Jets’ Garrett Wilson taking inspiration from Justin Jefferson


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A weapon the Jets fear is a weapon Garrett Wilson admires and thanks. 

Justin Jefferson can wreck games, a fact that became immediately evident when he arrived in the NFL. The Vikings wideout established himself as a superstar as a rookie in 2020, when his 1,400 receiving yards placed him second in league history among first-year players. 

By 2021, though, Jefferson was bumped to third all-time: Cincinnati’s Ja’Marr Chase rode his 1,455 receiving yards to an Offensive Rookie of the Year nod. 

Wilson, the Jets’ rookie standout, is not quite threatening their places in the hierarchy, but he watched a few guys one year removed from college shatter any myths about talent at wide receiver taking time to translate to the NFL. 

“Seeing young dudes doing it and knowing that I could be in their shoes a year from now — it was good to see them go out and make an impact and be key players on their team because it’s not always been like that,” Wilson said Friday at Jets practice ahead of their game in Minnesota on Sunday. “It hasn’t always been like that, as far as I remember.” 

Garrett Wilson scores during the Jets’ win over the Bears.
Robert Sabo for the NY POST

He remembers correctly. From 2005-19, two rookie receivers caught more than 1,100 yards worth of offense: Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014 and Michael Thomas in 2016. In Jefferson and Chase, two have done so in the past two seasons. 

Wilson is making a case he belongs in the conversations about the league’s top young receivers, and the Vikings’ defense can make the case stronger. 

The 3,226 yards through the air the Vikings have surrendered to opposing quarterbacks is an NFL-worst. They have given up at least 297 passing yards in five of their past six games. 

Minnesota has lost rookie cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. and safety Lewis Cine for the season, and starting cornerback Cameron Dantzler will miss the matchup with the Jets. The Vikings have relied upon veteran corner Patrick Peterson and a slew of fliers in their defensive backfield, which has left them vulnerable. 

Meanwhile, the Jets’ passing game has never looked better than it did last week, when Mike White replaced Zach Wilson and threw for 315 yards and three touchdowns — two to Garrett Wilson. 

“[The Vikings have] a vet group, and they really know what they’re doing,” Wilson said about the opposing secondary. “But I feel like every defense has their spots where they can get beat, and it’s our job to exploit them on Sunday. So I don’t want to say nothing, but we have a plan to attack what they do on defense and hopefully it shows.” 

Justin Jefferson has quickly emerged as one of the best receivers in the NFL.
Justin Jefferson has quickly emerged as one of the best receivers in the NFL.
Getty Images

The Jets’ No. 10-overall pick has looked like a game-changing force, with sharp cuts and well-timed bursts to gain separation, for much of this season, but particularly when he has not been paired with Zach Wilson. When Wilson was under center, Garrett averaged 3.7 catches for 45.6 yards per game. In four games with Joe Flacco and White, Garrett Wilson has caught 5.75 passes for 77.25 yards per game. 

White called Garrett Wilson “awesome,” and the compliment was repaid. 

“He does a great job seeing the defense and adjusting accordingly to what type of ball he has to throw,” said Wilson, whose 628 receiving yards only trails New Orleans’ Chris Olave, his former Ohio State teammate, among rookies. “That comes with spending time in the league and being with different players, different receivers.” 

On Sunday, when Wilson is not catching passes from White, he will be studying Jefferson and his intriguing matchup with rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner. 

Wilson raved about Jefferson’s ability to deceive defenders. Corners think he is sprinting, and then suddenly a gear shifts. Jefferson “always makes it look like he’s going full speed, but he’s always in control.” 

“I probably won’t sit down all game,” Wilson said. “I’ll probably stand up watching the way [Jefferson] goes about his business.” 

Wilson has been watching Jefferson for years, but this time he will have a better view. While the Jets try to corral maybe the best receiver in football, Wilson will be grateful for one of the young studs who paved the way for another. 

“It’s good to see because ‘rookie’ is just a label,” the 22-year-old said. “We can play ball and [I’m] glad the rest of the league is seeing it that way.”

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