Justin Jefferson Walks So Jordan Addison Can Run

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Addison knows why he has gotten so open on his two explosive plays. “I say 18,” said the rookie out of USC. “The defense is focusing on him, and me just having one-on-one backside.”

The Minnesota Vikings have created an opportunity for Addison to launch his career, and he has. Addison has two touchdowns: a 39-yard reception in Week 1 and a 62-yarder in Philadelphia. Addison says he’s grateful the Vikings drafted him because defenses will focus on Justin Jefferson, and he has a veteran quarterback throwing to him. “Knowing that was real comforting,” said Addison, who Minnesota took 23rd in this year’s draft. “Knowing that they already got an established quarterback and then a No. 1 receiver.”

It’s tempting to say that the Vikings have put Addison on a superhighway because they’ve created scoring lanes for him. But that feels like alluding to his decision to drive 140 mph down I-94 in the middle of the night, and we’ve probably alluded to Addison’s off-field incident so often that it’s become trite. Still, Addison likely wishes he could have that back so that our first impression of him could be catching Cousins’ bomb against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1. His touchdown in Philadelphia only reinforced Minnesota’s decision to take Addison in the first round.

The Vikings chose Addison over cornerback Deonte Banks (No. 24) and defensive tackle Mazi Smith (No. 26) despite needing help in the secondary and along the defensive line. After the Philadelphia Eagles ran for 259 in their 34-28 victory on Thursday, people wisely asked if Minnesota had dedicated enough resources to the trenches. But it’s hard to argue with the Addison pick. It allowed them to put an explosive play-making threat opposite Jefferson.

“Jordan is a really good route-runner, and I think Kirk has found the times when the coverage presented to get to him, particularly on those deeper touchdowns,” said offensive coordinator Wes Phillips. “On one of them against Tampa, he’s really kind of the top-shelf of the read, really the first read. If the coverage presents, Kirk recognizes it and launches.

“Against Philly, he’s more the back side of the read. If coverage presents and pushes over, you kind of have a little fake screen there with him on the back side, so everything pushed over, we got great protection, where Kirk was able to step up and make a clean throw to him.”

Jefferson doesn’t love that teams are double- and triple-teaming him. “I’m tired of it, man,” he said. But Jefferson is still putting up numbers: 150 yards against Tampa and 159 against Philadelphia. He would have had a touchdown in Philly if the ball hadn’t escaped his grip over the pylon. However, Jefferson can generate offense even if the ball isn’t in his hands. He creates so much gravity that the Eagles left K.J. Osborn open in the end zone.

“K.J. was wide open on the touchdown he scored,” Jefferson said, chuckling. “I feel like there is no more I can do besides creating the attention and drawing everybody towards me. Again, I feel like that’s a great call in towards KO and Wes with the playcalling, knowing that we’re gonna get those doubles and triples in the red zone. That play worked to perfection.”

“That’s pretty much how it’s gonna be,” said Addison. “Two people go at him, and then everybody else got a one-on-one.”

That’s why Jefferson will cash in next offseason. And while Addison doesn’t get a cut, he’ll get his due because he’s doing his job. Defenses will have to take him seriously, meaning they must account for Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson, and him. Addison knows he doesn’t have it all figured out, though. He emphasizes his play away from the ball, knowing his strength is route-running. Still, it’s a little harder to create separation in the NFL.

“I’m still learning, obviously,” Addison said. “But I’d say the trick to beating longer defenders is constantly making they feet move, keeping they feet moving. Don’t let them use their length or be patient.

“Just get up on them fast, keep they feet moving, and then be sudden.”

Adam Thielen always emphasized action at the stem of the route, and Addison has taken that to heart. He says he tries to pick up something from any good receiver. However, he lists Calvin Ridley, Amari Cooper, Stefon Diggs, and CeeDee Lamb as guys he’s learning from because they are good route-runners who release effectively off the line of scrimmage.

Addison tries to close in on the defender as he nears the stem of the route to create separation. “Early in the route or just at the top of the route,” he said. “You just need to be better with your footwork. That creates separation, too.”

The Addison pick felt superfluous at the time, given that the Vikings needed defensive help. But Jefferson is Minnesota’s greatest asset, and Addison may eventually take some pressure off him. It feels like the least the rookie could do, given that Jefferson has already created open lanes for Addison to score.

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