J.J. McCarthy, Minnesota Vikings

J.J. McCarthy, Minnesota Vikings


J.J. McCarthy #9 of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Minnesota Vikings have one last set of organized team activities (June 10 through June 13) before they take a six-week break until training camp. The Vikings hope that rookie first-round pick J.J. McCarthy is the answer at quarterback for years to come.

But he is also at the heart of the “biggest question” facing the purple and gold writes Bleacher Report’s Matt Holder.

“When will J.J. McCarthy be ready to start?” Holder wrote on June 7. “Now that star wide receiver Justin Jefferson is locked down for the foreseeable future, Vikings fans’ attention should turn to when McCarthy will hit the field. While Sam Darnold is expected to be the stop-gap starter to at least begin the season, the rookie is the future of the franchise, so it’s paramount that he and Jefferson start building chemistry.”

McCarthy’s NFL readiness was hotly debated during the pre-draft process since he threw sparingly compared to his peers. But he got strong backing from college coach Jim Harbaugh and could get acclimated quickly due to his experience in a pro style offense.

Jefferson said he had been in contact with McCarthy while staying away pursuing an extension.

He also raved about the promise of what McCarthy – the highest-drafted quarterback in franchise history – brings to the organization.

“Having J.J. into the building, a new energy, a new soul,” Jefferson told reporters on June 4. “I love his confidence, I love his attitude. And of course, him coming off a championship, you can’t have any more confidence than that. So that confidence is going to continue to be with him. It’s just my job to really install that into his brain throughout the whole entire season.

“Of course, give him that extra confidence by throwing me the ball.”

J.J. McCarthy Can Help Justin Jefferson Join Vikings Legend in Record Books

Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings

GettyJustin Jefferson #18 of the Minnesota Vikings.

Jefferson became the 14th wide receiver to log at least 1,000 yards every season over their first four NFL campaigns, per Stathead. He will be just the fourth in NFL history to do so five years in a row if he can replicate the feat in 2024.

The three-time Pro Bowler would put himself alongside current Tampa Bay Buccaneers wideout Mike Evans, former Cincinnati Bengals receiver A.J. Green, and Hall of Famer Randy Moss.

Jefferson’s ability to perform through myriad quarterback issues last season bodes well.

“I feel like just with last year’s – just with all of the things that happened, all of the quarterback changes that happened, that really didn’t really affect me that much,” Jefferson said. “It really didn’t matter who was going to be able to throw the ball. I’m always confident in myself and confident who’s throwing the ball to give me those type of opportunities and let me just go make a play for the team.”

Jefferson will have a much easier time accomplishing his goals if McCarthy or Darnold can establish themselves as the starter early in training camp. Darnold is expected to hold the job until McCarthy is ready to be the Vikings’ QB1.

Sam Darnold Could Give Vikings False Sense of Security

Sam Darnold, Minnesota Vikings

GettySam Darnold #14 of the Minnesota Vikings.

Darnold is far more experienced than McCarthy. He was also a higher draft pick as the No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 draft.

Early reports out of the Vikings’ offseason program have also been positive.

That could be an issue, though, with Darnold showing a history of performing well in low-pressure situations only to struggle during the regular season. Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell touted the QB’s development with the San Francisco 49ers last season.

Darnold did go 4-2 in his last extended stretch as a starter during the 2022 season with the Carolina Panthers.

However, if he falters, switching to McCarthy could benefit the Vikings long-term.

Josh Buckhalter covers the NBA and NFL for Heavy.com. He has covered both leagues since 2016, including bylines at FanSided, Last Word on Sports and Clocker Sports. He’s based in Villa Park, Illinois. Follow Josh on Twitter and Instagram: @JoshGBuck More about Josh Buckhalter

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