Two 49ers beat writers high on Jerick McKinnon’s chances to contribute in 2020

Jul 29, 2020 at 10:20 AM--

San Francisco 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon reworked his once-hefty contract to remain with the team and prove he can be the player head coach Kyle Shanahan envisioned. San Francisco signed McKinnon in 2018 but the running back has yet to take a regular-season snap with the team.

Shanahan once envisioned a weapon in the backfield who was just as dangerous catching the football as he was carrying it. The coach may still be hoping for that, but after two seasons on injured reserve, getting anything out of his one-time prized offseason acquisition might be a bonus for a running back group that already features Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman.

Two 49ers beat writers are optimistic about McKinnon's chances of contributing this season, though.

"One of the missing elements in Kyle Shanahan's offense in the past two years has been a reliable pass-catching tailback as they didn't have a back with more than 33 catches in 2018 or 2019," wrote Nick Wagoner for a recent ESPN feature. "McKinnon was signed to play that role and now seems to finally be over the knee injury that has cost him the past two seasons. If healthy, expect him to consistently find his way on the field and offer an explosive pass-catching complement to Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman."

Another individual who is high on McKinnon's chances of making the final roster is Matt Barrows. The writer for The Athletic listed the running back among his 53-man roster forecast.

"I'm bullish on McKinnon returning to full health," wrote Barrows. "He's been pushing his surgically repaired knee more strenuously than he did last year, and so far it's responded."

Fellow writer for The Athletic, David Lombardi, also listed McKinnon on his 53-man roster projection.

Mostert commented this offseason that McKinnon's time being sidelined has allowed him to completely soak up Shanahan's playbook. Mostert is expecting McKinnon to shock a lot of people this season.

"We always talk about it, and he's helping me, too, understanding more of the playbook," Mostert said in May. "He's had more time understanding it than I have, route-running-wise. I'm trying to pick his brain, and he's trying to pick my brain with the run scheme. We're doing a great job right now, and I can't wait for him to show what everyone's been doubting him on and missing out. I'm excited, man. It's going to be a surprise for everyone."

McKinnon, 27, is entering his seventh NFL season. The Minnesota Vikings made him a third-round selection out of Georgia Southern in 2014. In his last healthy season, 2017, McKinnon carried the football 150 times for 570 yards with three rushing touchdowns while adding 51 receptions for 421 yards with two receiving touchdowns through 16 games and one start with the Vikings.

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