Jerick McKinnon

49ers' Jerick McKinnon in 'best shape of life' for 2020, trainer says

49ers' Jerick McKinnon in 'best shape of life' for 2020, trainer says

Jerick McKinnon hasn’t gotten much of a chance to showcase his skills during his 49ers tenure. After signing on the first day of free agency with San Francisco in 2018, McKinnon tore his ACL just before the start of the regular season.

Complications from the rehab process also forced the running back to miss the entire 2019 season.

McKinnon has been working out hard recently with teammate Deebo Samuel in Texas, under the guidance of Rischad Whitfield, otherwise known as the “Footwork King.” Whitfield has been more than impressed with the 28-year-old’s dedication and thinks the running back will be coming back with a vengeance in 2020.

"The knee is 100 percent...No. 1, Jet [Jerick] is in the best shape of his life,” Whitfield told Fourth and Nine’s Akash Anavarathan. “I think he's right around 195 pounds and he's already blazing fast. We're talking about a player that can rev his engine up from 0 to 100 in a matter of seconds. The versatility that he's going to bring as a dual-threat running back is huge."

McKinnon’s ability as a pass-catcher out of the backfield made him a popular man in free agency in 2018, as he caught 51 passes for 421 yards in his last healthy season with the Minnesota Vikings.

McKinnon isn’t the only 49er who’s gotten some work in with Whitfield. Cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon also have joined Whitfield for workouts in recent years.

[RELATED: Raheem Mostert expects Jerick McKinnon to 'surprise everyone']

San Francisco also has Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman returning in 2020, not to mention Jeff Wilson Jr. and undrafted free agents Salvon Ahmed and JaMychal Hasty in the running back room. It won’t be an easy road for McKinnon to regain some touches in coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense, but it’s clear that the tailback is doing what he can to earn his spot.

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Why 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo has one of best supporting casts of NFL QBs

Why 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo has one of best supporting casts of NFL QBs

The 49ers' defense is the strength of the team and one of the best units in the entire NFL. The offense, though, is nothing to scoff at.

Only three teams averaged more yards per game than San Francisco last season, and one could argue the 49ers' offensive production would have been even greater had they been in more situations where they had to be aggressive and put points on the board. When you're running out the clock more often than not in the fourth quarter, that's going to have a negative effect on your offensive output.

So, it stands to reason that the 49ers' offense actually is better than the statistics show. They're not the most dynamic offensive attack in the league -- that would be the team that beat them in Super Bowl LIV -- but they're surely among the toughest offenses to stop. Which is why ranking Jimmy Garoppolo as having only the 11th-best supporting cast among all NFL starting quarterbacks is absurd.

To be clear, arguing that the 49ers have the 11th-best offensive weapons at their QB's disposal isn't the insult. After all, that ranking still has them on the cusp of the upper third in the NFL. Rather, it's some of the supporting casts Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox ranked as being superior to San Francisco's that is downright laughable.

Knox's rankings are supposed to be based on past production, accolades, health and upside. If that's the case, why did the 49ers drop in the rankings, from No. 7 last year now to No. 11? If anything, one would imagine their ranking would improve after George Kittle cemented himself as the best tight end in football, Deebo Samuel had a breakthrough rookie campaign and San Francisco's rushing attack ranked second-best in the entire NFL. 

Yes, you could argue their drop in the rankings is due to no fault of their own, but rather the superior relative progression of other supporting casts. But while that would be a valid argument for teams such as the Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos -- who Knox ranked No. 7 and No. 10, respectively -- it falls flat on its face when considering the Buffalo Bills (No. 8), Atlanta Falcons (No. 9) and, to a lesser extent, the Los Angeles Chargers (No. 6).

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Chargers receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are better talents than what the 49ers have at the position, but outside of that, there isn't much you can point to as being superior for Los Angeles. Melvin Gordon now plays for the Broncos, and while Austin Ekeler is a fantastic receiving threat out of the backfield, it will be difficult for him to match the combined production of Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon and Jeff Wilson. And while Hunter Henry is a very good tight end when healthy, his impact doesn't compare to Kittle's. So, while arguments can be made as to which team has a better supporting cast, they should be much closer in the rankings than they are.

