J.J. McCarthy Isn’t Even the Minnesota Vikings’ Backup Right Now

JJ McCarthy, Minnesota Vikings
Photo: Ben Liebenberg - Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings set out to determine their new quarterback of the future this offseason. Whether Kirk Cousins returned or not, they needed to find a succession plan. At 10th overall they did that in the form of J.J. McCarthy. He isn’t guaranteed to start though, and as of today he may not even be 2nd string.

This offseason, prior to drafting J.J. McCarthy, the Vikings brought in veteran signal caller Sam Darnold. He too is a former first round pick, and while things didn’t work out with the New York Jets or Carolina Panthers, there are reasons to believe his time in San Francisco with Kyle Shanahan put him back on the right track.

That Kevin O’Connell can help continue that upward trajectory in Minnesota. Entering minicamp in a couple weeks, and then eventually training camp later this summer, Darnold will get the QB1 to beat.

JJ McCarthy is the Minnesota Vikings QB3?

jj mccarthy, minnesota vikings
Photo: USA Today Sports Credit: Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Of course, there are paths that lead to McCarthy starting games in 2024, but many of them include poor performances from Sam Darnold. More than likely, if the Vikings’ 26-year-old 1st round pick plays well, then their 21-year-old 1st round pick will be wearing a headset, not a helmet, most of the season.

In fact, JJ McCarthy still has to climb past current QB2, Nick Mullins, before he can even think about overthrowing QB1. And according to Will Ragatz (Sports Illustrated) that’s hardly a guarantee to happen.

If McCarthy isn’t starter material by week one, Ragatz writes, it’s very plausible the Vikings end up carrying three quarterbacks into the season so they can relegate JJ to QB3 duties.

McCarthy was primarily working as the QB3 behind veterans Sam Darnold and Nick Mullens. When the team split up for parts of the day, it was Darnold and Mullens rotating with the starters and McCarthy and Jaren Hall working with the young players and backups.

There were several reps where you could see him going through his progressions, hesitating a bit, and then scrambling or throwing to his checkdown option. He’s clearly still working on getting the rhythm and timing down within Kevin O’Connell’s offense. McCarthy also dropped a shotgun snap for a fumble at one point and had a few inaccurate misses.

Will Ragatz describing his observations of JJ McCarthy at Vikings voluntary OTAs this week (SI)

Related: Did the Vikings Tip Their Hand on Which UDFAs Will Make the Roster?

The plan for McCarthy was to seemingly always give him some room to grow. Both Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell need their quarterback to work, or they will be looking for new jobs in a couple of years. The most straightforward way for him to develop is by being given some time to sit and learn.

It is somewhat interesting that Nick Mullens would remain the backup as opposed to McCarthy, but if they determine he isn’t ready to see the field, it does make sense to make sure he isn’t one play away from setting back his development by inserting him under center too soon.

If [JJ McCarthy] doesn’t beat out Darnold, prove he’s ready, and win the Week 1 starting job, he might remain the QB3 to start the regular season so he isn’t an injury away from being thrust into action.

Will Ragatz – SI

Pushing McCarthy down to QB3 would almost certainly suggest that Jaren Hall isn’t long for the Vikings roster. If Minnesota were going to keep their 2023 5th round draft pick, there’s no way McCarthy would slot in behind him. And the Vikings aren’t going to carry four QBs on roster.

Mullens looked rough in limited action last season, but if he’s kept off the field and only used in emergency situations, then there may be a better form of value.

Related: Will Justin Jefferson Show Up For Any Minnesota Vikings Offseason Workouts?

With how the roster currently sits, it stands to reason that McCarthy will either be atop the depth chart or buried by it. Eventually this team will be his, but it may not happen to start the year, and that shouldn’t be considered a bad thing.

Mentioned in this article:

More About: