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Van Jefferson
NFL

Don’t Forget About Van Jefferson In Rams Offense

  • Justin Melo
  • May 23, 2022
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Don’t forget about Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson. The former Florida standout is currently set to serve as Matthew Stafford‘s third option in a high-volume passing attack. Rams Head Coach Sean McVay prefers to field an offense that utilizes the skill sets of three receivers in his preferred 11 personnel looks. Jefferson has proven plenty capable of playing a reliable role in McVay’s system, and as things stand, is primed to receive that opportunity in 2022.

Jefferson took a sizable step forward as a sophomore pass-catcher in 2021 by recording career-highs in receptions (50), receiving yards (802), and touchdowns (six). It represented a statistical output that more than doubled his rookie totals. Stafford consistently showed faith in Jefferson throughout the most crucial stretches of Los Angeles’ season, targeting him eight times for four receptions in their Super Bowl LVI victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Stafford and Jefferson routinely connected on deep-ball passing attempts while developing newfound chemistry throughout the season. Another year operating in the same system will benefit Jefferson, who now returns to a new-look Rams passing offense in 2022 that could still provide him with plenty of opportunities.

Jefferson’s sophomore season is best described as a whirlwind. He was seemingly relegated to No. 4 receiver duties when the Rams signed an available Odell Beckham Jr. in mid-November and was promptly catapulted back into the top-three rotation following a season-ending knee injury suffered by Robert Woods just days after Beckham’s arrival. Woods has since been traded to the Tennessee Titans, but other players may still pose a threat to Jefferson’s playing time.

Much of the offseason focus in Los Angeles’ receiver room has centered around other playmakers, making Jefferson somewhat of an underappreciated commodity. Rams General Manager Les Snead made a sizable offseason splash by signing unrestricted free-agent receiver Allen Robinson II to a three-year contract worth more than $46 million. A three-time 1,000-plus yard receiver, Robinson will play a starring role as an every-down boundary receiver in Los Angeles while Cooper Kupp continues wreaking havoc and dominating Los Angeles’ target share from his usual slot position.

The real elephant in the room in relation to Jefferson’s role isn’t Robinson or Kupp however, it’s Beckham. It was he who initially arrived in Los Angeles and pushed Jefferson down the pecking order and an eerily similar outcome could occur before September. Beckham remains an unrestricted free agent after suffering a torn ACL in the first half of Los Angeles’ Super Bowl-winning triumph. Beckham is largely expected to re-sign with the Rams, but negotiations have seemingly hit an unexpected snag, potentially due to differences over what both sides deem to be appropriate financial terms coming off an injury.

Jefferson’s playing time would suffer a blow should Beckham return to Los Angeles, but nothing is guaranteed at this point in time. Several franchises would benefit from adding Beckham to their pass-catching corps, and his hometown New Orleans Saints have reportedly shown interest. The longer Beckham remains available, the chances of him potentially playing elsewhere in 2022 increase. It’s also worth noting injuries can occur, and given the demand of McVay’s scheme, the fourth pass-catcher is more important in Los Angeles than most other offenses. Even if Beckham returns, his early-season effectiveness would hang in the balance given the timing of his injury. Beckham is unlikely to reach full speed before November or December, making Jefferson a candidate to fill that void in the meantime.

Jefferson is an underrated receiver that’s fully capable of producing a 1,000-yard campaign. The Brentwood, Tennessee native is a slippery and smooth route runner that can effectively work the intermediate and deep areas. Snead and McVay have routinely made splashes since taking charge of the Rams and may prefer to pair Kupp and Robinson with Beckham as they attempt to secure back-to-back Super Bowl victories. Much remains undecided, but Jefferson possesses every trait necessary to experience a successful campaign in 2022.

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Justin Melo