After Jerick McKinnon missed the past two NFL seasons, Kyle Juszczyk hinted that the running back could be very involved in the 49ers' offense in 2020.
McKinnon was one of the biggest free agent signings of coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch’s tenure. The offensive guru was ready to build his scheme with the dual threat running back in mind.
Finally, two seasons removed from an ACL injury, we might finally see what the coach has had in store since 2018. Juszczyk has been impressed by what he has seen at practice and expects McKinnon’s skills to be on full display this season.
“Man, I think he is going to have such a phenomenal year,” Juszczyk said on Friday. “We lost [Matt] Breida and I think Jet is going to step right in there and it’s going to be a really smooth transition.”
McKinnon has not played in an actual game since 2017 but that season with the Minnesota Vikings could be an indication of what is ahead. He had nearly as many receiving yards (421) as he did rushing yards (570).
While sitting out two seasons could stunt a player's progress, Juszczyk says that’s not the case with McKinnon, who has been very involved in position meetings. As soon as the Georgia Southern product was medically cleared, he was seen on the sidelines during games.
This offseason, the 49ers’ player performance staff worked McKinnon in slowly, trying to protect him from himself. As camp progressed, so did he, gradually taking on more and more reps, not only in the run game but showing off his skills as a receiver.
“Smooth is the way I describe Jet,” Juszczyk said. “Everything he does out there just looks smooth. Run game, pass game. I think he’s just going to add another dimension to our offense. Another guy we can rely on.”
The 49ers might be without running back Tevin Coleman on Sunday if the air quality index is over 150. Coleman has sickle cell trait, which caused him to miss practice on Friday and will be a game day decision.
Coleman’s absence would likely increase the work load for McKinnon.