MINNEAPOLIS – The Minnesota Vikings used their final preseason game on Saturday to get an extended look at rookie quarterback Jaren Hall.
Hall, a fifth-round pick from BYU, quarterbacked every offensive snap of the Vikings 18-17 loss to the Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium.
There were ups and downs. He started fast, completing four of his first five passes and his first two possessions ended with touchdowns. Hall led a 10-play game-opening touchdown drive, demonstrated poise in a 2-minute drill before halftime, which netted three points, and was an effective scrambler.
He finished 16-of-27 passing for 178 passing yards with one touchdown, and one interception. Hall added 21 rushing yards via six carries.
"I thought [we] came out, started really sharp with that first group and that first drive. Got some runs off, some keepers, and different things to kind of get in a rhythm," Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said. "And then we get the sudden change [of possession] touchdown where [ Hall] throws it to Abram [Smith]. And I just thought the start of the football game was really indicative of where his preparation was."
In his last preseason opportunity of 2023, the game slowed down for Hall. He consistently ensured offensive players were set pre-snap while quickly getting the play in. The Vikings were not flagged for a pre-snap penalty while Hall was on the field.
O'Connell said several parts of Hall's performance were encouraging.
"Things that stuck out to me, his athletic ability, and how he applied it," O'Connell said. "So many guys, you have to coach that out of them. But he's a guy that we don't want to coach that out of him. But it's all about the application of that as part of his skill set because I thought he threw the ball really well today. [He was] efficient in and out of the huddle with the operation all the way really down to the end of the game."
But there were mistakes. Hall threw an interception early in the fourth quarter on the Vikings 32-yard line. The third-and-2 attempt was intended for tight end Ben Sims, who ran a short stick route. Hall threw it low and outside while Sims settled in an open zone. Arizona linebacker Sean Chandler intercepted the pass, setting up the Cardinals game-winning field goal with 6:24 to play.
"I think there was a little bit of miscommunication between [us]," Hall said. "But you're the last guy with the ball. You're responsible. So, I've got to see his break, and put it on him."
Minnesota had two chances to win. On the following drive, Hall led a nine-play, 39-yard drive that set up a 54-yard Greg Joseph field goal try. But the kick missed wide right. The Vikings defense forced a three-and-out and regained possession with 1:54 to play on their 7-yard line.
Facing fourth-and-3, Hall reversed, pivoted out of a near safety, and bailed toward the left sideline. With room in front of him, Hall set up near the 10-yard line and launched a 43-yard pass to Sims, who made the leaping grab. But Hall was a yard beyond the line of scrimmage, negating the highlight-reel play. Instead, Minnesota turned it over on downs and essentially ended the game.
"Looking back, I probably should have just taken off and run. If I did, obviously just 9 yards to go, I think I probably could've just got it running," Hall said. "But again, experiencing that, it's been a long time since handling those situations."
The Vikings (and the rest of the NFL) must cut their rosters down to 53 players by Tuesday. O'Connell said he'd love to keep Hall around because he's encouraged by his consistent development. Hall is also a natural playmaker. Despite being sacked six times, he routinely bounced around the pocket with his eyes still downfield.
His best throw came with under a minute remaining in the first half. Hall climbed the pocket and fired an off-platform dart to Blake Proehl for 21 yards. The strike pushed Minnesota into field goal range.
"He could not have thrown that any better. I'll give him the credit on that one," Proehl said. "He has progressed a lot this camp. Everyone should be proud of him."
Hall will challenge for a spot on the Viking's final 53-man roster. A new NFL rule allows teams a free roster spot to dress a third QB on game day, as long as that quarterback is on the 53-man roster.
In Hall, O'Connell sees a promising young quarterback worth developing.
"I would definitely like to keep him around. My philosophy when you're going to draft the quarterback, you've got to pour into him on a daily basis. Development is a huge word, but I love the fact that we got him as many reps as we did," O'Connell said. "So I feel like Jaron, you know, has a really, really good understanding of our offense, where he can grow, where his comfort level can grow. And hopefully, I hit the ground running the next opportunity that he gets."