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Vikes Jefferson Nears Moss Records

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November 30, 2020

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Enjoy a Monday notes column:

With the Vikings having five games remaining in the regular season, it’s possible Justin Jefferson could break franchise rookie records set by Randy Moss in 1998 for most receiving yards and receptions.

Moss had 1,313 yards in his first season, while Jefferson has totaled 918 yards in 11 games after becoming Minnesota’s No. 1 overall draft choice earlier this year. If Jefferson continues to average about 84 yards per game, he could finish with 1,338 yards.

Moss also holds the club rookie record for season receptions with 69, and as of today Jefferson has 52. If Jefferson averages about five catches in the last five games, he totals 77 for the season and breaks another Moss record.

After catching two touchdown passes in yesterday’s win over Carolina, Jefferson has six TD catches for the year. Out of reach for the former LSU All-American is the Moss rookie total of 17 touchdown receptions, which is not only a Vikings record but the best in NFL history.

With his speed, moves and sure hands, the 6-1 Jefferson is able to gain separation from defenders and make big catches despite defenses scheming to shut him down. He had two pressure catches in the red zone yesterday while totaling 70 yards for the game. His 918 yards for the season is already fifth best in NFL history for a rookie receiver.

Jefferson has been a great fit for offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s system that requires precise route running. GM Rick Spielman was excited about Jefferson after drafting him last April. “We feel very fortunate that he was there at No. 22,” Spielman said then about the new fan favorite.

Jefferson told reporters this afternoon “it’s hard to believe” the kind of rookie season he is experiencing. Yesterday he filled in for Adam Thielen (COVID-19), the team’s premier receiver. The two have developed a friendship and Jefferson said Thielen contacted him about his performance after the game. “I am definitely excited to have my brother back (for the next game),” Jefferson said.

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer saw Jefferson drop a ball in practice last week. The 21-year-old told the coach it wouldn’t happen again. “He is a confident kid, but he works real hard,” Zimmer said today. “There’s a lot of things he has to improve on and we let him know that as well. …I mean he’s good. Everybody knows he’s good. You know, it’s can he be great? That’s the big question.”

Zimmer said he is hopeful Thielen and running back Dalvin Cook (ankle injury yesterday) will be able to play in next Sunday’s home game against Jacksonville.

Jefferson and three other Vikings (WR Chad Beebe, WR Bisi Johnson and TE Kyle Rudolph) all had seven receptions yesterday and at least 60 receiving yards. The 2012 New Orleans Saints are the only other NFL team in history to have that distinction in one game.

The Vikings are showing talent and depth at wide receiver including Beebe who made the game winning catch against Carolina. “We can do a lot with that receiver corps,” Jefferson said.

After playing against Carolina, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins now has 16 career games with at least 300 passing yards, three touchdown passes and a rating of 115-or-higher, surpassing Drew Brees (15 games) and Aaron Rodgers (15) for the most such games by a quarterback in his first nine seasons in NFL history.

Rob Hunegs, owner of Twin Cities Sports Cards in Golden Valley, talking about Justin Jefferson collectibles: “His stuff goes out of here as fast as it comes in.”

Mike Zimmer

The Denver Broncos didn’t have any quarterbacks to use in their game yesterday because of COVID-19. Zimmer said his understanding is the Broncos’ quarterbacks had close contact with each other, while his group has been diligent about protocols. Zimmer didn’t offer names, but in training camp and during the season there is preparation work with an emergency quarterback like someone who played the position in high school or college.

Zimmer liked the red zone performance of his team Sunday, noting his offense had three scores in four attempts while Carolina was 0-3.

Vikings safety Harrison Smith on the high level play of linebackers Eric Kendricks and Eric Wilson making plays: “It settles guys on the back end.”

Not much of a birthday week for Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck who turned 40 yesterday and is still the youngest head coach in the Big Ten. This morning the Gophers announced next Saturday’s game against Northwestern is cancelled because of so many Minnesota players and staffers testing positive for COVID-19.

Minneapolis native Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman, the Breck alum, is one of Northwestern’s most productive wide receivers as a senior. He had a career-best 95 yards in receptions against Wisconsin earlier this month.

Former Lakeville North all-stater Bryce Benhart has started every game at right tackle this season as a redshirt freshman for Nebraska. Benhart, though, had a costly holding penalty in the fourth quarter of Friday’s loss to Iowa when the Huskers were driving for a go-ahead touchdown.

Few remember but John Hankinson, the former Gophers quarterback who died earlier this month, worked as a sportswriter for the Minneapolis Daily American after leaving the University of Minnesota and before his career as a successful real estate developer.

Forward Dawson Garcia, who had Minnesota among his final college choices, has scored a team-leading 35 points as a true freshman in two wins for Marquette this month He was a McDonald’s All-American at Prior Lake.

Edina-based Joe Florenzano of Triple Crown Sports is hosting a December 10 private signing with Minnesota sports legend Bud Grant and is accepting items until December 9.

Jalen Suggs, the former Minnehaha Academy guard from West St. Paul, is the highest rated recruit ever at Gonzaga, the nation’s No. 1 team off to a 2-0 start. The Zags play No. 2 Baylor Saturday where the staff includes former Minneapolis-area prep coach Jared Nuness.

In the latest AP poll the Big Ten has four teams in the top 10: No. 3 Iowa, No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 5 Illinois and No. 8 Michigan State.

Former Twins center fielder Torii Hunter is on the latest ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame, but despite his impressive career he doesn’t have the resume for induction. But why aren’t ex-Twins right fielder Tony Oliva and pitcher Jim Kaat (A+ MLB TV analyst) not enshrined?

If the Twins don’t do a new free agent deal with multi-positional Marwin González, maybe they will sign another versatile player in Kiké Hernández, who may leave the Dodgers.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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