During his six seasons playing in Jacksonville, Keenan McCardell knew what it was like to share the field with another star receiver, Jimmy Smith.
The Jaguars duo torched NFL defenses in their run together from McCardell’s arrival in 1996 to his departure following the 2001 season. During the six seasons, the duo had four campaigns of each wideout generating 1,000-plus yards receiving. In the other two years, McCardell had 890-plus.
It’s safe to say that the former Pro Bowl wideout knows a thing or two about having multiple receivers eat in the same offense.
The new Minnesota Vikings wide receivers coach sees the same in new pupils Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, who just set the rookie receiving record.
“I had this conversation with Adam today,” McCardell said, via the Pioneer Press. “I was just like, ‘You guys are similar to myself and Jimmy Smith. You guys push each other and have fun playing with each other.’ I want them to continue that because I’ve been a part of that. I understand that. It’s a friendly competition to make each other better.”
McCardell spent the past four seasons as the Jaguars receiver coach and did a stellar job with a corps that produced playmakers, like D.J. Chark, and saw improvement from rookie Laviska Shenault Jr. as the season progressed.
The 51-year-old coach believes the chance to work with Jefferson and Thielen at this stage of their respective careers can benefit all parties.
“I’m getting him as a blank canvas,” McCardell said. “I want that canvas to continue to grow. Just let him be the artist to paint his picture of who he is. I think Andrew started it; I want to continue to keep it going.”
Of Thielen, he said: “I just want him to, each and every year from here on out, keep reinventing himself. I’ve been in that situation. I played 17 years, I’ve been where he’s at, and people starting to say, ‘Is he getting a little old? Is he getting a little long in the tooth?’ You’ve just got to keep reinventing yourself and keep showing up If Adam continues to do that, which I already know he will, he’s going to continue to get better.”
In 2020, Jefferson earned 1,400 yards on 88 catches with seven TDs, while Thielen went for 925 yards and 14 TD on 74 catches in 15 games. As the receivers continue to feed off each other, the Vikings’ potent passing attack will only become more dangerous.
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