Why Trent Williams Believes Jerick McKinnon will be 49ers' Breakout Star of 2020

Grant Cohn

Trent Williams answered a question most football players politely avoid during training camp.

A reporter asked Williams which 49ers player he’s most eager to see play in person this summer. Williams is new to the 49ers -- they traded for him this offseason. So he hasn’t practiced with the 49ers yet.

Most players would answer this question by saying they’re eager to see all their new teammates -- a political answer that offends no one.

Williams didn’t give the political answer. He actually named a player.

“I’m looking forward to seeing Jet,” Williams said. “The way he has looked in the offseason, I just can’t fathom him not being a breakout player.”

“Jet” is Jerick McKinnon, the running back the 49ers signed in 2018 who still has not appeared in a game for them. He tore his ACL and missed the past two seasons.

But, McKinnon seems healthy now -- he’s not on any of the 49ers injury lists. And he spent the offseason in Houston working out with Deebo Samuel, Adrian Peterson and Williams. Meaning Williams already has seen McKinnon work out in person. And from what Williams has seen, McKinnon is ready to make an improbable comeback.

No one would know McKinnon’s recovery status better than Williams, because he watched McKinnon’s grueling workouts all offseason. So when Williams says he can’t fathom McKinnon not being a breakout player, Williams’ words carry tremendous weight.

We all certainly hope Williams is right about McKinnon, because McKinnon is a nice guy who’s had awful luck the past two years. But I just can’t think of any running back in NFL history who missed two years with a knee injury, then returned and played well.

Can you?

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Comments (5)
No. 1-5

The Shanahan offense, going back to the Walsh years has featured a RB that can threaten LBs as zone runners and receivers. Imagine a LB having to face a healthy McKinnon with Trent Williams, Glinch, Juice, and Kittle bearing down on you, and then stand frozen as Jet makes a double cut and gets a medium zone pass with perfect timing from Garoppolo. It will take great safety play to limit this play action to fifteen yards even half of the time. Williams says he’s ready, but will he hold up?


Well...Rocky Bleier got a Purple Heart for losing part of his foot and taking shrapnel in Vietnam, and went on to play 10 years for the Steelers, notching 4 SB rings.


wasn't a knee but Garrison Hearst missed 2 seasons with that ankle injury that was supposed to be a career ender


Not in the NFL but Frank Gore tore his acl 2 years in a row while at Miami.


Very rare you see a player come back and play well after 2 years out of the league. It sucks that we have no preseason games because I would love to see if he still has that explosion after that knee injury. It’s going to be tough to evaluate him in camp with no tackling.