RB Jerick McKinnon feeling out his role, finds other comparable backs
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - When the Vikings drafted Jerick McKinnon out of Georgia Southern, it's likely most Vikings hadn't heard of him. After a quick glance at his draft scouting page and highlight tapes, it's time to find a comparable player.
Pair this guy with Norv Turner and he could be Darren Sproles.
Head coach Mike Zimmer didn't shy from the comparison during the first day of Vikings rookie mini-camp. And McKinnon brought it up, too. During a list a players he thinks he might want to emulate, McKinnon included Sproles.
It's another successful NFL back, though, McKinnon pointed to first. It's an ambitious one.
"I like LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, I like LaDainian [Tomlinson], Darren Sproles," McKinnon said when asked who he tries to emulate.
Later, when pressed, he again brought up McCoy's name.
"I like LeSean McCoy. Just run out of that shotgun in between tackles, outside zone, just stretches and then come out of the backfield."
Of course, McKinnon has plenty to prove before the McCoy comparisons could begin. Zimmer, for one, has liked what he's seen on film and now in person from the diminutive back.
"Yeah, I like him. I think we're going to find some things for him to do," Zimmer said. "He's short in stature but he's got big legs and a big rear end. He's got explosiveness so I think we'll find some things for him to do."
Zimmer said McKinnon can be "very similar," to Tomlinson or Sproles in a change-of-pace role. "You'd have to ask [offensive coordinator Norv Turner] this, but from our conversations, he's been thinking a lot about ways we can use him."
Is it as a third-down back in passing situations? Can he handle blitz pick-up?
These things remain to be seen. But rookie mini-camp will offer the first insights.
"If I get the opportunity to return, I think I can help out in that way, other special teams of course. And then whenever they need me to come in, I'll probably come out the backfield and stuff like that. I definitely think I can contribute in that way," McKinnon said.
He wasn't what you would call a traditional running back in college, but it's possible he be asked to do more of the things expected of running backs at this level: pass blocking, route running, ball carrying, and at least to begin, some special teams work.
How comfortable is he pass blocking?
"I did it the first time at the Senior Bowl and it was real difficult just because I wasn't really coached up on the technique. It's something we've been working on here, small techniques versus different looks. [Running backs coach Kirby Wilson] does a great job at breaking that down with us and going in-depth with it," McKinnon said.
He's already in the film room getting ready to fit into a new offense. Nobody's quite sure yet what it will look like, or what his role will be. So for now, McKinnon is studying technique and watching film of other backs he'd do well to mimic.
"I watched LT. I know the other day in the running backs room, we were watching some old cut-up film of LT on there, some Rashard Mendenhall, and just watching LT come out those cuts and set the linebacker and stem and go the opposite way was definitely exciting to watch."