Last season the Minnesota Vikings drafted running back Jerick McKinnon in the third round. It was expected that he would be used as a change-of-pace back to help complement Adrian Peterson. But after Peterson was placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt List and later suspended, McKinnon was soon placed in the role of starting running back.
He performed well in that role, but it became apparent that he was not built to be an full-time, every-down back, especially when he comes in at 5-foot-9, 208 pounds. And eventually his season was cut short when he was placed on injured reserve with a lower back injury.
“I think he’s building on what he did a year ago,” Turner said. “He’s healthy, he’s 100 percent. It’s unfortunate he got hurt late in the year because he was having a very good rookie year. He looks quick, fast, he’s going to be a good change-up guys, he’s got very good hands. I like the fact that he is on our football team.”
With Peterson back in the starting lineup, McKinnon’s touches are likely to significantly decrease. That doesn’t worry him too much because he just wants to be able to help the team and knows that he will have to make every snap he does get count.
“I’m comfortable with whatever role the coaches place on me,” McKinnon said. “I don’t really know what’s going to happen. I’m not worried about it. Like I said before, just continue to work, work on my craft. I know Coach Turner preaches that every day and whatever happens, happens.
“Just whatever snaps I do get, make the most out of it. Stick to my assignment, stay disciplined and try to be as productive as I can.”
The second-year running back has been receiving multiple first-team snaps, which shows that the coaches are likely planning on using him in the games. But during this offseason he is just trying to work on improving certain areas of his game.
The biggest is pass protection. Being a smaller guy, he knows that is an area he needs to improve, especially if he will be out on the field more in passing situations.
“I’m just trying to work on everything really. Getting better at pass pro. It’s a challenge for me,” he said. “Worked really hard in the offseason, so I’m really excited to see what I do in that phase.”
McKinnon said that he feels “200 percent” healthy now after his back surgery, and if there were a 300 percent he would feel that good. Like all the other players on the Vikings, he is ready to move on to training camp and into the start of the season.