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New stats reveal McKinnon’s numbers were impacted by O-line, usage

Jan 1, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon (21) carries the ball during the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

After the first two years of Jerick McKinnon’s career, he appeared to be on track to become a star running back.

He showed big-play ability and versatility, averaging 4.9 Yards Per Attempt on 165 rushes and catching 48 passes. After Adrian Peterson went down and McKinnon got a chance to take over the full-time role in the backfield, the former third-round pick saw his numbers slide. But newly released charting statistics indicate that McKinnon’s drop from 4.9 to 3.4 YPA was caused in part by the Vikings’ inability to handle eight-man fronts.

According to SharpFootballStats.com, McKinnon was given the ball 33 times against an eight-man front and gained just 45 yards. He was stuffed behind the line of scrimmage immediately after getting the ball nine times and lost 22 yards on those plays.

On runs with five, six or seven-man fronts, he gained 484 yards on 115 runs – good for an average of 4.2 YPA.

Most running backs, as you might expect, average fewer yards against eight-man fronts. But no running back had more runs stuffed against eight-man fronts than McKinnon’s 27.3%. New Viking RB Latavius Murray, who played behind one of the league’s better O-lines in 2016, had just one of 44 runs stuffed by an opposing eight-man front. Against five, six and seven-man fronts, Murray gained 4.8 YPA.

The number of stuffed runs on McKinnon runs is an indictment on both Vikings’ beat-up offensive line and additional blockers like tight end Kyle Rudolph, who was rated 54th of 63 tight ends in run blocking by Pro Football Focus.

Here’s how the top 10 running backs in the NFL performed vs. eight-man fronts and their stuffed run percentages:

Player YPA vs. 8-man front Stuffed %
Ezekiel Elliot 4.9 7.4%
Jordan Howard 3.0 10.9%
DeMarco Murray 4.7 13.3%
Jay Ajayi 5.5 11.8%
Le’Veon Bell 4.3 10.5%
LeSean McCoy 5.8 20.0%
David Johnson 4.0 9.6%
LeGarrette Blount 4.0 11.5%
Devonta Freeman 6.4 13.2%
Lamar Miller 4.3 6.7%
 ——————–  ———————  —————-
Jerick McKinnon 1.4 27.3%

What do these numbers tell us?

– The additions of Riley Reiff, Mike Remmers and Pat Elflein should make a huge impact on the Vikings’ ability to run with eight in the box.

– Jerick McKinnon didn’t magically become bad. He still performed admirably when given a chance.

– It’s worth questioning why the Vikings ran so many times with McKinnon against eight-man fronts when they were routinely being crushed at the line.

– We should still count on McKinnon being a big part of the Vikings’ offense, even with Murray and Dalvin Cook on the roster.

  • Chris Mahoney

    Totally right, why DID they do so many run plays with 8 in the box. Fingers crossed he’d somehow do a 2012 AP and break out?

    • B. A. Barakas

      Along with the abysmal play of the line last year, the play calling,especially when it was apparent that the line could not even generate enough of a push to give the running backs a chance to get to the line of scrimmage before contact, was equally frustrating…

  • Starman

    So, how many of those 8 man front runs were with a lead, taking time off the clock? Or, we ran to take some time off the game clock to give our defense less time to be on the field? Remember, we couldn’t pass protect either, so before we moved to shorter drop backs, quicker releases it was even more ugly whatever we did. I think you could compare two RB guys on the Vikings but not versus anyone from another team…the situations aren’t comparable. Yes, all are vs 8 man fronts but there are way too many other factors to even consider comparing guys from different teams against one another on this basis.

    • Andre Esters

      That’s the truth… variables on top of variables factor so many different ways, from team to team and player to player… its almost too much to chew on…
      Hence, the critics and fans who look at straight up what-have-you-done-lately production. They don’t care two spits about circumstances and overall team functionality. What’s your average, how many TD’s did you get, and how many wins did the team end with. There’s good and bad qualities to this approach, but when someone starts digging into a team or player you can quickly pick up on what kind of spectator they are.

  • MarkWattsMN

    “After the first two years of Jerick McKinnon’s career, he appeared to be on track to become a star running back”

    What?

    After watching him he always looked like a potential 3rd down back to me and a guy that couldn’t carry the load full time.

    • PurpleFaithful

      Yeah, i about choked when i read that. “Star” mckinnon.

    • HeWhoKnowsAll

      Laughable.

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  • PurpleFaithful

    Reach!

  • Gordon Guffey

    These stats show what most Viking fans already knew ~ McKinnon is a very good RB who could catch the ball out of the backfield ~ What they dont show is that McKinnon hasn’t been able to stay healthy when getting hit a lot ~ I love McKinnon as part of a 2or 3 RB set but not as a full time starter ~ He added 11 pounds of muscle this offseason for this very reason ~ He is a perfect fit going forward and will have his chance to prove the Vikings didn’t need to add Murray ~ However there was no way they could have known they would have a shot at landing Cook so Murray was a must kind of add to the roster at the time ~ Plus Murray is the kind of RB you want when its 3rd and 1 or 2 or its 1st and goal from the 5 yard in the redzone when defenses are looking for the run ~

    McKinnon will be a fine part of the Vikings running game if he can stay healthy ~ Where RB’s will be counted on to run and pass protect ~ He has a chance to force the Vikings to either keep him or Murray after this season if Cook shows up as a rookie like some believe ~ So McKinnon has a real chance of earning himself a fine new contract from the Vikings or someone else ~ If he takes the starting job and has a outstanding season I don’t know how anyone could b!tch about it though I’m sure a few will while others will call Murray and Cook a bust ~ There will always be those few who can’t stand it if their favorite player isn’t starting ~ Instead of being able to enjoy the play of whoever the starter is they cant enjoy the season because someone is out playing their favorite player ~ My view is WHO CARES as long as whoever is starting is playing well ~ I say well because there will never be a team where every player is playing outstanding ~

    I’m looking forward to a season where the starting RB’s want have to come off the field on passing downs while 2 of the 3 top guys getting playing time are capable of going in motion and ending up splitting out wide and capable of being more than just a decoy once they are there ~ Something AP didn’t seem capable of ~ All I can say on this subject is the coaches never used him like that ~ I have to believe there was a reason they didn’t ~

  • Andre Esters

    Yeah… having numbers nicely break down what I’ve been enduring as a frustrated fan doesn’t make it any easier or harder to realize. Without a decent O-line in the NFL, good luck. Play calling has been questionable at times, but if the guys you’re working with are limited, the only fair comparison I can think of is a helicopter missing rotors… it’s not gonna look good coming or going.

  • Vikomatic

    I have more confidence in McKinnon coming out of the slot than as a back. I see him as a 3rd down back with good hands and good speed but not good vision. He jukes to much and he missed the hole entirely way to many times last year. I realize there should have been a lot more lanes opened up by the O line but he still has to hit the ones that are there. He seems to be tackled pretty easily as well. He has not ever demonstrated he has the physicality to be an every down back. I’m not down on him I just think considering him as ‘the’ starting RB is a stretch. 3rd down and out of the slot I’m fine with.





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