The Minnesota Vikings hired Keenan McCardell away from the Jacksonville Jaguars to be their new wide receivers coach. Last season’s WR coach Andrew Janocko will now coach quarterbacks, meaning that last season’s QB coach, Klint Kubiak, will likely take his father’s old role as offensive coordinator and play-caller.
This hire has many fans riled up because it probably means the run-first offensive philosophy won’t change. But former Vikings WR Stefon Diggs had nothing but praise for McCardell.
The 16-year veteran coached Diggs at the University of Maryland back when the first-team all-pro wideout was a highly-rated recruit who decided to stay close to home despite offers from powerhouse schools like Auburn and Florida.
In a 2018 interview with the Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling, Diggs credited McCardell with making him a more complete receiver. He said that McCardell helped teach him the smallest details of route running, like suddenness, breaking, and creating separation.
Diggs emphasized that McCardell wouldn’t let Diggs rely solely on his athleticism and natural talent in college, and it looks like both McCardell’s coaching and Diggs’ hard work paid off. Diggs is one of the best route runners in the NFL, and he led the league in receiving yards this season.
McCardell has replicated this success in Jacksonville, where he turned DJ Chark into a 1,000-yard receiver in just his second season with the Jaguars.
With the Vikings, McCardell will be stepping into a very top-heavy wideout room that needs to develop depth behind the dynamic duo of Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. I am excited to see what sort of new tricks that McCardell can add to both their games. Both Jefferson and Thielen already get lots of separation with their polished route running.
How much say will McCardell have in what the Vikings do at wideout in this offseason? Last season’s WR3, Chad Beebe, is a restricted free agent this offseason in a free-agent class that is stacked at receiver. I want to see if McCardell deems the 26-year-old worthy of another contract with the Vikings or if he will look in another direction.
I also want to see how involved McCardell will be in the draft process. I have emphasized this team’s need for a third receiver who can get consistent separation and help take the pressure off of Jefferson and Thielen in the future. This draft class looks like it will have plenty of receivers in the mid-rounds who could come in and make an immediate impact. Guys like D’Wayne Eskridge and Shi Smith, who have been getting a lot of buzz at the Senior Bowl, will most likely be available in the mid-rounds.
If McCardell can develop either a free agent acquisition or a draft pick into being a competent WR3, it might change part of the offensive gameplan. And if the Vikings can get some consistency from their third receiver, they might slowly move to some more 11 personnel with three wideouts.
People should keep an eye on McCardell’s work because it could take the offense to the next level.[h/t Heavy on Vikings]