Vikings Believe Sam Darnold Has Fixed Mechanical Issues and They Brought Proof

sam darnold San Francisco 49ers
Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings’ QB1 is Sam Darnold, even if only for now. But Kevin O’Connell and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah believe that no matter which quarterback they draft next month, wrestling that title away from Darnold during training camp and throughout the 2024-25 NFL season will be much easier said than done.

According to Albert Breer (Sports Illustrated), the Vikings see in Sam Darnold a 26-year-old QB who has fought his way out of some pretty difficult situations to start his professional career, and he’s come out of it on the other side looking like the same high-end talent he was when drafted No. 3 overall by the New York Jets back in 2018… but much more polished. His feet are quieter and he’s making decisions faster.

As O’Connell and Adofo-Mensah studied Darnold’s 2022 tape, they saw a guy who went 4–2 at the end of a lost season with a Carolina Panthers team that wasn’t much different than this year’s 2–15 version. The traits that made him a top pick were there, and he flashed an element of “overcoming” with the plays he was creating off-schedule. The year-over-year growth was there, too, in how he’d cleaned up his feet and was playing faster with the offense in the little time he had as a 49er (and in the end of a blowout loss to the Ravens, in particular).

Albert Breer – Sports Illustrated

Of course, we knew that there was going to be a lot of Sam Darnold propaganda floating around between now and the NFL Draft, as the Vikings try to convince teams ahead of them that they don’t NEED to trade up for a QB, after signing Darnold. So these types of notes aren’t surprising.

So the Minnesota Vikings really do love Sam Darnold?

sam darnold
Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The specifics that Breer hits on, however, are a bit more worth paying attention to. If it is true that Sam is reading the field better and he has improved his footwork that much, maybe there is reason to have hope in what Darnold could bring.

When Breer was collecting intelligence for his article, the Vikings specifically pointed to a week 16 Christmas night matchup vs the Baltimore Ravens from last season, as one performance that convinced them of Darnold’s capabilities.

Related: Travis Kelce Believes Sam Darnold Starts NFL Comeback Story with Vikings

What’s interesting about that game is that, on paper, Sam’s day was very forgettable. He finished that game vs the Ravens 8-of-14 (58%) for 81 passing yards, 1 TD and 1 INT, in a blowout Ravens win. Brock Purdy had just gotten knocked out of the game by injury with a little over 8 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. Prior to the injury, Baltimore had Purdy seeing ghosts in one of the worst starts of his impressive young career, which included FOUR interceptions.

Enter Sam Darnold, who had some promising moments early, but showed signs of the happy feet and sheer panic he tends to show when life gets hectic in the pocket. His interception came on the final Niners throw of the game, trying to stuff it into the endzone to extend the game to an onside kick. Here are some of Sam’s highlights from that contest.

There’s no doubt this is his best opportunity to showcase the difference in his game now, compared to what it was for the first few years of his career. Whether his future lies in Minnesota or elsewhere, working with Kevin O’Connell and the high-powered Vikings offense will provide him every tool he needs to prove to anyone still paying attention that he has QB1 capabilities in the NFL.

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