The Minnesota Vikings hired a new wide receivers coach on Thursday that was adored by former Viking star Stefon Diggs in his time at Maryland.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell is moving on to the same position with the Vikings, per NFL sources, Jaguars columnist Eugene Frenette reported.
McCardell, who coached at Maryland went Diggs came to the Terrapins as a top-two recruit at wide receiver in the country, helped polish Diggs’ route running in college — a service that earned McCardell recognition as the best non-NFL coach Diggs had through his early career.
Diggs has since moved on to leading the league in receptions and receiving yards in 2020 with the Buffalo Bills, helping his team claim its first AFC East title and AFC Championship appearance in over 25 years.
McCardell, who ranks 24th in NFL history with 883 receptions and won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002, has a chance to have that same influence on Vikings rookie Justin Jefferson, who is already an NFL phenom after breaking the Super Bowl era rookie receiving yards record with 1,400 yards last season.
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McCardell Polished Diggs’ Raw Talent
McCardell, considered a Jacksonville fan favorite, spent 10 years with the organization as both a coach and a player. Despite a muddy quarterback situation, McCardell molded D.J. Chark into a Pro Bowl talent in only his second year in the league in 2019.
In a 2018 interview with the Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling, Diggs lauded McCardell’s attention to detail at the position.
Here’s what Diggs said about his former coach:
Aside from Coach Hazell and Coach Stew [former Vikings WR coach George Stewart] and people like that I’ve had in the NFL, Coach McCardell was the best coach I’ve ever had, because he taught me how to play receiver. He taught me the smallest details on running routes. He taught me suddenness, he taught me breaks. He didn’t teach me how to catch; he said, ‘We’re going to work on getting you open and creating separation,’ because everybody wants separation. I don’t care you are, I don’t care what quarterback you are, I don’t care what level you’re at, everybody wants to see separation. He taught me how to get open, essentially, and that’s why I hold him to such a high standard. He saw me as a raw talent: I can run, I’ve got good speed, I’m quick, but let’s tailor that into something that will take you farther.
I owe breaking to him. There’s no point in having a Lamborghini if you don’t have brakes. I’m not saying I’m that fast, but he’s saying, ‘If you can’t stop, it don’t matter.’ It just takes you to the next step if you can use your speed as deception, or you can use your acceleration — which he was huge on — and make a guy think you’re running fast, but you’re really just running fast to make yourself stop. Me, when I hit the accelerator, I’m trying to break down. I’m not only trying to run by you, but 9 times out of 10, I’m trying to give you a false illusion. I want to run by you, but I’m really just trying to stop. [Before McCardell], I was just running around, not really running with a purpose — stopping just how I knew how to stop. Now I just have a way of doing things a lot more technically.
Vikings’ Other Hires Beginning to Align
Minnesota’s addition of McCardell suggests the Vikings already have their offensive coordinator in current quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak, while wide receivers coach Andrew Janaocko (a former college quarterback) will replace Kubiak as the QB coach, per Goessling.
A league source told Goessling that Minnesota is expected to hire former Philadelphia Eagles strength and conditioning coach Josh Hingst, who had been with the organization since 2013.
The Vikings have no concrete candidates for the special teams coordinator position, however, former New York Giants coach Anthony Blevins interviewed for the position on, ESPN’s Jordan Raanan reported.
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Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.