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Wildcat Package Means Extra Focus For Opposing Defense

View images from the Thursday, Oct. 20 practice at Winter Park.

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — A sly smile spread across Jerick McKinnon's face when a certain Vikings offensive package was brought up.

Minnesota has run a handful of plays out of the Wildcat formation this season. McKinnon is in the shotgun in the package with a host of skill players on the field with him. Quarterback Sam Bradford lines up as a wide receiver in the formation, which is meant to give an opponent plenty to consider.

Based on McKinnon's wide grin, it's pretty clear the Vikings running back is a fan of the Wildcat formation, which he called one of his favorite schemes that is a wrinkle in Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner's scheme.

"Of course, because I get to be at quarterback," said McKinnon, who played quarterback, running back, receiver and defensive back in college at Georgia Southern. "I just think it adds a new dimension to the offense.

"A lot of defenses, when they see us in that package, think I'm automatically going to keep the ball," he added. "I have the option (to handoff) depending on what we're doing. I like that aspect to it. With having other guys in the backfield, they don't know who's going to get it."

Who knows if the Vikings will again use the formation Sunday in Philadelphia? But Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said his team has been preparing for multiple looks from the Vikings.

"They can get into some Wildcat formations, they get in hurry-up tempo, do some reverses with [Cordarrelle Patterson]," Jenkins said. "He's doing jet sweeps, screens. He's a strong runner with the football, and then they've got guys that can stretch the field with the play-action pass.

"They've got a tight end that's very crafty and can get open," he added. "They've got a good scheme that presents enough issues for you to have to game plan for a lot of different looks and plays that you might only get two or three times a game but you still have to prepare for them."

McKinnon and Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said the element of surprise is something the offense relies on when going to the Wildcat.

"It's unique, in the fact that you don't see it a lot," said Zimmer, who mentioned McKinnon could even throw out of the situation if called upon. "I mean, you have to be prepared for it, and there's so many different variations out of it.

"You have the option element, you have the hardball run, you have the unbalanced element out of it, so it's a lot of different things," Zimmer added.

Added McKinnon: "You don't see teams in it a whole lot. Defenses don't know how many plays of it they're going to see, but they have to prepare for it."

McKinnon was a dual-threat quarterback at Georgia Southern while running a variation of the Single Wing formation, racking up 4,665 total yards and 47 total touchdowns in four seasons.

McKinnon leads the Vikings with 174 rushing yards on 57 carries so far in 2016. The former third-round draft has one touchdown and Minnesota's longest run of the season, a 25-yard gain against the Giants.

But McKinnon and the Vikings are looking for sustained success on the ground, and the running back wants his team to break a lengthy run.

Even if it doesn't come in the Wildcat.

"We're trying to score a long one," McKinnon said. "I think our longest run this year is a 20-something yarder.

"Us as an offense, we all want to break that long one," he added. "It's been highly anticipated

and we haven't done that yet. It's not even breaking a long one in the Wildcat, it's the whole offense."

Heinicke back in action

Quarterback Taylor Heinicke returned to practice on Wednesday for the first time since the Vikings minicamp in June. After opening the season on the non-football injury list, the second-year pro is in a 21-day period of evaluation before the team must decide his status.

Zimmer said it's too early to gauge much about Heinicke, who is running the scout team this week.

"The good thing about it is, he's been able to sit in the meetings," Zimmer said. "It's a little different than Bradford, so I would say it's kind of a similar situation except he knows the system a lot better."

Injury reports

For the Vikings: MyCole Pruitt (knee/ankle) and Sharrif Floyd (knee) did not participate. Stefon Diggs (groin), Jarius Wright (ankle), Jeremiah Sirles (knee) and Laquon Treadwell (thumb) were limited. Brandon Fusco (concussion), Alex Boone (knee) and Anthony Barr (ankle) fully participated.

For the Eagles: DT Bennie Logan (groin) did not participate. CB Ron Brooks (calf) was limited. C Jason Kelce (foot), DE Marcus Smith (groin), G Allen Barbre (ankle), LB Mychal Kendricks (ribs), Jordan Matthews (knee), CB Leodis McKelvin (hamstring), and S Rodney McLeod (shoulder) fully participated.

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