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Opportunities Abound for Vikings WRs in Keenan McCardell's 2nd Season

EAGAN, Minn. – Keenan McCardell is looking forward to another season in Minnesota.

Mike Zimmer hired McCardell as the team's receivers coach last spring, and new Head Coach Kevin O'Connell retained McCardell on his coaching staff upon taking the Vikings helm.

"No disrespect to Coach Zim', he gave me a chance, but now that I'm here with Coach O'Connell – we had a great opportunity to get together and talk about what he wanted from the position, and I felt like I could do that," McCardell told Twin Cities media members Tuesday. "And he believed in me. He had a lot of friends of mine that called him and said I was a really good coach. I thanked those guys. But I just want to be here to help this team get to a championship because this is what it's all about."

Vikings receivers returning from last season have spoken highly of McCardell and reportedly went to bat for him to put in good words when O'Connell began assembling his staff.

Though unnecessary, McCardell said, the sentiment touched him.

"You know what? It meant a lot to me," he said. "I called them all and said, 'You guys didn't have to do that.' I think my résumé would've spoken for itself and, if it didn't, it's part of the process – because I know in this coaching business, I've got to do my job and then hopefully other people see it.

"But I appreciate all those guys going to bat for me," McCardell added. "It shows what kind of room we have. We take care of each other. We look out for each other. We make sure that it's a family in there. That's how we feel."

A former receiver who played 17 years in the NFL, McCardell has developed a rapport and trust with his guys, including phenom Justin Jefferson.

McCardell said he has a "great" relationship with Jefferson, who's taken the league by storm in each of his first two seasons.

"I think he understands me, I understand him. I keep it simple. When you've got a great player like that, you try to keep it simple. Let his talent do the work," McCardell explained. "You help him with things he may have not seen before, and I may have seen in my career. I've probably seen every look that he's seen, but I try to help him through it."

He's especially working to help Vikings receivers master the new system under Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips.

Phillips said earlier this spring that the 2022 Vikings offense can be demanding of the wideouts.  

"There is a lot of detail, maybe more on the receivers than maybe some, I don't want to say 'standard system.' I don't know what the word is, but we put a lot on those guys' plates," Phillips said. "Everything is coded. Everything's got the ability to get up to the line of scrimmage and go fast, and ultimately that's what we want so we can put pressure on the defense when we choose to.

"I couldn't be more pleased with Keenan and the job he's done with those guys getting him up to speed," Phillips added.

The increase in assignment for the position group doesn't intimidate McCardell, though.

"I love it because it puts more onus on us. We have to put the ownership on us to make the passing game work, so we've gotta be dialed in; we have to communicate," he said. "It's like we are in control. We've gotta hear it, see it, run the right routes and make the plays. It puts more ownership on our table."

Minnesota's offensive scheme may look different in McCardell's second season, but the carryover of offensive players is beneficial as the team gets up to speed.

McCardell pointed out that quarterback Kirk Cousins "has somewhat been through this system" due to his overlap with O'Connell in Washington and "understands some of the things" required offensively.

"Then you've got a group of guys in my room that have played with the quarterback, and the quarterback understands how they play and loves how they play – and they love how he plays," McCardell said. "That chemistry kind of puts you ahead of a lot of teams that are having coaching changes."