Sam Darnold, not J.J. McCarthy, will open training camp as Vikings’ starting quarterback

Although the Minnesota Vikings picked up J.J. McCarthy in the first round of the NFL Draft earlier this spring, it will be Sam Darnold who leads the team to start training camp next month.

Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell, after Darnold’s solid start with the team in OTAs, said Darnold will open a “competitive” training camp as the team’s starting quarterback. Outside of McCarthy, Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall are also on the roster.

“We haven’t had to put out a depth chart or anything like that, but yeah, I would say Sam would be the guy I would look to based on the spring he’s had and really where he’s at in his career and his quarterback journey and what he’s been able to do coming in and [hitting] the ground running and taking advantage of a competitive situation,” O’Connell said Wednesday, via ESPN’s Kevin Seifert.

Sam Darnold signed a one-year deal with the Vikings earlier this offseason.
Sam Darnold signed a one-year deal with the Vikings earlier this offseason. (Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) (Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

After losing longtime starter Kirk Cousins to the Atlanta Falcons earlier this offseason, the Vikings signed Darnold to a one-year, $10 million deal. Darnold, who started with the New York Jets after they selected him with the No. 3 overall pick in 2018, spent last season as Brock Purdy’s backup in San Francisco.

The Vikings selected McCarthy with the No. 10 overall pick in the draft in April. McCarthy led Michigan to an undefeated record and a national championship last season while throwing for 2,991 yards and 22 touchdowns.

"I grew up watching Sam Darnold my entire life," McCarthy said. "Being able to just sit there and watch him, watch Nick, watch Jaren ... it's not what they say to me, it's what they do. And [I'm] just being a sponge and observing them and, eventually, hopefully, one day surpassing them. But right now, they're just phenomenal human beings who are sharing their wisdom with me, and I just can't thank them enough and can't wait for training camp."

While it’s still very early and McCarthy can absolutely play his way into the starting role, Darnold apparently has the early edge in Minneapolis. Whether either of them can lead the Vikings to the playoffs for the second time in O’Connell’s three seasons with the team, however, remains to be seen.

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