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How much of an impact will Van Jefferson have in 2022 debut?

Jefferson returns for first game since Super Bowl and once again the Rams really need him

Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

In his most recent game with the Los Angeles Rams, the offense was in dire need of wide receiver help and Van Jefferson was one of the last men standing. It was the Super Bowl. Odell Beckham, Jr. was lost to a torn ACL. Robert Woods had been placed on injured reserve long ago. Tyler Higbee was out too. Matthew Stafford fed eight targets to Jefferson, second-most on the Rams that day, and we got a preview of what the team could look like at a time like this.

Jefferson returns to the field this Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers after missing virtually all of training camp and the first six games of the season. The Rams have not been the same offense they were last year, as Stafford has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns, the offensive line is in shambles, and there is no consistent threat outside of Cooper Kupp.

Sean McVay is hoping that Jefferson can fill some of that void and said on Friday that the third-year receiver will play “a normal workload” against the 49ers.

If a “normal workload” is the last three games of the playoffs, then Jefferson will rare come off of the field. Jefferson played in 99% of the snaps in the Super Bowl and at least 87% of the snaps in the divisional round and NFC Championship. That was typical of most of the season, even as the team juggled the addition of Beckham and the loss of Woods, with Jefferson regularly getting over 75% of the snaps.

But Jefferson has yet to have his breakout game, let alone his breakout campaign. Jefferson has had two healthy NFL seasons and last season averaged three catches and 47 yards per game. He’s been Stafford’s deep threat however, an element missing from the offense this season. Jefferson had an average depth of target of 13.5 last season and averaged 11.7 yards before the catch.

Both were the highest marks on the team, if you exclude DeSean Jackson, who only had 15 targets.

Will Jefferson be as effective as a deep threat this year if the Rams can’t protect Stafford, can’t run the ball effectively, and don’t have a solid number two wideout like Woods or OBJ because Allen Robinson hasn’t stepped up yet? In the Super Bowl, he finished with four catches for 23 yards.

Jefferson will have a full workload. Even if he does, will that be enough to be the difference against San Francisco this time?

This is his best opportunity yet to prove it.