Vikings

K.J. Osborn Is Minnesota's Under-the-Radar Threat For WR3

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel (USA TODAY Sports)

For a few years now, there has been the lingering question about what the Minnesota Vikings will do with their third receiver spot. From failed free-agent acquisitions like Jordan Taylor and Tajae Sharpe to settling for Chad Beebe, this roster spot has been a focus of frustration for fans. An unlikely player has emerged as a potential answer this summer: K.J. Osborn.

Unlike last year, the Vikings were able to have a regular offseason. There were OTAs and minicamp in the spring and training camp this summer. Because of this, coaches were able to get a better sense of players’ abilities. For second-year wide receiver K.J. Osborn, this meant a chance to display his progress.

In his rookie year, Osborn did not receive any snaps at wide receiver. He played solely on special teams, where he struggled mightily, fumbling punts and failing to gain yards in the return game. This led to the Vikings having the second-worst special teams unit in the NFL. Osborn had a league-worst 3.9 yards gained per kick return.

Now, the Vikings have shifted their focus to see what Osborn can do on offense. He was a proven deep threat in college who could get behind the secondary, even though he ran a 4.48 40-yard dash. He also brings dynamic skills in space as a runner and is able to gain additional yards after the catch.

In Year 2, Osborn has performed well through the spring and into training camp, earning praise from both Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman.

Osborn joins the competition to earn the third receiver role with newly acquired Dede Westbrook, rookie Ihmir Smith-Marsette, and incumbent Chad Beebe. As of right now, it seems as if Osborn is leading the chase for the role; whenever the Vikings begin their 11-on-11 drills, he’s lined up as the WR3. In these drills, he has impressed.

His route running is fluid in his breaks. Here he gets open against Kris Boyd:

Osborn is able to get open here on the left side of the field on a jet motion flood concept:

 

Through training camp, Osborn has also displayed his ability to make contested catches as he dives for one here:

Kirk Cousins also hit Osborn deep downfield in an earlier practice, with Cameron Dantzler and Xavier Woods in coverage, displaying Osborn’s ability with deep route running.

 

All of Osborn’s abilities were on display under the bright lights at the annual night practice at TCO Performance Center. Even with Jake Browning as the lone quarterback due to the Vikings’ COVID situation on Saturday afternoon, Osborn made plays.

With Kris Boyd in coverage, Browning hit Osborn for a 40-yard gain along the left sideline, a play in which Osborn had to adjust late in his route.

Additionally, Osborn had a couple of other catches with the first-team defense, which displayed his ability to not only get open against a potential top defense in the NFL but also his progression with his hands, routes, and speed. All of these are traits that should help Osborn win the third receiver job.

Once Dede Westbrook starts to get more work in, as he rehabs from his ACL tear, the competition for that roster spot should ramp up.

Some other observations from training camp:

  • Jake Browning’s accuracy has been shaky but he’s doing an okay job in the absence of Kirk Cousins, Kellen Mond, and Nate Stanley. His deep ball seems to be much improved from 2019 when the Vikings picked him up as an undrafted free agent.
  • Justin Jefferson looks more explosive than he was last year. His breaks are filthy and his route running is more fluid. No matter how well Patrick Peterson, Cameron Dantzler, or Bashaud Breeland seem to cover Jefferson throughout his route, he puts a move on them at the end to get open.
  • Both rookie linemen Wyatt Davis and Christian Darrisaw have not been practicing, which is a cause for concern. This had led the Vikings to experiment even more, such as giving Oli Udoh reps at left tackle and, unfortunately for the fans, Dru Samia more time with the first team.
  • The rumors are true: Irv Smith Jr. looks ready to break out. The Vikings’ offense seems to have a lot of plays designed for Smith Jr., such as screens and shovel passes. Smith seems is getting involved a lot.
  • Size: D.J. Wonnum, Armon Watts, Oli Udoh, and Cameron Dantzler all seem to have gained weight this season. All look bigger and better.
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