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Five Things To Know About Running Back J.D. McKissic


The Redskins' running backs room got even more crowded with the signing of former Detroit Lions running back J.D. McKissic, the team announced March 26.

After spending three years with the Seattle Seahawks, the 26-year-old back signed a deal with Detroit, where he had rushed for 205 yards and averaged 5.4 yards per carry.

McKissic has proven throughout his career that he can be a versatile back as a rusher and pass-catcher out of the backfield. He caught 34 passes on 42 targets for 266 yards last year. He also had a touchdown reception against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Offensive coordinator Scott Turner likes utility running backs who can serve in a multitude of roles. It seems like he will have that in McKissic, who joins Adrian Peterson, Bryce Love and Derrius Guice in the Redskins' backfield.

Here are five things to know about McKissic:

1. McKissic is the Sun Belt's all-time leader in receptions.

Before McKissic became an NFL running back, he was one of the best wide receivers in Sun Belt conference history.

As a redshirt freshman at Arkansas State in 2012, McKissic set a school record with 102 receptions and compiled 1,022 yards, the second-most in team history for a single season. For his efforts, he was named Sun Belt Freshman of the Year and earned Scripps Freshman All-American honors.

McKissic's receiving production dipped over his next three seasons as he played more running back and served as a return specialist, but he still finished his career as the Sun Belt's all-time receptions leader with 289 catches. He currently ranks fifth in the conference in career receiving yards with 2,838.

2. McKissic's first NFL touch was kickoff return touchdown against the Redskins.

McKissic signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2016, and it did not take long for him to show the rest of the NFL what he was capable of.

In the preseason opener against the Redskins, McKissic was back to receive the second-half kickoff. He caught the ball a yard into the end zone, found a crease along the right hash marks outran everyone for an 101-yard touchdown on his first NFL touch.

Ironically, McKissic has only three regular-season kickoff returns during his four-year career for an average of 19.0 yards.

3. McKissic transitioned to running back after college, but he's often used as a wideout.

After the Falcons waived and signed him multiple times as a rookie, McKissic joined the the Seahawks in December of 2016 and made his NFL debut in the regular season finale, making two receptions for 16 yards.

That game was emblematic of how teams have used McKissic throughout his professional career. While he's listed as a running back, he has more career receptions than carries (91 to 88) and more receiving yards than rushing yards (515 to 402). He also has three receiving touchdowns compared to one rushing score.

4. McKissic could fill the void left by Chris Thompson.

When healthy, Chris Thompson was one of the better third-round backs in the NFL over the past five seasons. In 60 games, his averages were as followed: 49.4 carries for 236.4 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and 41.2 receptions for 349 yards (8.5 yards per catch). His best season came in 2017, when he totaled 804 scrimmage yards in just 10 contests.

Thompson, 29, is still a free agent, and there is no indication the Redskins will re-sign him. That could leave those responsibilities to McKissic. McKissic has only played double-digit games twice during his four-year career, but his statistics during those campaigns are not far off from what Thompson produced. Combining the 2017 and 2019 seasons, McKissic averaged 42 carries for 196 yards (4.7 yards per carries) and 34 receptions for 249.5 yards (7.3 yards per catch).

Another promising sign is McKissic's recent health. After missing much of 2018 with a foot injury, he played all 16 games for the Detroit Lions last season, compiling 438 yards from scrimmage on 72 touches.

5. Like many of the free agent signings, McKissic gives the Redskins flexibility.

The new-look Redskins are looking for "positional versatility," and McKissic offers exactly that on the offensive side of the ball.

Not only can he run between the tackles, but he can line up in the slot or split out as a wide receiver. From there, he can either go in motion for jet sweeps or rely on his crisp route-running to create separation from defenders, which in most cases are linebackers who cannot keep up with him (see below).

And just because Peterson or Guice are in the game does not mean McKissic will necessarily be on the sideline. He could line up anywhere in the formation, giving Turner an abundance of options to exploit opposing defenses.

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