Both Adrian Peterson and Jerick McKinnon have been getting reps with the first-team offense during Minnesota Vikings training camp. It started with McKinnon taking Peterson’s rep at the start because Peterson was still recovering from a minor hamstring injury, but it appears that those split reps are going to stay throughout training camp and even carry over into the regular season.
Peterson is still going to be the bell cow for the Vikings, but offensive coordinator Norv Turner said there may be games where McKinnon’s role increases in the offense. He just may be a better matchup versus some teams than Peterson, and Turner will be hoping to utilize that to his advantage.
“(McKinnon) did a good job receiving the ball, and it changed a little bit last year with Adrian, but the last third of the season we started using him,” Turner began. “He got better at some things. We started using him in the passing game, moving him around a little bit. Hopefully, it continues to grow that way, and to me it’s a week-to-week deal. There are certain games where they’re really going to struggle with a guy like him, and there are certain games that it may not be the best fit. So, those are the decisions we make on a week-to-week basis, but it’s nice having him because we know he’s an explosive player that can make big plays.”
The third-year running back said he would love to see his snap total increase during certain games this season, but at the end of the day that’s not what he’s focused on in training camp. He’s just trying to work hard to improve his game every day and help out the team any way he can. If that means receiving more snaps during a game, great, but if he’s better fit serving them in some other way, that’s fine too.
“Any time you get a chance to get in a game and get the opportunity to contribute is definitely a blessing and something you want to do,” McKinnon said. “I’m just going with the flow. Every day, find a way to get better, work my craft, work my pass (protection), work my technique, reads, footwork. All those things and then when the time presents itself, if given the opportunity to contribute more I’d be more than happy to.”
Peterson also seemed good with the idea of letting McKinnon take some extra reps during games. Now, if it were up to Peterson, he would likely choose to take every snap during the course of the season, but he also understands that’s not going to happen.
He sees the potential that the Vikings have this season and part of that is utilizing McKinnon. He can be a matchup nightmare for some defenses coming out of the backfield and Peterson realizes that.
“You look at Jerick, he’s a dynamic back.” Peterson began. “He’s great at running the ball, route running. Coming out of college, he was an athlete. He did so much, he played quarterback, so when you have him on the field he’s able to make plays in one-on-one, some better than our receivers. So it’s only smart to use that guy and to put him in there against different defensive looks so we can take advantage of them.”
There does not seem to be any hard feelings between the two backs when it comes to the amount of snaps they both receive. They appear to have a lot of respect for one another and have developed a big-brother, little-brother type relationship. But if you ask McKinnon about it, that’s how he views his relationship with most of the running backs on the Vikings’ roster.
He is one of the youngest on the team, entering into his third NFL season, and the other backs all like to pick on him from time to time. Much like older brothers do to their younger siblings.
“All those guys are like big brothers,” he said. “They still treat me like the little brother in Year 3. I still get the rookie treatment. ...
“We got two rookies and they still treat me like the rookie, but it’s all good. It’s a good room of guys and coach (Kevin) Stefanski helps us and it’s just good to be around those guys every day and let loose. Joke with the guys, have fun, but learn as well.”
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McKinnon is never going to be the starter this season, barring any injuries to Peterson, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t going to be an important part to what the offense does. They were able to utilize his skill set, especially in the passing game, late last season and now it seems like Turner is going to try and build off of that success as they head into the 2016 season.