After rejoining the team late in the offseason, Kansas City Chiefs RB Jerick McKinnon has carved out an important role on the offense during the 2022 NFL season.
He’s been operating as the team’s third-down back, also managing to find his way to the field on clear passing situations. He’s become a trusted receiving option for Patrick Mahomes out of the backfield, with the most targets (35), receptions (25) and yards (212) out of the backfield this season.
What has led to that trust between McKinnon and his quarterback? It’s the chemistry they’ve developed and the success they’ve seen over the past two seasons.
“I would probably just say, just because of the success (we’ve had),” McKinnon explained. “Last year, toward the end, Pat (Mahomes) started checking it down more than before. Not just to me, but in general. It just comes along in practice with that trust. Him knowing where the back is going to be and just whether it’s me, Pop, Clyde, just being available. Making positive gains off of it. That’s all it is, whatever gets the chains (moving), keep those positive plays and yards going and you know, come away with scores.”
Asked about his penchant for the passing game, McKinnon spoke on his history in the league and upbringing in Norv Turner’s Air Coryell offense.
“I came into the league, that’s kind of been the theme of how I’ve been used,” McKinnon explained. “I was blessed to play under coach Norv Turner. That was really my introduction to the passing game. Being able to be in his offense, learn from him and kind of fill space and things like that. Then going to San (Francisco) with Kyle (Shanahan), it was kind of the same situation. Different play-calling, but it was kind of the same thing coming here with Coach (Andy) Reid. It just kept piggy-backing off of each other.”
McKinnon entered the NFL as an explosive triple-option quarterback out of Georgia Southern. While playing quarterback in college exposed him to different defenses, his experience in the passing game was rather limited. Pass protection, which has become a huge part of his game in Kansas City, was something that he didn’t have any exposure to. It wasn’t until the pre-draft process and his pursuit of the NFL that he began to work at it.
“You asked the question, so I know you’ve seen me in pass (protection),” McKinnon joked. “I take a lot of pride in it. It first started when I came out in the draft in the Senior Bowl, I really didn’t know what pass protection was. I’m not going to lie to you. I’d never done it. I had never traditionally played running back. After taking some L’s in the Senior Bowl 1-on-1 and getting into the league, being a rookie and going through 1-on-1’s and trying to understand pass protection calls and going through that whole learning curve. Physically messing up and getting yelled at and stuff like that. It’s something that I definitely take pride in.”
Simply watching McKinnon work in pass protection, like on the blitz pickup below, you can see that it’s something he takes pride in. You can also understand why the Chiefs have entrusted this role to him.
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) November 14, 2022
McKinnon has allowed just three pressures on the season in 32 pass-blocking snaps according to PFF. When McKinnon entered the league with Minnesota in 2014, he got some good advice that still has him thriving as a blocker in Kansas City nine years later.
“Credit to my running back coach when I first got into the league, (Kirby Wilson),” McKinnon said. “He said (of pass protection), ‘That’s one thing that will keep you around for a long time.’ You know, you’ve got a lot of great backs, everybody can run the ball and things of that nature. But pass pro is definitely something that is difficult, especially when you have great linebackers in the league like the NFL.
“So, it’s definitely something that I work at, day in and day out. I take pride in it and I’m little, so I’ve got ‘little-man syndrome’ when it comes to stuff like that. But it’s definitely something that I hone in on and (something that) I definitely like. It’s fun. Working with the O-Line, those guys make it easy and we go back and forth, so it’s a collective effort.”