The argument for the Falcons as having a superior supporting cast to San Francisco's is basically the same as the Chargers'. Julio Jones might be the best wide receiver in the entire league, and Calvin Ridley is one of the better No. 2s. Samuel has a long way to go to catch up to Jones, but one could argue he's already better than Ridley. As for the other areas of Atlanta's offense, good luck finding something better than what the 49ers have.

San Francisco had a better tight end when the Falcons had Austin Hooper, who has since left for the Cleveland Browns. Hayden Hurst is a fine pickup, but he can't sniff Kittle's talent. At running back, they replaced Devonta Freeman with Todd Gurley, an aging back with bad knees who failed to eclipse 100 rushing yards in any game last season. Jones is phenomenal, but his presence alone does not make Matt Ryan's supporting cast better than Garoppolo's. 

Then there are the Bills, who at No. 8 might have the most outrageous placement throughout all of Knox's rankings. Eight?! Based on what?

Buffalo traded for Stefon Diggs. Big whoop. He joins a receiving corps led by Cole Beasley and John Brown. At running back, they have Devin Singletary -- who rushed for 775 yards as a rookie -- and third-round draft pick Zack Moss. At tight end, there simply is no comparison to be made between Kittle and Dawson Knox. The gap is that wide. Frankly, the Bills' supporting cast doesn't belong anywhere near the top-10, whereas the 49ers' most certainly does.

[RELATED: Why Simms missed mark by ranking Jimmy G so low among QBs]

It's also worth noting that nowhere in Knox's rankings does he consider the impact of coaching or the offensive line. How can they not be considered part of a QB's supporting cast? If those areas were included, surely the 49ers would rocket up the rankings. There is no better play-caller in all of football than Kyle Shanahan, and not only was San Francisco's offensive line superior to those of the Chargers, Falcons and Saints last season, but should be again in 2020.

The 49ers' offense might not be the strength of the team, but it doesn't really have any weaknesses. The whole is much greater than the sum of its parts, which is precisely what a supporting cast strives to achieve.

Jerick McKinnon reacts to Drew Brees' apology with middle finger emoji

Jerick McKinnon reacts to Drew Brees' apology with middle finger emoji

An apology one day later wasn't enough in Jerick McKinnon's eyes. When Saints quarterback Drew Brees tried to right a wrong Thursday morning for his "insensitive" comments regarding peacefully protesting by kneeling during the national anthem, the 49ers running back made his thoughts quite clear. 

Yeah, he wasn't having it. 

Fellow 49ers teammate Richard Sherman said Brees is "beyond lost" on Wednesday, and former 49ers defensive tackle Ian Williams, who now works for NBC Sports Bay Area, was "sickened" by Brees' words

Even Brees' teammates spoke up. Star receiver Michael Thomas made his thoughts loud and clear on Twitter and safety Malcolm Jenkins posted an impassioned video where he even tells his QB to "shut the f--k up" at one point.

Cal alum and Saints star defensive end Cam Jordan called Brees yesterday after hearing his words. 

[RELATED: Poole: Brees reveals that he's part of problem, not solution]

"I feel like I gave him my perspective -- it was almost like I was trying to force him to walk a mile in my shoes -- and I hope it gets through," Jordan told NFL.com Wednesday night. "I hope it gets through to my guy Drew, because that's what he is ... he's been my guy since I entered the league (in 2011).

"He's been the leader and a guy I can rely on -- on the field. Well, off the field has to align. I can't allow people to tippy-toe on the line of this issue. You can't play both sides on this one. We're fighting to end social injustice, and you're either with us or you aren't."

McKinnon's response was a strong one, no doubt. He also likely won't be the last player to be blunt with his feelings regarding Brees' comments.

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