Before the trade deadline passed on Tuesday, the Minnesota Vikings made two trades, announced the placement of Kirk Cousins on Injured Reserve and the team's starting QB in his place.
Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell announced rookie Jaren Hall will make his first NFL start Sunday at Atlanta.
No quarterback has started more games than Cousins' 136 games since 2015. But with Cousins out and backup Nick Mullens on Injured Reserve for at least one more week, Hall has an opportunity to showcase what made him a standout at BYU.
"There will be tremendous opportunity for growth on a play-to-play, drive-to-drive and hopefully game-to-game basis that will allow us to watch Jaren grow before our very eyes," O'Connell said. "I think he's physically capable, I think he's mentally capable, and I think he's made up of the right stuff. I love the way he's attacked whatever role he's been in throughout the season. And like I said, this is the time when you do all those things that you do, when nobody's really counting on you or thinking that you're potentially going to be on the field, all those lonely hours or lonely moments where he's with the coaches, grinding on some extra work here and there – this is where you see the benefit of that. I'm excited to see the way Jaren goes about the week and performs on Sunday."
Hall, 25, has experience replacing an established starter. He backed up current Jets quarterback Zach Wilson for two seasons at BYU. He went 8-2 in his first season following Wilson and then followed that up with a career-best statistical season.
In two seasons as a full-time starter, Hall accounted for 53 total touchdowns and just 11 interceptions, along with 798 rushing yards and nine scores. As a junior last season, he posted career highs for completions (248), attempts (376), passing yards (3,171), passing touchdowns (31), rushes (86) and rushing yards (348).
Sunday will be the first time Hall has started a game since the Vikings preseason finale. Hall played in that entire game and finished 17-of-28 passing for 178 yards, with one touchdown, an interception and a passer rating of 76.2. He also had six carries for 21 rushing yards.
Hall led consecutive touchdown drives to start that game, building a 14-point lead in the game's first 14 minutes. He opened with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. The second series included three pass completions of 14 or more yards and was capped by his 5-yard touchdown pass.
That start occurred in August and was his first and last preseason starting opportunity. Two months later, Hall is set to start a road game against the NFC South-leading Falcons.
Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips said he expects Hall to be ready for his first NFL start.
"Jaren has a nice maturity about him," Phillips said. "It's not always the guys that are a little bit older and married and already have a kid already, but it certainly helps.
"He's not a wild man," Phillips added. "He's about football and family and faith, and he's a very grounded individual. I don't think he's going to really be distracted by outside noise or pressures, those types of things. I think he's the type of guy that's gonna just put his head down and work and lock in on the game."
Getting Joshua Dobbs acclimated
The Vikings used Tuesday's trade deadline to add to its quarterbacks room.
Minnesota acquired Joshua Dobbs and a conditional seventh-round pick in a deal with the Cardinals, sending a sixth-round pick to Arizona.
O'Connell said Dobbs will prepare as if he is only one play away from becoming the starting quarterback. O'Connell did not commit to who would start after Week 9.
"Josh gives us an experienced player who's started some games, not only this year but last year, and has played some good football against some of the best defenses in our league," O'Connell said. "He's found ways to move the ball. He brings a level of athleticism to go with great football intelligence. He's a smart player, and I have always loved his makeup and what he's all about. He's played in a variety of offenses. I know he's excited to get going here."
Dobbs started the first eight games of 2023 for Arizona. In those games, he threw for 1,569 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions. He totaled an 81.2 passer rating for the Cardinals, and his 46.0 QBR ranks 19th in the league.
Trading guard Ezra Cleveland
The Vikings were also sellers at the trade deadline.
Minnesota traded left guard Ezra Cleveland to the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for a 2024 sixth-round pick.
O'Connell said it was difficult to trade Cleveland, considering how long the former 2020 second-round selection had been a staple of the Vikings locker room. Cleveland started 45 consecutive games and appeared in 53 games since being drafted.
"It is bittersweet, but I know it's a great situation that Ezra is going to down in Jacksonville. His former position coach (Phil Rauscher) is down there on a really good team, and Ezra will help out those guys tremendously," O'Connell said. "[It] really was a scenario that came about via our acquisition of Dalton Risner and seeing [him] perform these last two weeks out there with that group."
Risner took over at left guard after Cleveland suffered a foot injury three weeks ago versus the Bears. He has made two consecutive starts since and is now locked into the starting lineup.