Minnesota Vikings insider reveals leader in starting QB battle between Sam Darnold, J.J. McCarthy

Minnesota Vikings
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings found their future franchise quarterback in the 2024 NFL Draft, trading up to select J.J. McCarthy with the 10th overall pick. Now, the competition between McCarthy and Sam Darnold, to be the Vikings starting quarterback in Week 1, is on.

McCarthy heads into things with a small advantage. Beyond the pedigree of being a first-round pick selected by general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell, he was also the first of the Vikings quarterbacks on the practice field in 2024.

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While Darnold was signed in March and has had several months to learn the playbook, on-field reps matter. It’s why McCarthy could hit the ground running in rookie minicamp, receiving a majority of the reps and getting the first shot at impressing the Vikings coaching staff in person.

The rookie did throw a one interceptions during rookie minicamp, and it cost him some wind sprints, but he largely showed composure and seemed to be right at home in O’Connell’s system. With those practices in the rearview mirror, now the real quarterback competition begins between Darnold and McCarthy.

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Who will be the Minnesota Vikings starting quarterback?

According to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, Darnold is “fully expected” to begin the offseason program atop the Vikings depth chart as the starting quarterback this summer. With veterans reporting for activities next week, O’Connell will relinquish first-team reps to the veteran.

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Minnesota is going to make McCarthy earn the Vikings starting quarterback job. However, O’Connell did tell reporters that McCarthy “jumped out right away” at rookie minicamp, especially his recall of the offensive schemes. Clearly, the Vikings coaching staff likes what it is seeing early from their first-round pick.

With Darnold and McCarthy receiving a majority of the reps this summer, there won’t be many opportunities for either Nick Mullens or Jaren Hall. Many expect the Vikings to push the quarterback competition in McCarthy’s favor, wanting the first-round pick to start in Week 1, but it’s very possible Darnold opens the season as the Vikings starting quarterback. However, even if that happens, he’d be on a short leash with McCarthy poised to take over quickly if the offense is struggling.

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