The Philadelphia Eagles are preparing for a battle come Monday night.
In 2020, the Eagles passed on wide receiver Justin Jefferson, taking Jalen Reagor in the first round. Unfortunately, the pick just didn’t work out. Now, the Vikings have both Jefferson and Reagor and are coming off Week 1 with a win, and a wide receiver who is gaining league-wide attention.
With some mistakes to fix after Philadelphia’s Week 1 performance, the Eagles’ primetime game will exciting. As for Jefferson, he’s happy to be wearing purple, as he recalls the night his professional career began.
A TURN OF EVENTS FOR JUSTIN JEFFERSON
Playing for LSU, Jefferson was an immediate standout. In his sophomore year, he was the team’s leading receiver, before he led the country the following year with 111 receptions. Declaring for the NFL early, he finished with 165 receptions for 2,415 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns.
Jefferson was projected to be drafted in the first round — by the Philadelphia Eagles, but it just didn’t happen.
“Every mock draft had me going to Philly, so when Philly was on the board, getting the phone call, and it being Minnesota, it was definitely a shock. But I’m definitely happy — way happier — to be here than there,” Jefferson recalled.
Whether he’s a little salty or genuinely pleased with the selection, Jefferson will be facing the Eagles this week during Monday Night Football. And after his Week 1 performance, Philadelphia has a lot to prepare for.
Entering the league in 2020, Jefferson set the league’s record for the most receiving yards (1,400) by a rookie. He was selected to his first Pro Bowl, becoming Rookie of the Year by the Sporting News.
His 2021 season was no different. Jefferson earned NFC Offensive Player of the Month, passed Odel Beckham Jr.’s record for most receiving yards by a player in their first two NFL seasons, and finished with the second-most yardage (1,616) in the NFL for the season. He was named to his second consecutive Pro Bowl.
Now back for his third season, Jefferson already displayed an unstoppable performance in Week 1. Playing against the Green Bay Packers, he finished with nine receptions for a career-high 184 yards and two touchdowns.
The 23-year-old’s next stop — Philadelphia.
EAGLES PREPARE FOR JEFFERSON AND THE VIKINGS
The Vikings’ huge advantage was having Jefferson succeed in motion. The wide receiver had four receptions on four targets in motion — the second-highest in the league.
Earlier in the week, Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon stated, “There are a lot of guys out there, but he’s [Jefferson] a special player. I don’t rank guys, but he’s up in that top group.”
“He can beat you all different types of ways, so when you’re looking at his game, he’s not a one-dimensional guy. He can take the roof off, he can beat you underneath, he can beat you with yards after catch. They do a really good job of deploying him different ways, so it’s hard to have a plan for him to always have two guys on him. It’s going to be a good challenge for us, and we’ll be up for it.”
If the Eagles want to prepare for Jefferson’s speed and his insane ability to catch, they will have to be ready in the slot in particular. The slot is where Jefferson tends to dominate, leaving cornerback Avonte Maddox as his prime match-up.
However, Jefferson also plays wide, making Monday night very unpredictable. Darius Slay and newcomer James Bradberry will also have their fair share of work, as well as Philadelphia’s safeties. Week 1 may not have been great for the Eagles’ defense, but if they’re going to get it together, Week 2 is the time to do it.
Kick-off begins Monday at 8:30 PM at Lincoln Financial Field.