Though he never experienced one, Randy Moss said he believes the proverbial sophomore slump is indeed a real pitfall that players need to be aware of as they transition from high-profile rookies into the youngest of NFL veterans.
So, yeah, the Vikings Hall of Fame receiver has his keen analytical eye trained on current Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson, one of last year's highest profile rookies and the only one to make the Pro Bowl on offense.
"When you have success as a rookie, no matter what the position, it's so hard for you to come back as a sophomore, a professional sophomore, and to try to even duplicate that or do better than what you did as a rookie," Moss said. "So, for me, I'm anxious to see what type of Justin Jefferson we're going to get in his sophomore season."
Never fear, says Jefferson.
Told of Moss' concerns, Jefferson said, "I've never had a slump in my life."
Last year, Jefferson topped Moss' 1998 rookie season in catches (88-69) and receiving yards (1,400-1,313). Jefferson's receiving yards set an NFL rookie record.
"I am looking forward to good things, and I'm a fan of Jefferson," Moss said. "I like him because of his build, how slippery he is. It's hard for you to get your hands on him at the line."
Moss, however, knows what's coming down the pike defensively.
"Guys like Justin Jefferson, the guys who really put their stamp on the league with their first season, look out," Moss said. "Teams have had time to prepare for them in the offseason, training camp and things like that. Now that people know who he is and what he can do, that's why I'm anxious to see what happens."
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said he knows extra attention is coming Jefferson's way. He just hopes the young man doesn't become too frustrated by the double-teams that will free up teammates, and that new offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak has enough new wrinkles designed to create space and opportunities for Jefferson.
As for Jefferson, well, "I don't really think about that stuff," he said.
"I'm confident in my game. I'm confident in my skill set that I have. I'll just continue progressing and getting better with my offense."
Then he smiled before adding, "Plus, I'm pretty sure Kirk Cousins won't let [a slump] happen anyway."
Cousins' notable accuracy and Jefferson's excellence in making the contested catch means the quarterback and receiver don't need big windows to operate.
Meanwhile, new Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson was asked if he thinks defenses will double Jefferson more in Year 2 than Year 1.
"Good luck," he said to those defenses. "We've got three, four, five other weapons. Honestly, I think they'll have to play him honestly, and if you do try to double him you'll just open the door for Irv [Smith Jr.], open the door for Adam [Thielen], who's been having a great career here, and obviously Dalvin [Cook] speaks for himself.
"I believe it's going to be kind of difficult to try to cover him differently this year. You just have to roll the punches and hope he drops them."
Jefferson's confidence includes no shyness when it comes to announcing his statistical goals. Asked to put them out there this season, he said, "Well, I got 88 catches last year so I got to go for 100 this year. I got to top 1,400 yards, too."
In his second season, Moss raised his catches by 11 and his yards by 100. His touchdowns dropped from the NFL rookie-record 17, but only to 11.
Speaking of touchdowns, Jefferson certainly has a goal for them as well.
"Over 10 touchdowns," he said. "I got to get over 10. That's a must."
Jefferson had seven last season, something the still-supercompetitive Moss used to tweak the young gun. Moss tied Cris Carter's team-record of 17 touchdowns twice. He also set the NFL record of 23 in his first year with the Patriots in 2007.
"My 17 touchdowns, I'm not worried about that," Moss said. "That record's safe."
Game on, says Jefferson.
"Tell Randy I'll take him on with that one," Jefferson said. "We can bet on that one."