“We don’t need another slot receiver!”
“Jefferson can’t beat press coverage!”
“Burrow MADE Jefferson successful!”
These are just some of the ridiculous things being thrown around Eagles Twitter and Facebook. Instead of referring these people to the endless amount of film so they can learn more about Justin Jefferson, I thought it would be better to reach out to a man who knows him better than most.
Here’s my talk with LSU wide receivers coach Mickey Joseph.
On his work ethic towards school:
“When I came in February [of 2017] when I was coming from Louisiana Tech, I knew about Justin and I knew he had signed and I knew he had some school work to do. So when I got to LSU, Coach O said ‘hey man I held a scholarship for this Justin Jefferson kid, his brothers played here, he’s a pretty good receiver.’ I said yeah coach I know about him. He said ‘do you think he can get eligible?’ I said yeah he’s a bright kid he can get eligible.”
On his work ethic towards football:
“When he came in there was D.J. Chark in the room, there’s Russell Gage, and some experienced guys in that room as a freshman but he was already one of the better guys in the room. He just hadn’t played SEC football. I was with Jerry Sullivan at the time when he was our passing game coordinator and he was big on footwork, so we had to develop that. The kid works, he just wants to work. You won’t have to wake him up. I never had to say ‘Justin, pick it up. Give me more.’
His work ethic is off the charts. I tell people this, Philly would love Justin Jefferson because Justin Jefferson loves football. He’s a worker, he’s going to give his heart. When he goes out, he’s a warrior. He’s one of those blue collar kids. He was a 2-star, 3-star coming out of high school. Nobody knew about him. Nobody. He was a 6’1″ scrawny 160 lb kid. But he was able to put his foot in the ground and explode. His first five steps were all speed and he caught the ball well and we knew he was going to be special. We just didn’t know how special.”
“We started him outside at Z and X just to get him outside because we thought we had some inside guys. Then when we went recruiting and we got JaMarr Chase and Terrace Marshall. The guy with the biggest football IQ was Justin Jefferson and for the team he said ‘I’m going to go inside because I want to win.’ My thing is that’s what you love about the kid. He wasn’t worried about the NFL. He was like ‘I’m going to leave a position where I caught 53 balls as the leading receiver and I’m going to trust my coaches and I’m going to go inside so we can get these other two kids on the field. I know I need a supporting cast.’ He’s just so unselfish.”
On keeping Jefferson primarily in the slot in 2019:
“Would you rather have a kid be inside the whole time and catch 111 passes or inside and outside and catch 50 passes? You don’t care how you get your catches. You can lock him down outside, you can bracket him. But inside it’s hard to find him. Anybody who knows football knows that the most dangerous position is that slot position. People are talking him down because of that but I guarantee you the team looking at him when their number comes up is going to pick him.”
Can he beat press?
“Go back to his junior film and watch him, he’s outside. The Auburn game, he puts the guy to sleep on the release. He get off the line of scrimmage. He’s bigger, he’s stronger now. That has a lot to do with getting off press coverage, being strong. He did all of that. “
“Let me give you all these names this kid has faced since he’s been here: Donte Starks, Greedy Williams, Kevin Toliver, Kristian Fulton, [Derek] Stingley, and then in the slot he’s dealing with [Grant] Delpit. He’s dealt with Delpit the whole time he was here in the slot. He’s dealing with Delpit and JaCoby Stevens. You take all those corners and you’re telling me all those corners can’t play? We play press man at LSU, so he can beat press.”
“He went up against some of the top DBs in the country outside and he did the same things that [JaMarr] Chase did. You can’t take away what he did.”
“We play press coverage everyday at LSU. I’ve watched him beat press coverage. You’ve got to understand that if you’re seeing 10 reps of press coverage, you might lose 2, but you still beat 8. The thing about it though is in the league, they got to let you go at 5 yards. They can’t put their hands on you anymore. In college, their hands are on you 10 yards all the way up the field. So it’s in the initial release and he understands how to get off and how to mix it up. But he’ll get off the press.”
