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What Will It Take for J.J. McCarthy to Start in 2024?

With tons of hype surrounding J.J. McCarthy, there are possible benchmarks that may have to be met for him to play.

The Minnesota Vikings will head into training camp Kirk Cousins-less for the first time since the 2017 season. Quarterbacks Sam Darnold and J.J. McCarthy are expected to compete for the starting job, with Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall also in the mix. As reported in a recent Kevin Seifert article, General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has gone on record saying he and head coach Kevin O’Connell have set benchmarks that McCarthy will have to meet before stepping into the starting lineup. 

What Will It Take for J.J. McCarthy to Start in 2024?

Adding Weight

While weighing in at 219 pounds on his pro day, he’s listed at 202 on Michigan’s website. To bulk up for the combine McCarthy didn’t do any of the jumps or 40-yard dash, putting his focus on his weight. Trusting combine weights can be sketchy since he had months to put on weight and train specifically to bulk, so the Vikings’ staff may want him to put on more muscle before sending him out to NFL defenses. The combine weight may prove to be more muscle than water weight, but that won’t be known until official rosters with heights and weights are listed. With an NFL weight program, this shouldn’t be a red flag or any reason he’s forced to sit for a long period.


One of the things evaluators in NFL media liked about McCarthy was the system he played in at Michigan. Head coach John Harbaugh ran an NFL-style offense that ran plays like you’d see on Sundays. While that’s a positive for McCarthy, it showed some nuances in his game that need to be fixed. While throwing the ball downfield, and especially to the left side of the field, he tends to overstride on his throws and sail some passes that NFL-caliber quarterbacks make look routine. He doesn’t have a Mahomes-level arm to begin with, and he isn’t doing himself any favors with his throwing mechanics. Not only to become a more accurate passer but to also unlock that arm strength that’s hidden behind his shotty footwork, becoming a more accurate deep ball passer by fixing his footwork is a must for him to start any time in 2024.

“Shanahan Quarterback”

Now getting to the upside of the NFL-style offense Michigan ran. If you’ve listened to or read a scouting report about McCarthy, this term has almost certainly come up while talking about him. While Michigan didn’t throw the ball a ton, they ran a lot of play-action and under-center passing concepts that not only the NFL does but Minnesota especially. The Vikings ran 191 play-action passing plays, with the second-most being the Lions at 157. Thisalong with running passing concepts where he’d have to read the field in its entirety, has given him the “pro-ready” label that some quarterbacks didn’t get in the pre-draft process. If McCarthy can consistently make NFL-caliber throws and reads throughout training camp and preseason, he’ll be in great shape for Week 1. 

Closing Thoughts

To wrap this up, McCarthy is the future of the Minnesota Vikings. This won’t change if he sits one week, nine weeks, or the entire season. O’Connell said weeks ago, before McCarthy was a Viking, that he’d be giving offensive coordinator Wes Phillips more weekly responsibility so he, along with quarterbacks coach Josh McCown, can spend more time with the new quarterback. Sam Darnold isn’t the most exciting quarterback to lead your team into the week, and nobody will even try to convince you that’s an ideal situation to be in. But it’s an infinitely better situation than throwing your raw, unproven rookie quarterback out to the wolves. Whatever this process entails for the Vikings, it’s been thought through by smart people who are willing to wait until the time is right.

Main Photo: Patrick Breen/The Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK


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