Peterson coaching up backup McKinnon

Adrian Peterson has been offering his rookie backup plenty of advice during training camp.

Adrian Peterson won’t play Friday night in the Minnesota Vikings’ preseason opener, but one of his backups, Jerick McKinnon, hopes to show what Peterson has taught him.

McKinnon is expected to play extensively and possibly get some work with the first-team offense, along with Matt Asiata, as the coaching staff looks to get a better evaluation on their third-round rookie running back.

“He’s just guiding me along the way, giving me little tips,” McKinnon said of Peterson. “He’s watching as I run, so if I feel like I could have made a better cut, I’ll go and ask him and he’ll critique me real good. I take it from the best and just soak it all in.”

About a month after being drafted by the Vikings, McKinnon said Peterson was one of his idols. Now the role has shifted to being a teammate and mentor.

“He’s one of the best. Him and Coach Kirby (Wilson, the running backs coach) have really taught me a lot. Not just those two, but Matt, Joe (Banyard), Zach (Line), Jerome (Felton), all of them have taught me. I’m just developing my game each and every day, not just the little things but just the big things as well.”

After minicamp and organized team activities, Peterson was impressed with the speed and elusiveness of McKinnon. Now, almost two weeks into training camp, the Pro Bowl back has gotten a better feel for how McKinnon has adjusted to the offense.

“He’s a smart young man. He’s been accepting his role,” Peterson said. “The past couple days his reps have pretty much increased. He’s been handling it well. … He’s been making big steps.”

McKinnon impressed the scouting staff with his versatility. After he was drafted, general manager Rick Spielman raved about McKinnon’s pro day and the versatility he showed. He did drills that running backs typically do, plus added some quarterback, receiver and cornerback drills to his pro day repertoire.

McKinnon said he never expected to be getting tips from one of the best running backs of the last decade, but he’s glad he is in that position now. He has also gained pointers on pass protection, which he admitted was all new to him, from fullback Zach Line.

“I watch those two a lot. Especially Zach, he’s real good at keeping his hands inside,” McKinnon said. “Sometimes I tend to get mine outside. I pay real close attention to them and just try to somehow sort it into mine.”

Throughout the offseason, veterans have talked about the complexities of Norv Turner’s offense. If the veterans are struggling with that, imagine how much McKinnon has had to absorb, especially when he wasn’t asked to pass protect much at Georgia Southern.

“I don’t think I’ve really had too many specific conflicts, but I’d probably just say on certain protections it kind of switches up the rules depending on what the defense gives you,” he said. “I kind of struggled with that at first, but I’m starting to get the hang of it.”

Friday night against the Oakland Raiders will be McKinnon’s first chance to put all the coaching onto game film, and he should get plenty of opportunities.

“Just being out there and finally getting to be under the lights and the game-type atmosphere, overall, I’m confident in my abilities and being here,” he said. “I’m not really sure in specific what the coaches want from me, but whatever they ask I think I’ve done it pretty good. I’ll just keep building and building.”

McKinnon said he anticipates the experience being “overwhelming” Friday night but said he will try to calm himself with a prayer and a talk with himself before the game.

“Coming in as a rookie, especially from a different style offense and whole different situation, just get experience under my belt,” he said. “Just come back and critique myself and get better every week and every practice.”

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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