Rams’ Van Jefferson aims to catch his father’s eye against Jets
It probably won’t be an overly emotional scene.
When Rams rookie receiver Van Jefferson runs onto the field for warmups Sunday at SoFi Stadium, however, he is looking forward to greeting his father, Jets receivers coach Shawn Jefferson.
It will mark the first time Jefferson and his father, who played 13 seasons in the NFL and prepped his son to be a pro, will be on opposing sidelines.
It also will be the first time they have seen each other for some time, as both prepared for their seasons.
“This has been a goal since I was a kid, and he knew that and he supported my dream,” Jefferson said of his quest to play in the NFL during a videoconference with reporters this week. “It’s going to be a good moment because I haven’t seen my Pops in a long time.
“But other than that, it’s just another game, man. It’s just business. Go out there and play to the best of our ability and win the game.”
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Jefferson, 24, is among several Rams rookies who have made key plays for a team that is 9-4 and can clinch a playoff berth with a victory over the 0-13 Jets.
While Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds have been targeted most among receivers, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Jefferson also has contributed. He has been targeted 21 times and has 15 catches for 170 yards and a touchdown.
“He continues to grow, continues to get better,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “He’s got all the ability in the world and it’s just a matter of time before he breaks out.”
Said coach Sean McVay: “This guy is going to be a real star for us. I think he’s got an extremely bright future.”
Jefferson grew up in Tennessee and played at Mississippi and Florida before the Rams selected him in the second round of the draft with the 57th pick. Because of coaching responsibilities with the Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins and the Jets, his father was able to attend only a few games.
Jefferson said he still got valuable feedback.
Running back Cam Akers’ parents are proud of what the rookie player has become throughout his years in high school, Florida State and now with the Rams.
“He always made sure to watch and correct me on things, mistakes and stuff like that, so he’s always been there,” Jefferson said of his father.
Jefferson said that he and his father — who caught 470 passes in the NFL, 29 for touchdowns — have similar traits.
“Route running, competitiveness,” Jefferson said. “My Dad’s a hard worker and he taught me everything I know.”
Because of COVID-19 protocols that mandated virtual offseason programs, Jefferson did not have the benefit of on-field acclimation into the Rams offense during organized-team activities. Preseason games were canceled.
But Jefferson made a positive impression during training camp and did not have to wait long to show his talent. In a season-opening victory over the Dallas Cowboys, Jefferson had a 31-yard catch on a third-down play. In the next game against the Philadelphia Eagles, he caught four passes.
On Nov. 23, in a “Monday Night Football” game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jefferson caught his first NFL touchdown pass.
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Jefferson was not targeted in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers, but had four catches in a victory over the Arizona Cardinals. He was not targeted in a 24-3 victory over the New England on Dec. 10, but is expected to get opportunities against the Jets.
With Reynolds expected to become a free agent after he completes the final season of his rookie contract, Jefferson is positioned to move into much larger role in 2021 alongside Kupp and Woods, both of whom signed lucrative extensions.
But Jefferson is focused on preparing for the final games of this season and the playoffs.
“There’s a lot of things I can do better at, a lot of things that I can improve on,” he said. “Like my dad always says, ‘Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.’ ”
Offensive lineman Bobby Evans and safety Nick Scott were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and will not play against the Jets, McVay said. Offensive lineman Brian Allen and linebackers Obo Okoronkwo and Justin Hollins, who did not practice Thursday, were kept away from the team facility Friday as a precautionary measure, but are expected to be available for Sunday if they continue to test negative, McVay said. The Rams held virtual meetings Friday and converted an open-air tent typically used as a meeting space into one that could accommodate locker room and training room needs.
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