Vikings Snap Count Analysis, Week 3: Justin Jefferson, Full-Time Starter

Will Ragatz

Another game – and unfortunately, another loss – gives us a chance to once again take a look at how the Vikings view their roster through the lens of playing time.

Last week against the Colts, the notable developments from the snap counts were that Dalvin Cook and Bisi Johnson saw the field more and players like Jeff Gladney and Eric Wilson were thrust into larger roles due to injuries.

In Week 3, more adjustments were made as the Vikings continue to deal with a number of injuries. There were also some changes based on performance, including a certain first-round pick seeing the biggest role of his young career and having a breakout game.

Let's take a look at the snap counts for every Vikings player on offense and defense against the Titans and see what we can learn from that information. I'll also highlight the biggest risers and fallers from last week to this week.

Offense (65 snaps)

Last week: 54 snaps

QB Kirk Cousins: 65

LG Dakota Dozier: 65

C Garrett Bradbury: 65

RG Dru Samia: 65

LT Riley Reiff: 65

RT Brian O'Neill: 65

WR Adam Thielen: 61

WR Justin Jefferson: 51

RB Dalvin Cook: 48

TE Kyle Rudolph: 48

TE Irv Smith Jr: 36

FB CJ Ham: 27

WR Chad Beebe: 22

RB Alexander Mattison: 16

TE Tyler Conklin: 10

WR Bisi Johnson: 5

OT Rashod Hill: 1

Played this week but not last week: Beebe, Hill

Played last week but not this week: Tajae Sharpe, Ameer Abdullah

Biggest non-QB or OL risers (remember that the offense was +11 as a unit): Jefferson (+22), Ham (+15), Thielen (+13), Rudolph (+10)

Biggest non-QB or OL fallers (remember that the offense was +11 as a unit): Johnson (-37), Smith (-1), Cook (+5)

Analysis: Through two weeks, Bisi Johnson had out-snapped Jefferson 75-65 in the battle to earn the Vikings' No. 2 receiver role. That changed completely against the Titans, with Jefferson starting for the first time in his career. The rookie from LSU seized the opportunity, breaking out with seven catches for 175 yards and a touchdown and posting the best PFF grade of any pass-catcher in the NFL in Week 3.

Johnson was relegated to just five snaps, with Beebe (22) stepping in as the No. 3 option due to his ability to create separation out of the slot.  Based on his performance, Jefferson has cemented himself as the clear No. 2 in this passing game going forward. Sharpe didn't play a single snap for the first time in three weeks. Going forward, it'll be interesting to see if Beebe continues to see more playing time than Johnson and Sharpe.

With the Vikings spending less time trailing in this game than they did against the Packers and Colts, their personnel grouping frequencies changed. After playing three receivers roughly 60 percent of the time in both Week 1 and Week 2, that number dropped to less than 40 percent against the Titans, which is closer to where the Vikings were in 2019. That meant that Ham and Rudolph saw increased playing time, and the latter responded by catching his first touchdown of the season.

Jefferson, Rudolph, and Cook posted the best PFF grades of any Vikings offensive players. Jefferson's 93.8 grade was the best by a rookie receiver in 14 years. Bradbury and O'Neill were solid on the offensive line, but the guards once again struggled. Dru Samia had his second straight awful game with six pressures allowed and a 1.4 PFF pass-blocking grade.

Defense (75 snaps)

Last week: 73 snaps

LB Eric Kendricks: 75

S Anthony Harris: 75

S Harrison Smith: 75

CB Holton Hill: 75

LB Eric Wilson: 75

CB Jeff Gladney: 73

DE Yannick Ngakoue: 59

DT Jaleel Johnson: 58

DE Ifeadi Odenigbo: 53

DT Shamar Stephen: 49

CB Kris Boyd: 38

LB Hardy Nickerson Jr: 36

DE Jalyn Holmes: 34

DE D.J. Wonnum: 25

DT Armon Watts: 22

DT Hercules Mata'afa: 2

LB Todd Davis: 1

Played this week but not last week: Nickerson, Mata'afa, Davis

Played last week but not this week: Mike Hughes (injury), Anthony Barr (injury), Troy Dye (injury), Josh Metellus, Ryan Connelly

Biggest risers: Boyd (+35), Gladney (+13), Odenigbo (+12), Johnson (+12), 

Biggest fallers: Watts (-13), Holmes (-9)

Analysis: The Vikings defense is short-handed right now without Danielle Hunter, Cameron Dantzler, Barr, Hughes, and Dye. The lack of linebacker depth meant Nickerson – who ideally is a practice squad guy – was thrust into a big role as the No. 3 LB. I would expect the recently-signed Davis to take over that role in Week 4 against the Texans, as he should be mostly comfortable with the playbook by then.

Boyd was also forced into action due to the absence of Dantzler and Hughes. Ideally, the Vikings will get at least one of those guys back against Houston. Dantzler has missed two straight games with a rib injury, which hasn't allowed him to build on a breakout training camp.

This was a nice bounce-back game for Odenigbo, who had struggled a bit in the first two games but led the team with five pressures against Ryan Tannehill and the Titans. With Odenigbo playing well, Holmes wound up seeing the field less. Alas, it doesn't sound like Hunter will be back this week or anytime too soon.

Watts continued to have a rough season, but Jaleel Johnson hasn't been much better. With the Vikings still searching for someone to provide a spark from the three-technique spot, I wonder if Mata'afa or rookie James Lynch will get a chance to play major snaps anytime soon. Lynch has been inactive in each of the first three games and is the only Vikings rookie on the active roster who has yet to see the field.

Smith, Stephen, Harris, and Odenigbo had the best PFF grades of the week among Vikings defenders.

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