J.J. McCarthy Already Being Tweaked by Vikings

Vikings mock draft
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy looks to pass against Indiana during the second half of U-M's 52-7 win over Indiana on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, in Ann Arbor. © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The Minnesota Vikings used a first-round pick on quarterback J.J. McCarthy, knowing full well they didn’t want to throw him into the fire. With veteran Sam Darnold signed, the hope was that the Michigan product could take some time to develop and enter action when it was determined he was ready. That point remains to be seen, but the coaching staff is already working on molding the young signal caller.

J.J. McCarthy Already Being Tweaked by Vikings

With the way Michigan ran things at the collegiate level, J.J. McCarthy would always come into the NFL with some question marks. He was in a run-heavy offense, and Jim Harbaugh often opted against his quarterback showing off his arm talent. That certainly didn’t mean it wasn’t there, but there would always be a need for refinement at the next level.

purple rumor mill
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) signs autographs during the national championship celebration at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024. © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Working through his first handful of practices with Kevin O’Connell, it appears that the Vikings have given McCarthy some instruction regarding different ways to set up, specifically out of the shotgun. According to Vikings reporter Will Ragatz, mechanical tweaks were the name of the game early on.

Offensive coordinator Wes Phillips said, “We’ve got him with the left foot up stance, which is a little different for him. So just kind of adjusting how you’re used to standing in the gun, with your left foot up, or if you’re used to more of a square stance or some people are right foot up. Trying to get everybody kind of on the same page with how we do it and how it times up with all of our concepts. He’s doing well with it thus far.”

Minnesota Vikings 2024 NFL Draft. Watch as QB J.J. McCarthy addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center on Friday. The Vikings traded up one spot on the draftboard with the New York Jets for McCarthy.

It was always going to be crucial to ensure that McCarthy had a strong base and that his footwork was well-positioned to the point of success at the next level. Ultimately, the game is much faster in the National Football League, and the quicker that McCarthy can adapt to that, the faster he will be able to be considered for a starting role.

Talking about timing and the speed at which the game is played at the highest level, Phillips suggested some of their thought processes for their new rookie. “The NFL is such a timing and rhythm-based passing game. Whereas, at times, in college, there’s a little more bouncing around or just kind of shuffling around. Sometimes, quarterbacks aren’t really given drops, it’s a little bit on them to feel it out, and ‘how many steps do I need to take to get this ball out on time?’”

Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports.

Early returns on the work ethic and adjustments have been positive. The more McCarthy can absorb and immediately incorporate following overnight study sessions, the better prepared he will continue to be when taking the field. With multiple months left before Week 1, encouraging signs like this aren’t going to stop any hype trains calling for him to start.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.