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K.J. Osborn Outrunning 'Slow' Moniker & Boosting His Blocking

EAGAN, Minn. – Nobody's calling K.J. Osborn "slow" anymore.

The Vikings receiver has made more than a couple splashy plays thus far in training camp, showcasing Osborn's route-running, good hands and speed in the slot.

"K.J.'s a big, strong guy who is very smart and knows all the positions," Vikings Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips said Tuesday. "He can move around, he can do some of the dirty work in the run game and you see kind of a big, physical-looking guy for kind of a slot receiver – at least where we've had him in the first group.

"But he'll surprise you and run by you, as well," Phillips added. "[He] can really run. There's a lot of things to like about K.J. He's a hard worker, and he's continuing to get better every day."

Asked later about his wheels, Osborn laughed.

"It's funny, to hear you actually talk about speed. Me and my dad joked about, my whole life everybody said I was too slow," he said. "They were always saying I was too slow; I didn't get a lot of offers because I was slow. Nobody thought I was going to run 4.4. So now when my dad and I hear people talk about my speed, we just kind of laugh.

"I don't know, it's just something I work on in the offseason that, as every receiver and skill guy does, just running," Osborn added. "I think I'm pretty powerful, so I can play inside and block the big guys. But I can go deep and go get it. I've showed that a couple of times, so I want to continue to show it."

The benefit of having a speedster in the slot, Phillips said, is the potential to create favorable matchups against specific defensive looks.

The first-year offensive coordinator said it all depends on coverages.

"You hear defenses, when you get in three-receiver sets, they're calling out, 'Hey, they've got speed at [WR3].' Because in certain coverages, split-safety coverages, some teams are asking that Mike linebacker to carry No. 3 vertical," Phillips said. "There are some advantages you can get against certain schemes. Other times you might prefer a bigger guy inside; it just kind of depends on the scheme you're playing that week."

Which is why Osborn's ability to play multiple roles is so beneficial.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 203 pounds, Osborn has enough bulk to hold things down in the blocking game as well as in the passing game.

And he's happy to do it, which makes all the difference. As much as he loves leaping to make a clutch catch, Osborn also prides himself on his skills as a blocker.

"I mean, it's about effort and want-to," he said. "Blocking's really not that difficult. It's a lot of effort and want-to. It's just getting your hands engaged.

"It's a want-to thing," Osborn reiterated. "In our offense, any offense, you know ... after the running backs break through that second level, that third level, if the receivers can sustain those blocks, that's where those big plays happen, and that's when sparks go."

Osborn said the receivers are working at making a difference as blockers in Minnesota's new offense.

If a receiver can help Dalvin Cook — or another teammate — get into the end zone, that's the next-best thing to grabbing the touchdown himself.

"We had a couple of meetings with Kirk [Cousins], a couple of us went in there [to the quarterback room]," Osborn said. "They're making cut-ups and that was one of the things – on those explosive teams, you see guys ... when Adam [Thielen] or J.J. (Justin Jefferson) or myself, we catch a ball, we turn to the next level fast and go into the block.

"If I catch one, make one [defender] miss and J.J. is blocking the safety, that can go from a 15-yard gain to a touchdown," he added. "So that's something we're out here practicing as well, trying to get those big plays."