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Rookie Camp is the start of a long journey for JJ McCarthy


Vikings first-round pick JJ McCarthy and the other No. 1 QBs began their NFL journeys with their new teams during last weekend’s rookie camps. The reactions from coaches and teammates in the six NFL cities with these rookie QBs were predictably optimistic as they learned new schemes and competed against rookie defenders.

Rookie Camp is the start of a long journey for JJ McCarthy

Caleb Williams, the No. 1 overall pick, has already been named the Bears’ starter by coach Matt Eberflus. “No conversation, he’s the starter,” Eberflus said. Of course that would be the case, but what about pretending there will be a match before the job is handed over to the already entitled Williams?

No. 2 overall pick Jayden Daniels was called “a stud” by rookie receiver Luke McCaffrey (Christian’s brother) at the Commanders rookie camp. Broncos coach Sean Payton raved about Bo Nix (No. 12 overall), saying, “It’s like watching a good golfer.” Only Patriots coach Jerod Mayo was more realistic when he said of third overall pick Drake Maye, “He’s got a lot of work to do.”

Minnesota Vikings quarterback JJ McCarthy on the first day of rookie minicamp on May 10, 2024 in Eagan, Minnesota. TCO performance center. McCarthy was drafted by the Vikings with the 10th overall pick on April 25, 2024 in Detroit.

Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell had positive things about McCarthy’s first days in a Vikings uniform. “We’re just trying to make incremental gains that will be amplified as part of the way he plays quarterback for a long time,” O’Connell said. “So far I’m very impressed with him. He is a process-driven man and understands that he still has a long road ahead of him.”

McCarthy came to rookie camp after working with O’Connell and QB Coach Josh McCown on parts of the Vikings offense during a private workout prior to the draft. “It didn’t feel like my first day,” McCarthy said. “I’ve been involved with the offense for a long time. So to go out and execute, it wasn’t anything that was overwhelming or too much.

His perspective could change next week when OTAs begin, and he begins competing in 7-on-7 and team drills against the Vikings veterans on the starting defense. It’s all part of the process, but a better test will begin in training camp when the full pads arrive and during practices against another NFL team, along with the three preseason games. The real test, of course, will be when McCarthy plays in a regular season game.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Vet Sam Darnold will take initial first reps this spring and summer, but McCarthy will get plenty of playing time as coaches continue to gauge his progress.

Will he perform well enough through these various checkpoints to earn the starting job on Opening Day in September? If he isn’t the opening day starter, that will be the dominant question from Vikings observers — coaches, players, staff, media and fans — over the next four months and once the regular season begins.

We know it’s rare for a QB to have a rookie season like CJ Stroud did last year in Houston, when the No. 2 overall pick passed for 4,108 yards, 23 touchdowns, just five interceptions and had a passer rating of 100.8 (sixth in the competition). ). He led the Texans to a 3-13-1 record in 2022 prior to his arrival to the AFC South title with a 10-7 record, followed by a 45-14 win over Cleveland in the Wildcard round (Stroud pitched three TD passes and had no turnovers in the game) before losing in the divisional round at top seed Baltimore.

Rookies often have up-and-down first seasons (or just down, as was the case with top overall pick Bryce Young last season in Carolina). Some first-round QBs are sitting around watching, as was the case with Patrick Mahomes in his rookie year of 2017 with the Chiefs as the No. 10 overall pick when he backed up Alex Smith. That worked out great for Andy Reid and the Chiefs as Mahomes was the league MVP in his second year (first season as a starter) and won the Super Bowl in year 3.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

For the other Viking rookies, like the team’s other No. 1 pick – Edge/OLB Dallas Turner – the rookie camp gave them a similar opportunity to McCarthy as they began the early stages of learning the offensive and defensive schemes of the Vikings.

“For Dallas, it’s just going to be comfortable in that home position on the edge as outside linebacker,” O’Connell said.

Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores sees Turner as a very athletic and extremely fast defender who he can use in multiple ways, like Nick Saban did with Turner at Alabama. “We give him as much as he can handle, but always try to put him in the best position to do what he does best,” Flores said. “Like any newcomer, his role will be up to him.”

Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores spoke to the media from the TCO Performance Center. Flores was hired in February 2023 to take over for Ed Donatel after Minnesota finished 30th in points allowed.

If the Vikings want to challenge the Lions and Packers (and perhaps the Bears) in the tough NFC North and return to the playoffs this season, they will need solid contributions this season from Turner and, most likely, McCarthy, along with several others conscripts. , like fourth-round pick Khyree Jackson and likely new kicker – sixth-rounder Will Reichard.

Around the NFL observations:

This is release week for 2024 and the league has announced a few top games ahead of Wednesday night’s full release, which is highly anticipated by teams and their fans as the true sign that the 2024 season is quickly approaching.

Baltimore in Kansas City is a great choice for the Thursday night opener on September 5. It will be a rematch of last season’s AFC title game, which the Chiefs won 17-10 before winning the Super Bowl over the 49ers. This will be the start of the Chiefs’ quest for an unprecedented third straight Super Bowl victory.

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Philadelphia and Green Bay meet on Friday, September 6 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in the first international match in that country.

San Francisco begins its NFC title defense on September 9 by hosting Aaron Rodgers and the New York Jets in an exciting Monday Night Football opener.

The Vikings will play eight home games in the 2024 regular season and will be the home team for a game in London. I’ll give my reaction to the Vikings’ schedule next week.

Jeff Diamond is a former Vikings GM, former Tennessee Titans President and was named NFL Executive of the Year following the Vikings’ 15-1 season in 1998. He now works for the NFL agent group IFA, based in Minneapolis, and does other sports consulting and media work along with college/business speaking. Follow him and message him on Twitter– @jeffdiamondnfl

JJ McCarthy rookie minicamp