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Justin Jefferson was used to winning at LSU and now it’s back to ‘normal’ with Vikings

Not only did the Vikings go 7-9 in 2020 and 8-9 mark in 2021 under former coach Mike Zimmer, not once in those two seasons were they above .500.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson celebrates a first down against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Brad Rempel / USA Today Sports
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EAGAN, Minn. -- It’s back to “normal” times for Justin Jefferson.

The wide receiver was on an undefeated LSU team that won the NCAA title in 2019. Then he joined the Minnesota Vikings in 2020, and they had two straight losing seasons.

But Minnesota is off to a 6-1 start in 2022 under first-year coach Kevin O’Connell, and Jefferson is loving it.

“It feels great,’’ he said Thursday. “It feels like normal to be 6-1 right now. That’s what I’m used to. That’s what I always was on, a winning team. So those first two years were difficult.”

Not only did the Vikings go 7-9 in 2020 and 8-9 mark in 2021 under former coach Mike Zimmer, not once in those two seasons were they above .500.

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“It’s definitely weird, and we pretty much have the same type of guys,’’ Jefferson said of the difference now. “We just added a few pieces, a whole new coaching staff and now we’re 6-1. So that goes to tell you every piece counts, just bring in new coaches, bring in (edge rusher Za’Darius Smith as a free agent). … It makes a difference.’’

One thing Jefferson hasn’t liked lately is not having scored a receiving touchdown since Week 1 against Green Bay, and having been stopped several times at the 1-yard line. He shrugged off having scored on a run in Week 4 against New Orleans.

“That doesn’t count in my eyes,’’ he said. “I’m a receiver, so I like receiving touchdowns.”

Tomlinson again sits out

Defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson, who suffered a right calf injury in Sunday’s 34-26 win over Arizona, sat out practice Thursday for the second straight day. He might not travel to Washington for Sunday’s game.

Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell declined to say who might start for Tomlinson, saying it doesn’t matter since the Vikings rotate defensive linemen. James Lynch, Ross Blacklock and Khyiris Tonga are candidates for increased snaps if Tomlinson is out.

Also, receiver Justin Nailor (illness) missed practice a second straight day and cornerback Cameron Dantzler (neck) was limited. All others on the 53-man roster were full participants.

Hockenson move lauded

Cornerback Patrick Peterson said the Vikings’ acquisition Tuesday of tight end T.J. Hockenson from Detroit shows they are serious about making a deep playoff run.

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“When you have this opportunity that we have in front of us right now, being 6-1 and leading in the (NFC North), we always feel like there’s room for improvement,’’ Peterson said. “If there’s a guy out there that we feel can improve our team, why not go out there and acquire him and try to go win this thing? … You want to have goals and aspirations of winning a championship.’’

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Jefferson was “excited” about the move, saying, “I feel like our team is getting better and better.”

Vikings offensive coordinator Wes Phillips called Hockenson a “complete tight end” who “can kind of play all downs.”

Another award for Smith

A day after being named NFC Defensive Player of the Week, Smith on Thursday was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month.

Smith had three sacks against the Cardinals, giving him 6½ for the month. Smith has 8½ sacks on the season, tying him with New England linebacker Matt Judon for the NFL lead.

“He’s just a monster,’’ Phillips said.

SPORTS-THREE-SACKS-AND-ANOTHER-GAME-1-SP.jpg
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za'Darius Smith celebrates his sack of Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray in the second quarter Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press

Joseph’s missesVikings special-teams coordinator Matt Daniels said he’s not concerned that Greg Joseph has missed five straight field goals of 50 or more yards after he was very effective from long distance in training camp and in the preseason and tied a team record with a 56-yarder in Week 1. He compared Joseph to a golfer.

“Golfers have ups and downs, and for Greg, he just has to figure out how to control it,’’ Daniels said.

Daniels said Washington’s FedEx Field has a “sandy” surface that is not of the best quality for kickers. Joseph never has kicked there, but Daniels said he has reached out to kickers who have for advice.

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Adam Zimmer mass set

A funeral mass for Adam Zimmer will be held Tuesday in Colleyville, Texas. The former Vikings linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator and the son of Mike Zimmer died Monday in Mendota Heights. A spokesperson at the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office said a cause of death won’t be released for six to eight weeks.

The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to former Minnesota linebacker Anthony Barr’s Raise the Barr foundation.

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