Vikings' Sam Darnold heads into camp as QB1 over J.J. McCarthy, Kevin O'Connell says

After a spring of organized team activities, Sam Darnold is in position to be the first-team quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings entering training camp, coach Kevin O’Connell said Wednesday.

“I would say Sam would be the guy I would look to based upon the spring he’s had, and really where he’s at in his career and his quarterback journey, and what he’s been able to do coming in and really hit the ground running and really kind of taking advantage of a competitive situation,” McConnell told reporters.

Darnold served as Brock Purdy’s backup on the San Francisco 49ers last season, playing in 10 games and throwing for 297 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The Vikings then signed Darnold to a one-year, $10 million deal in March to fill the void left by veteran QB Kirk Cousins, who left Minnesota after six seasons for Atlanta. A month later, the Vikings drafted former Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy with the 10th pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. They also have QBs Jaren Hall and Nick Mullens on the roster.

The decision to have Darnold — now in his seventh NFL season — line up as QB1 come camp over a rookie isn’t a surprise.

The Vikings signed Darnold with the belief his potential had not been maximized in the NFL, and they wanted him to help McCarthy as a veteran, sharing his experiences and allowing McCarthy to sit, learn and observe. The Vikings are in no rush to throw McCarthy into the fire, like how Darnold was in his first year in the league with the New York Jets in 2018. Darnold started 38 games over three seasons with the Jets and brought the experience of 56 career starts to Minnesota’s quarterback room.

During OTAs, McCarthy’s play was — expectedly — not always consistent. He was practicing new concepts, throwing to new receivers and using different footwork while defenders move across his line of vision faster than he has ever experienced, though he has not yet faced an NFL defense trying to knock him down. The Vikings have also not yet practiced in pads.

Darnold, however, showed more consistency and accuracy at times, taking every first-team rep last week at the practices media was allowed to attend.

“I know firsthand how much arm talent he has,” said defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (Stanford), who played against Darnold (USC) in college. “This is the best team he’s been on. This is the best system for him. He’s hopefully going to find the ceiling of his play this season for us.”

Training camp opens in July, and Minnesota faces the New York Giants in Week 1 on Sept. 8.

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(Photo: Adam Bettcher / Getty Images)

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