J.J. McCarthy Struggled Through Vikings Minicamp, Then Finished Strong

JJ McCarthy, Minnesota Vikings
Photo courtesy of the Minnesota VikingsCredit: Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings are done with 2024 mandatory minicamp, as they continue to push through organized team activities this offseason. Superstar wide receiver Justin Jefferson was even at TCO Performance Center this week, after the Vikings finally inked him to the record-breaking contract extension we’d been waiting nearly two offseasons for.

With Jefferson now paid, extended and happy, all eyes turn to the new future of the franchise. No, not that J.J., the other J.J.. Now, fans and media members want to know how first round rookie QB J.J McCarthy has looked early on this summer.

It’s already been hinted that the Vikings are shielding McCarthy and “trying to keep the temperature down as much as they can” regarding fans expectations for him. It might not only be tempering expectations though, because one Minnesota Vikings’ beat writer provided more of specific update as to what they are seeing from McCarthy so far this offseason.

Minnesota Vikings’ J.J. McCarthy looked like a rookie at minicamp

According to Kevin Seifert (ESPN), it’s been difficult to provide a responsible assessment of McCarthy this offseason given the fact that head coach Kevin O’Connell emphasizes mental progress over physical endurance at this stage of this team’s offseason practices. Despite O’Connell’s parameters, there is a few observations Seifert noted about McCarthy thus far through the offseason.

Seifert notes how big of a difference it is watching McCarthy vs former Vikings’ quarterback, Kirk Cousins, in practices past, pointing out the inconsistency in accuracy with his rocket right arm. Overall, Seifert described McCarthy in one word so far this offseason: “rookie”.

[McCarthy] is squarely behind veteran Sam Darnold on the depth chart. During the practices open to reporters, Darnold has taken nearly all of the first-team reps, and more often than not, veteran Nick Mullens has been the next quarterback to step in followed by McCarthy and then Jaren Hall.

There are no indications that the Vikings were looking to test McCarthy in a “1’s vs. 1’s” situation this spring. McCarthy’s throws have plenty of juice but have not always been accurate. During a red zone drill Wednesday, he had three consecutive passes hit the ground. That’s nothing to be concerned about, especially because other passes were right on the money. But after years of watching Kirk Cousins’ precision throws, the lack of consistency has been noticeable. Overall, however, the best way to describe McCarthy this spring is with one word: rookie.

Kevin Seifert (ESPN)

Related: Are Vikings Intentionally Hiding J.J. McCarthy from Fans and Media?

Seifert first notes that McCarthy has been mostly playing behind Sam Darnold and Nick Mullens. Something that has already been reported from numerous media members. What’s interesting is how Seifert discusses McCarthy’s inconsistency thus far through voluntary organized team activities and mandatory minicamp.

McCarthy’s throws have plenty of juice but have not always been accurate. Seifert specifically mentions a red zone drill from Wednesday’s minicamp practice where McCarthy threw three consecutive that hit the ground. On the flip side of things, he also noted McCarthy throwing some passes that were right on the money.

J.J. McCarthy looked better on Thursday

It’s going to take time to develop McCarthy, refine his mechanics, and for him to grasp the full comprehension of the playbook. And even though things haven’t always gone according to plan, it does appear he had a better day on Thursday, the final day of Vikings minicamp. Alec Lewis (The Athletic) called it his “best and most efficient day”.

“Thursday, though, McCarthy looked much better. He lasered one over the middle to tight end Robert Tonyan. He feathered a completion to receiver Trent Sherfield on the far right sideline. Tracking passes feels like a fruitless exercise right now — so many variables factor into these throws, and all a basic stat line does is falsely sway the narrative — but Thursday was easily the rookie’s most efficient.”

Alec Lewis – The Athletic

In the end, it’s looking more and more likely that we won’t see McCarthy full-time with the starters at any point soon, if at all the entire NFL season. McCarthy’s time will come eventually, that is a fact.

However, if you have any money on McCarthy winning offensive rookie of the year or taking the first offensive snap in week one… it’s recommended to cash those tickets for whatever they are worth now.

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