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Vikings’ QB plans: All signs point to this player entering 2024 as starter with spring practices winding down

Written by on June 9, 2024

The Minnesota Vikings traded up to spend a top-10 pick on J.J. McCarthy in the 2024 NFL Draft, securing a potential long-term replacement for the departed Kirk Cousins. But with spring practices nearly complete, all signs point to veteran Sam Darnold entering 2024 as the Vikings’ starting quarterback.

Darnold, the ex-New York Jets castoff, signed just a one-year, backup-level contract in free agency. But the former No. 3 overall pick took nearly all of Minnesota’s first-team reps during the minicamp and organized team activities (OTAs) open to reporters, per ESPN.

Not only that, but Vikings coaches have been openly and privately cautious about granting McCarthy too much responsibility as a rookie, according to The Athletic: “They want to take this slow,” Alec Lewis reports. “To help him develop confidence. To allow him to try throws, make mistakes and learn. Head coach Kevin O’Connell and his staff believe that’s the best path to long-term success, and everyone seems on board.”

Behind Darnold, who has 56 career starts under his belt, McCarthy has been more prone to take third-string reps at open practices, ESPN notes, with veteran backup Nick Mullens typically assigned No. 2 duties. The Vikings also have 2023 fifth-round pick Jaren Hall on the offseason roster at the position.

This harks back to the sentiment seeping from within Vikings headquarters immediately following the draft: While Minnesota clearly likes McCarthy’s upside as a long-term fixture of the franchise, and in fact might have a ready-made supporting cast to ease his transition to the NFL stage, the team would rather take its time developing Cousins’ successor, especially with Darnold in tow as low-risk, high-reward insurance.

“The Vikings don’t view Darnold simply as someone they can play if McCarthy isn’t ready for Week 1,” Kevin Seifert reported in May. “It’s more accurate to understand him as a player the Vikings believe they can compete with as McCarthy moves through an organized developmental plan that prioritizes his long-term future. … Does that mean the Vikings have ruled out McCarthy as their Week 1 starter? Of course not. But they want his ascension to be organic — based on his own aptitude and readiness — rather than forced by a lack of alternatives.”

Could training camp and preseason turn the tide and rewrite September’s plans? Only time will tell. For now, the safe bet is the Vikings will lean on the veteran arm, at least initially.

The post Vikings’ QB plans: All signs point to this player entering 2024 as starter with spring practices winding down first appeared on CBS Sports.

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