Jerick McKinnon flat-out admitted it. He has “little-man’s syndrome.”
McKinnon may have been tired of being referred to as anything but a tough running back or fulltime workhorse so he did something about it Sunday night.
On the Minnesota Vikings’ third play of the preseason opener, McKinnon took a swing pass out of the backfield, faked inside on Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats, beat him outside and finished the 13-yard pass play by running over safety Antwon Blake.
“I’ve got little-man’s syndrome and couldn’t control it and was playing,” McKinnon said of that play. “MyCole Pruitt, he had a pretty good block on him. I didn’t want to make too many moves, just north and south and got the best of it and just made a good play for the team.
“That’s the things that the coaches expect from you. You’ve got to win the one-on-one matchups and that’s kind of what I wrote in my notebook: Win the one-on-one matchups, just make a positive play and gain yards for my teammates.”
McKinnon made plenty of plays for the Vikings last year after Adrian Peterson was forced to leave the team and Matt Asiata eventually gave way to McKinnon. McKinnon, the Vikings’ third-round pick last year, ended up starting six games in the middle of the season before a back injury ended his rookie campaign prematurely.
This year, he’s out to prove he’s big enough and durable enough.
“I would say so. Just being a smaller back, always being labeled a third-down back or a change-of-pace back,” he said. “I just kind of look at it in the overall game, improving everything and getting better. That’s what training camp is for, that’s what practice is for. The guys, they do a great job of pushing me, offense and defense.”
McKinnon proved he can handle the NFL game at running back despite starting games at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and even cornerback at Georgia Southern. His move against Moats displayed the elusiveness his versatility in college helped him hone.
“Coach Kirby (Wilson) always talks to us about working the defenders in practice once you get into open field, working the last defender and finishing runs and stuff like that,” McKinnon said. “I think it’s just an every-day thing. It’s a habit out here in practice, doing those things and finishing runs and making explosive plays. When it comes to the game, just try to make it a little like practice and give a little head fake and I got on the outside.”
Last year, with Peterson out, McKinnon eventually won the starting job from Matt Asiata and McKinnon finished his rookie season with 538 yards on 113 carries, averaging 4.8 yards per carry, best among Vikings running backs.
This year, McKinnon’s workload is expected to decrease with the return of Peterson, but last year proved he can handle the NFL game and could be called upon at a moment’s notice.
It doesn’t hurt to have Peterson offering tips along the way.
“Last year it was more about the knowledge,” McKinnon said of spending time with the 2012 NFL MVP during the offseason and training camp. “This year, I’d say the smaller things – staying on your footwork, tracks, patience. I feel like my patience is coming along pretty well. That’s a credit to Adrian and the other backs as well. The game is slowing down and allowing me to play at a high level.”
McKinnon has ‘little-man’s syndrome’
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