Skip to main content

News | Minnesota Vikings –

Presented by

Lunchbreak: Kevin O'Connell Talks Quarterback Plans with Rich Eisen

The Vikings have a plan.

Head Coach Kevin O'Connell joined The Rich Eisen Show Monday morning and talked with Eisen about a number of topics, including rookie quarterback J.J. McCarthy.

Eisen, a self-identified mega-Michigan fan, inquired about McCarthy’s progress during the Vikings offseason program while acknowledging a majority of the first-team reps have gone to free agent addition Sam Darnold.

"He's had a great spring. He's off to a really great start – transitioning to a new offense, a bunch of new teammates," O'Connell said of McCarthy. "He gets a ton of work throughout routes on air, and even in 7-on-7 where we were going full speed on all that stuff, with some of the first group throughout the spring. So J.J.'s gotten a good acclimation to what our offense is really all about and started to show some ownership and [is] growing every single day."

O'Connell told Eisen this final week of OTA practices "will be a big week" for the rookie before entering summer break ahead of his first NFL training camp.

"But Rich, I can just tell you, everything so far we had hoped to get out of J.J. from the spring, confirming a lot of the things we thought about him throughout the pre-draft process, he's done all those things and then some," O'Connell said. "He's been wearing us out at the facility. He's been working his tail off, and I think he's gonna be in a great spot to continue his growth and development on a really good timeline. Sam Darnold's also had a really good spring, getting acclimated to our offense."

O'Connell added that he feels "really fortunate" to have so many talented players around the quarterback position, from Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison to the addition of Aaron Jones and ongoing rehab of T.J. Hockenson, who suffered a torn ACL late last season. He also noted Minnesota's offensive line.

"Obviously with the two tackles (Christian Darrisaw and Brian O'Neill) we have, [and we brought] back Dalton Risner, who's gonna compete like crazy at the guard spot with both Ed [Ingram] and Blake Brandel," O'Connell said. "Garrett Bradbury's been Mr. Reliable for us in the middle. And anytime you're transitioning at the quarterback position, to have a veteran center to really drive that communication and make sure we're all on the same page, it's a good setup."

Eisen asked O'Connell about gauging when a rookie quarterback is prepared to start.

The head coach emphasized creating "the best possible learning environment" for McCarthy and coaching individual aspects of the quarterback position.

"I got to know J.J. really well pre-draft and said, 'Hey, where are the areas he's most comfortable, and where are the areas we want to make sure he feels challenged on a daily basis?' It's gotta be the perfect combination of really challenging him, exposing him to some of the difficulties that will be out in front of him that he can then identify and go attack, while also making sure we're maintaining confidence in a player that has a lot of it – and rightly so," O'Connell said. "It's a good balance of both, knowing that it's still just May and June, as we work through the end of this offseason program, and we're going to have a competitive training camp.

"But we do have a plan for J.J. – a long-term plan. We see him as our quarterback of the future, and when that ultimately starts with him taking game reps under center will really be about that process of getting there and demonstrating that he's got total comfort in the system," O'Connell continued. "So then, the natural learning environment that is playing quarterback in the NFL […] we want to make sure it's the right time and J.J. feels 100-percent confident that he cannot only go in and have success but then also, when adversity does hit, is he attacking it right way from a foundation that hopefully we've built up over a long time?"

Click here to listen to Monday's full episode of The Rich Eisen Show.

'Pioneer Press': Darnold 'already showing what he can do' for Minnesota

As noted above, the majority of Minnesota's first-team reps at quarterback have gone to Darnold, whom the Vikings signed as a free agent this spring.

Dane Mizutani of the Pioneer Press recently noted Darnold is "already showing what he can do" in the Vikings offense. Mizutani wrote:

There's a particular play from mandatory minicamp that stands out when analyzing veteran quarterback Sam Darnold. It was a perfectly placed throw in the corner of the end zone with the Vikings working on a layered concept near the goal line.

The most impressive part? The anticipation needed to complete the pass.

You see, when Darnold initially released that ball, receiver Trishton Jackson was still in the middle of the field as he sprinted toward the back pylon. The only way the play was going to work was if Darnold feathered the ball in with the right amount of touch, which he did, and Jackson did his part by hauling in a touchdown.

Mizutani said the sequence "showed how quickly Darnold has already picked up parts of the playbook as he attempts to prove the Vikings right for taking a chance on him."

He added there's "no question" Darnold possesses the arm talent necessary to succeed.

The early returns with the Vikings have been palpable as Darnold continues to familiarize himself with the new offense. He has made a number of incredible throws down the field that make observers do a double take. He also has done a good job not missing many layups.

Mizutani quoted Darnold, who spoke with Twin Cities media members to cap of mandatory minicamp last week:

"It's about being able to put the ball in play and being a point guard out there," Darnold said.