The Vikings have reached the double-digit stage of training camp practices. But there's one player who's moving around as if he has fresh legs. His ability to do so is even more impressive given how much the coaching staff is asking him to do.
Jerick McKinnon is the name, and fulfilling multiple roles is his game.
View images from practice No. 10 of 2014 Verizon Vikings Training Camp which took place on Tuesday, August 5.
Coming to the Vikings as a third-round pick out of Georgia Southern, McKinnon was billed by many observers to be an offensive wild card and a scat-back type of offensive contributor. That billing wasn't an accurate characterization of the type of player McKinnon will be in Minnesota.
"Jerick (McKinnon) is doing a nice job," Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner said. "I think you can all see him when he gets the ball out in space he can really go and he has done a good job running the ball inside."
The inside running ability has indeed been impressive. He scored two touchdowns in a goal line period during the Vikings first evening practice and consistently displays good vision when approaching the line and choosing a hole through which to dart. His outside running ability has been as good as advertised and he's as smooth a catcher of the ball as you'll see in Vikings camp.
It's no surprise that when asked about his dynamic runner, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer found something to criticize; Zimmer himself acknowledges he has higher expectations for his players than anyone else. But Zimmer was quite complimentary of McKinnon at the same time.
"He's doing very well. He's very intuitive. He's very shifty, got great acceleration," Zimmer explained. "We're obviously working very hard on him in pass protection because in some of the situations they're going to try to get big guys on him. He's going to have to muscle up and be good in protection. But he catches the ball very well, he's explosive. We're going to look at him some in the return game and we'll see. The more things you can do, the better opportunities you have."
As if McKinnon can't contribute enough on offense, it looks as if he'll be a multi-phase special teams performer, as well. He's lined up on the kickoff coverage team, as a kickoff returner, and as a blocker on the kickoff return unit.
"I like Jerick a lot, he is a football player," Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said. "He has that football mentality, that defensive mentality that we talk about on special teams, all of our running backs do."
Observations from Practice No. 10-- The Vikings released their first depth chart of the preseason on Tuesday. Michael Mauti was listed as a weak-side (WILL) linebacker. Asked about the move after practice, Zimmer said he feels Mauti's a run and tackle-type of linebacker and that in the Vikings defensive scheme the WILL linebacker gets to run and hit a lot. That logic makes perfect sense, and it'll be interesting to see Mauti in that role against the Raiders on Friday.
-- Speaking of Friday's preseason game, Zimmer was mum on how much starters would play. But he did submit that they would "probably" play more than just one series while also offering that Adrian Peterson would "probably" not play. Nothing definitive there from Zimmer, but it sounds like starters will get a good look on Friday.
-- Once again, Adam Thielen authored the catch of the day. He positioned himself perfectly along the right sideline with both feet planted on the ground and in bounds, leaned to his left and extended his arms, secured the football and tucked it under his arm, and fell to the ground with a defender diving in front of him. The official signaled the play a completion and the crowd responded with cheers.
-- Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Rudolph registered impressive catches, too. Jennings' grab was a one-hander in front of Captain Munnerlyn during 7-on-7s, Patterson's was a back-shoulder fade from Matt Cassel during the blitz period, and Rudolph's was a one-handed grab down the middle of the field during a team period.
-- Josh Robinson did not practice on Tuesday but Zimmer said he's close to returning and the Vikings are being cautious with him.
-- Captain Munnerlyn got his hands on an interception, but both Jasper Brinkley and Chad Greenway dropped potential picks.