefferson now has 15 career games with 100-plus receiving yards, which is tied for second-most with Kupp since 2020 (behind only Adams). Jefferson's coming in hot for that No. 1 wide receiver ranking.

Carr also listed Eagles receiver A.J. Brown at the 15th spot. Brown recorded 155 receiving yards against the Detroit Lions in Week 1, with 128 of those coming in the first half.

RG Ed Ingram Ranked Fourth on Pro Football Focus' Top 15 Rookies from Week 1

Week 1 marked the NFL debuts for rookies across the league, including Vikings right guard Ed Ingram, who became just the second rookie guard to start in a season opener in 62 seasons of Vikings football (Marcus Johnson in 2005 was the first).

Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus recently ranked his Top 15 rookies from Week 1. He said Ingram, a second-round pick for Minnesota, was the fourth-highest ranked rookie in Week 1 with a mark of 79.3. Renner wrote:

While Ingram took his lumps in pass protection, he handled himself exquisitely in the ground game. He allowed five pressures in pass protection for a 31.2 grade in that regard yet earned an 87.4 run-blocking grade on the day to lead all rookies.

Renner also placed Philadelphia defensive tackle Jordan Davis seventh on the list with a score of 74.3. The 13th overall pick of the draft played 22 defensive snaps for the Eagles.