Every player sets goals for each season, even if they don't want to reveal them. For J.D. McKissic, the goals are simple: be better, make people miss and, well...the seven-year pro said it best.
"Get freaky with the ball, basically," McKissic told reporters on Tuesday. "Just be better than I was the last two years."
Freaky has exactly what McKissic has been since he signed with the team in 2020, and it's the reason why the Washington Commanders' re-signed him. In the past two years, he's accounted for 1,563 total yards and seven touchdowns on 256 touches.
McKissic will be part of a committee in 2022 that includes 1,000-yard rusher Antonio Gibson and rookie Brian Robinson. While the other two have more defined responsibilities, McKissic's is a bit more ambiguous. But McKissic is still an integral part of the offense, and his approach to his role is to stay steady.
"I'm a team player," McKissic said. "And I'm a be there when my number is called, that's how my job been my whole life. And my number is called, I'm ready to make the play."
For McKissic, those needs from the team arise when it requires a pass-catcher out of the backfield. He's been one of the best running backs in the league at that role, too, as he was behind only Alvin Kamara in 2020 with 80 receptions on 110 targets, which did lead all running backs that season.
McKissic was on his way to reaching similar numbers again in 2021 -- his diving touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons was one of highlights of the year for Washington -- but his season was cut short after suffering a neck injury against the Seattle Seahawks. The Commanders can credit him for the win, as he scored both of their touchdowns in a 17-15 win.
Flash forward nine months later, and McKissic has looked unbothered by the injury that kept him out of Washington's final six games. He's grabbed one-handed catches, made defenders miss and been a reliable target for Carson Wentz.
"If we're struggling a little bit, I know he's gonna get open and get us started," said offensive coordinator Scott Turner. "He is a good safety net in those types of situation as well. And he is got great energy. He is a good leader.
Washington fans were reminded of that during the Commanders' preseason game against the Carolina Panthers. With the offense facing a third-and-4 at the Panthers' 24-yard line, McKissic was open in the middle of the field and made a 15-yard catch-and-run that set Washington up at the 9-yard line.
Washington went on to score three plays later.
"It felt great to be back out there and make a play, just to do what I do, and try to move the ball on third down," McKissic said. "I got it done, the old line blocked it up great, and [QB] Carson [Wentz] made a great pass. It was easy."
Those are the kinds of plays Turner expects from McKissic.
"Obviously that was a big third down," Turner said. "Not only did we move sticks, but [it] got us down there inside the 10-yard line. He's a really good target for the quarterbacks."
The Washington Commanders officially wrapped up training camp with a Thursday practice in front of fans. Take a look at the top images from the morning. (Photos by Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
McKissic has been hard at work trying to establish a connection with Wentz, although the two have been clicking well, according to the running back.
"He's a great QB. We just talked about it. I'm trying to remind guys that he was an MVP candidate, you know, that year when they went to the super bowl. So, we're excited about him. He looks great and he's doing great."
Based on how McKissic has performed in camp, he is expected to be as reliable as ever for the Commanders' offense in 2022, and that's one less worry off Turner's mind.
"He gets the guys going and kind of sets the mood for the offense with his energy which is great," Turner said. "He's a great guy to have on our team. I'm glad we got him."