A week before kickoff of Super Bowl LVIII, the Kansas City Chiefs have opened the window for Jerrick McKinnon to return to practice. In a week 15 matchup against the New England Patriots, McKinnon suffered a groin injury that has kept him out ever since.
McKinnon has played a key role for the Chiefs offense this season as a change-of-pace back. He serves as a reliable set of hands for Patrick Mahomes to rely on, something he's been yearning for in McKinnon's absence. While McKinnon's volume doesn't jump off the page, his efficiency in the pass game is impressive, reeling in 25 of his 32 targets through 12 games this season.
During McKinnon's absence, Isiah Pacheco carried the receiving load out of the backfield. In five games with McKinnon sidelined, Pacheco caught all 17 of his targets for 62 yards and a touchdown, including a career high game in receptions in week 17 against Cincinnati. Furthermore, Pacheco also saw less rest without McKinnon. With McKinnon active, Pacheco was playing an average of 58.9% of offensive snaps. Over the last five games with McKinnon on the IR, Pacheco has played an average of 74.2% of snaps.
While Pacheco's productivity never saw a dip, McKinnon's return will enable the Chiefs to comfortably give Pacheco a bit more rest during drives. McKinnon is one of the league's most quarterback-friendly safety valves, giving Mahomes a passer rating of 131.2 when targeted, sixth best in the NFL.
In one Super Bowl appearance with Mahomes and the Chiefs in 2023, McKinnon made the most of his four rushing attempts, racking up 34 yards along with 3 receptions for 15 yards. Look for McKinnon to take on much of the 'third down and passing' situations in next week's game, with potential to see some action from the slot in light of Kansan City's receiving struggles.