On his level of competition:
“He don’t play in any league, he played in the SEC West. He played in the SEC West where you had some dudes. He’s a warrior, he doesn’t back down from anyone. They’ll love him out there [Philadelphia].”
What one game stands out to you?
“The Auburn game, we had to run the clock out, and he’s blocking, he’s getting after it. He’s one of our better blockers. Most coaches want to put that big guy at the point of the bunch but we trusted Justin at the point. He would get after it because he’s got that blue collar mentality, that warrior mentality, that ‘I’m going to get after you.'”
“The Oklahoma game, he dominated those guys. Those guys do a good job over there at OU on defense. He made some plays.”
What do you say to the people who say Joe Burrow made Jefferson who he is?
“You gotta throw the ball to the guy who’s open. Ya know, Philly’s got a great quarterback. If they happen to get Justin and Justin gets open, he’s going to get the ball. He’s a product? Somebody’s got to throw the ball to him.”
On getting criticism if he doesn’t perform right away:
“He’s from Louisiana. That’s basically how it is over here. You drop a ball over here and we’ll be on your ass too in our room. Philly’s a tough city. He’s going to understand Philly’s a tough city to play in, they’ve got passionate fans. But so does LSU. So does Destrehan High School, which is where he came from. So the criticism if he makes a mistake isn’t going to stop him from going out there and making a play the next time. He’s dealt with some games where he was getting bracketed and he wasn’t getting the ball. So we had to move him around so he can get the ball, but he just played. He didn’t get frustrated, he just played.”
“He doesn’t live on social media as far as listening to what other people say. Coach O has a saying ‘we block out the noise’ so we really don’t hear what other people are saying outside of the media guys that we’re friends with. But other than that we really don’t read it because we know the kid’s going to go out there and give 100%.”
Is there a specific team where you think he’d be the best fit for?
“Justin was in three different systems here in LSU. The system doesn’t matter. The kid is going to come to work every day, he’s going to bring his lunch pail, and he’s going to work his butt off every day coming in that building. He’s going to give everything that he has for the organization to be successful. You’re getting a high character kid, you can’t say enough about him. He’s a warrior. He’s going to give you everything, man.”
On where he’d rank Jefferson against the other receivers in the draft:
“I’m looking at him like he’s the best one in the draft. He’s played with some dudes in that room. He’s got a Biletnikoff winner on the other side, he’s got another kid that had 45 catches but missed three games. So it’s not like he’s the only one on that field. You have Clyde Helaire getting his touches, you have Thaddeus Moss getting his touches. Some of these guys [the other receivers in the draft] there was just one of them [in regards to other options on the field] but he [Justin] had four! If it would’ve been just him he would’ve had 150 catches, 160. But he had other dudes in that room. That’s a credit to the kid because most guys don’t want to come play in that type of situation.”
What part of his game will help him elevate his game in the next level?
“His catch radius. That he can work his body different ways and get to the ball and catch it. He’s got great body control. He can drop his weight, stop on a dime, and come out his breaks. He’s got awesome hands, he’s got big time strong hands. The kid works. After every practice, he’s on the JUGS, he’s catching tennis balls. Now, he’s just got to go play football. He loves the game.”
What will a team be getting in Jefferson?
“Whoever drafts him is getting a hell of a football player and a hell of a person. He’s a great dude, he’s a great guy. That’s what I really liked about him. He’s very respectful. He’s a humble kid. He appreciates all that this game has done for him. He just wants to play football.”
“Justin played in an offense where guys had multiple catches. We had games where 10-12 people catch the ball. It doesn’t bother him. If there’s a game where he has 8 catches and another guy has 14, it doesn’t bother him. He wants to contribute where they can win the game. He wants to win the game. He’s very, very competitive.”
HUGE thank you to Coach Joseph for taking the time out to speak to me about Justin Jefferson!
Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports