While the Minnesota Vikings offseason is still young, it is almost a sure bet that Latavius Murray will start at running back. While the Vikings picked up some talented players for the wide receiver corps this offseason including the latest addition of Michael Floyd, comments from head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman show the team’s focus is still on an offense centered around the running game.
Jerick McKinnon: Depth Running Back
This is where Jerick McKinnon comes in. He’s been bulking up in hopes that his role with the Vikings will not shrink, and hopefully to show the team and the fans that he is a durable, reliable running back. “When I was 200 or 198, I was just getting dinged up,” McKinnon told ESPN. “As the season goes along, for 17 weeks, it gets hard on the body, so I’m trying to keep it on for that purpose. I feel good.”
To enhance his abilities, McKinnon has been spending time in the weight room with Coach Brent Salazar to work on getting his weight up from the 200 range to a more solid 212. At the same time, they have been working together on his explosiveness and acceleration, keeping him fast and sharp even with the extra weight.
Second to Peterson
During the Adrian Peterson era, McKinnon did not get a lot of carries, and when he did, he split them with Matt Asiata. Both have moved on, but now he has two additions to the team to share time with. With Murray in the starting position, he’ll be sharing snaps with rookie Dalvin Cook. It is a tough position to be in for sure considering the high hopes the team has for the newcomer.
However, if McKinnon can prove himself durable, it will be a huge selling point. Especially on a team that suffered from injuries and lack of depth in the offense that contributed heavily to the disastrous second half of the 2016 season.
Statistics Tell the Tale
Can Jerick McKinnon ever be a superstar like Peterson? Coming off the bench last season, he had 159 attempts for 539 yards, and averaged a not-too-shabby 3.4 yards per carry. McKinnon also had 43 receptions for 255 yards, a 5.5 yards per reception average. He totaled 4 touchdowns in the season.
In his third year as a Viking, last season was clearly a career best. However, for him to prove himself as a star-caliber running back, he will have to get more touches on the ball. His record of zero career fumbles is a positive mark in that direction.
This Year’s Role
What his role will be with the Vikings this season remains to be seen. If the Vikings can run a three wide-receiver set with three capable receivers and keep other team’s off balance, if he gets plenty of touches even with Cook and Murray around, and if his added weight and continued explosiveness and acceleration continue to be a factor, he could play a larger role than we expect at the moment.
No one wants to see any injuries, but in the case of one, McKinnon offers some solid and dependable depth, and the improvements to the offensive line should allow him to prove it. Whatever role he ends up playing, one can only hope that it will include a more frequent presence in the offense, giving him the opportunity to show the world he is still working to be the best running back he can be, and he has what it takes for a long and lucrative NFL career.