What We Learned from 10 Minutes of Jaren Hall
There were just over 10 minutes of the game left at Lambeau Field on Sunday when disaster struck for the Minnesota Vikings. Romping away to a comfortable victory over their bitter rivals, quarterback Kirk Cousins hobbled off the field following a non-contact injury, later reported as a season-ending Achilles injury. The sent in their fifth-round rookie QB to finish the game. Here’s what we learned from 10 minutes of Jaren Hall.
What We Learned from 10 Minutes of Jaren Hall
The Vikings had a 14-point lead when Hall came into the game, so there was no pressure on the Vikings to score points. With the defense playing well, all Hall had to help the offense see the game out, and that’s what he did — eventually. The easy option for the Vikings would have been just to run the ball and chew up as much clock as possible.
Perhaps with the fact Hall might be about to take over the offense full-time in the back of his mind, Kevin O’Connell was happy to put the ball in the rookie’s hands. Hall showed his athleticism to escape pressure to the right and throw on the run, connecting with K.J. Osborn for a four-yard gain on second down — then disaster.
Looking to pass again, Hall was sacked and fumbled the ball, which Green Bay recovered at the Minnesota 15-yard line. Surely coach O’Connell had seen enough and would keep the ball in the hands of his running backs now?
Aided by the defense forcing a turnover on downs and keeping the 14-point lead, the Vikings got the ball back, knowing one first down would all but seal the game. After a short gain by Alexander Mattison on first down, the Vikings head coach turned to the rookie. An incomplete pass set up 3rd and 8 for the Vikings under the shadow of their own goalposts.
Hall stood firm in the pocket and threw the ball straight into the middle of Hockenson’s chest. The Vikings TE was able to turn and secure the first down, barring some sort of catastrophe that was the ball game — the Vikings saw it with another turnover on downs from the defense. Hall finished with a stat line of 3 completions from 4 attempts for 23 yards and that all-important first down. The most important aspect for me was he didn’t seem phased by the fumble and kept his composure when he came back for his second drive.
Vikings Appear to Have Confidence in Their Rookie
O’Connell showed confidence in his rookie and reiterated that in his post-game press conference. Speaking of the importance of the first-down connection with Hockenson. “Big in the landscape of time and forcing them to use their timeouts,” O’Connell said. If the Packers got the ball back at that point with two timeouts left, it could have been a much more intense finish to the game. Hall delivered when he needed to.
O’Connell also spoke of Hall’s command of the offense as communicated to him by his teammates, “Every single offensive player told me he was very good with his communication, snap counts, cadence, all the things … you don’t normally give a second thought to when Kirk’s in there.”
Bradbury confirmed his coach’s statement, saying, “But I was telling all the guys on the sideline, really impressed with how he commanded the huddle.”
Hall had just two words describing why he felt comfortable out in the middle, “the preparation.” The rookie QB is comfortable in the system, and the Vikings offense is a good place to fall. Seeing what your rookie can do behind an offensive line playing very well, with a host of weapons, including a soon-to-be-returning Justin Jefferson, is almost as good a situation as a rookie can hope to land in.
If the Vikings can get more out of their run game, they might just be able to stay competitive if Brian Flores’s defense keeps to their high standards of recent weeks.
Hall Vs. the Falcons
The Vikings head to Atlanta in Week 9 to face a Falcons team that also sits with a 4-4 record. Nick Mullens is currently on IR due to a back injury and can’t come back into the fold before Week 10 — assuming he is fit. That leaves the door wide open for Hall to be the Vikings starting quarterback — for one week at least. There will be a lot of attention on what the Vikings do over the next couple of days, with the trade deadline looming. I don’t see any options out there better than the guy who is already in the building and knows the offense.
The Vikings season might be dead in the water without Cousins, or Hall might surprise everybody. Either way, it’s worth having a look and finding out.
The Vikings should hold fire on any significant move at the quarterback position until the end of the season when a decision already had to be made. It’s not the time for a rushed move caused by panic. They might want to consider bringing in a capable backup, depending on the health of Mullens. If he is looking good for a return next week, then elevating Sean Mannion from the practice squad would suffice for one week.
Hall didn’t have to look to score points in his cameo in Green Bay, so we have no idea what he might look like in this offense in that situation. Whatever the Vikings decide to do over the coming days, I would be very surprised if it wasn’t Hall who gets the first crack at it in Atlanta. Any new QB coming in would have little time to prepare for that game. It’s time to ride with the rookie for better or worse.
Quarterbacks unexpectedly being thrust into a starting role and flourishing is not unheard of. Can Hall be the next success story?