Vikings coach: Sam Darnold favorite to enter camp as QB1

Veteran Sam Darnold likely will be the No. 1 quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings when training camp opens next month, head coach Kevin O’Connell told reporters Wednesday.

“We haven’t had to put out a depth chart or anything like that, but I would say Sam would be the guy I would look to,” O’Connell said.

However, Darnold shouldn’t start snapping up tickets to give to family and friends for the season opener on Sept. 8 against the New York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J. Rookie J.J. McCarthy, selected No. 10 overall in April’s NFL draft, could have something to say about that.

O’Connell also addressed the quarterback hierarchy in two interviews this week. On Tuesday, he told “Mad Dog Sports Radio” that there will be a QB competition.

“At the quarterback position, look, we’re really excited about Sam,” O’Connell said. “Really kept a close eye on his quarterback journey and not all quarterback journeys are the same. Although the position tends to catch a lot of eyes and a lot of different coverage from a standpoint of what a guy is and isn’t — wins and losses and all those things — but … circumstances and environment that those guys are in play a lot to do with it and play a lot into it.”

The New York Jets selected Darnold No. 3 overall in the 2018 draft and gave up on him after three seasons, sending him to the Carolina Panthers in a trade before the 2021 season for three draft picks, the highest a second-rounder. After two seasons in Carolina, he signed as a free agent with the San Francisco 49ers and backed up Brock Purdy in 2023.

He has played under five different head coaches in six seasons.

“Sam’s had a heck of a quarterback journey. I think he’s learned a lot along the way and I’m really excited about the time in his career in which we’re getting him in our building,” O’Connell said on “Mad Dog Sports Radio.”

“I feel strongly about his ability to continue his, even at this point in his career, continue his development and what can he become within playing quarterback in our offense with the type of players we have around him, all well knowing that we’re going to have a competitive environment with J.J. McCarthy, with Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall.”

Darnold, who turned 27 last week, has a 21-35 record as a starter, completing 59.7 percent of his passes for 12,064 yards with 63 touchdowns and 56 interceptions.

McCarthy, 21, led Michigan to a national championship in January, but NFL scouts reportedly thought he could benefit from at least one season on the bench, learning and watching.

Speaking Monday on “The Rich Eisen Show,” O’Connell implied McCarthy is going to have to wow the coaching staff to overtake Darnold for the Week 1 start.

“We do have a plan for J.J. — a long-term plan. We see him as our quarterback of the future, and when that ultimately starts, with him taking game reps under center, will really be about that process of getting there and demonstrating that he’s got total comfort in the system,” O’Connell said.

“So then, the natural learning environment that is playing quarterback in the NFL … we want to make sure it’s the right time and J.J. feels 100 percent confident that he can not only go in and have success but then also, when adversity does hit, is he attacking it the right way from a foundation that hopefully we’ve built up over a long time.”


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