If McKissic is to earn a roster spot it will be due to his ability to fill a number of roles, or in his word, "whatever they ask me to do."
J.D. McKissic took the practice field for the Seahawks Tuesday wearing a new jersey number — 37 instead of the 14 he has been all of training camp.
It was a change McKissic said didn’t come from him. Instead, he simply showed up and found a new number hanging in his locker.
Is there meaning behind the change?
“I’m thinking it is, yeah,’’ he said.
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Indeed, the jersey change could indicate a subtle shift in how the Seahawks view McKissic.
Due to the fact that there are 90 players on a training camp roster rules on what numbers players can wear are lax for preseason games.
But during the season players who are running backs must wear a number from 20-49. Receivers, meanwhile, have to wear a number of either 10-19 or 80-89 (one exception is for players who have played at least one season at one position before switching to another — they can retain their number as long as they remain at either a position that is an eligible receiver or ineligible).
The jersey change reflects that after spending most of the preseason playing receiver McKissic spent last week as a running back — he had seven carries for 46 yards in a 26-13 win over the Chiefs, the latter tying Chris Carson as a team-high, while also making two catches for 21 yards.
McKissic got some of his action as a third-down back, a role usually held by C.J. Prosise. But Prosise missed the last two games with a groin injury and the Seahawks appear to have been seeing how McKissic — who has played both running back and receiver in his career and set a school record with 289 receptions at Arkansas State — could fill that role.
“Going into last week (the game against the Chiefs) I really only got a couple of receiver reps at practice,’’ McKissic said. “The main thing for me was to come in and learn all the receiver routes and I did that. Try to learn the position that they wanted me to play at receiver, the slot and outside. And now it’s to lock in on running back and get all that squared away.’’
Indeed if McKissic is to earn a roster spot it will be due to his ability to fill a number of roles — “whatever they ask me to do,” McKissic says. He has been not just a receiver and running back for the Seahawks in the preseason but also the team’s primary punt and kickoff returner with Tyler Lockett out.
Lockett will apparently be ready for the regular season though he won’t play in the preseason — he will also miss Thursday’s game in Oakland while having Regenokine blood treatment on his leg.
With Lockett having yet to play the Seahawks would seem unlikely to not want someone else on the roster who can handle some of the return duties. A few players who seem certain to make the final 53-man roster, such as Paul Richardson, can also handle return duties, so McKissic isn’t necessarily the only option.
But if McKissic, who was claimed off waivers by Seattle from Atlanta last December and played in the final regular season game and both playoff games, can also show he can serve as depth at both receiver and running back he could be a valuable addition to the roster. McKissic, in fact, was primarily a running back for the Seahawks last season (when he wore No. 30) getting one carry for three yards in the divisional playoff loss at Atlanta.
“We are moving him around, doing a lot of things with him,’’ Carroll said of the 5-10, 195-pounder. “The return game for sure. He can play receiver, he can play running back, he can do it all. He’s a very valuable player as he’s merging with us.’’
Carroll also has raved about McKissic’s play on special teams coverage units — he has two solo tackles on kickoffs.
“He’s covered two kickoffs,’’ Carroll said. “He had a great hit in week one, he had an excellent play in week two. I looked at the very last instant approaching the contact, is the guy giving it up with everything he had. J.D. is one of those dudes. Shoot, I love the way he’s playing.’’
That McKissic may suddenly be regarded by the team as more of a running back than a receiver may be meaningful mostly in how much faith the Seahawks show in his ability to play several different roles as much as anything else. Ultimately, Seattle has to cut its roster from 90-53 by Saturday and how many are running backs and how many are receivers isn’t necessarily as important as keeping the best 53.
But it could have some implications on some of the other running backs on the roster, notably Alex Collins, a fifth-round pick last season who didn’t get a carry against the Chiefs.
McKissic says he’s not paying attention to any potential roster implications of any of the ways he is being used.
He entered the NFL last season as an undrafted free agent and spent most of the year on Atlanta’s practice squad before playing in one game. When Atlanta waived him, undoubtedly with plans to get him back on the practice squad, the Seahawks instead claimed him.
“You can only control what you can control, you know?’’ McKissic said Tuesday when asked if he worries about the pending cuts.
“I don’t know what they are going to do. I mean for everybody on every team, all 32 teams you’ve just got to wait and be focused and take advantage of your opportunities and strain and have fun and just wait for them to make that final cut. It is what it is. Those guys are smart. They are going to do what they are going to do.’’