Does Training Camp Actually Matter for Sam Darnold and QB1 Stakes?

Sam darnold
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Darnold addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center during OTAs. Darnold joined the Vikings' roster in March 2024 during free agency, on deck as a Kirk Cousins replacement and sharing the QB room later with rookie passer J.J. McCarthy of Michigan.

Sam Darnold has already been on the field for the Minnesota Vikings. He signed this offseason as the veteran replacement for Kirk Cousins, and he went through minicamp practices. Kevin O’Connell’s team is set to kick off training camp, but does it matter for Darnold?

Does Training Camp Actually Matter for Sam Darnold and QB1 Stakes?

When the Minnesota Vikings take the field in front of fans, and reporters, Sam Darnold will have more eyes on him than he has at any point since joining the organization. The eyes that have seen him thus far have shared exciting reviews, but that begs the question. Does anything we see right now matter?

The Carolina Panthers arrive at Wofford College for their 2022 training camp. The team plans to host 12 training camp practices that are free and open to the public. This Saturday July 30, the team will hold the ‘Back Together’ event at Gibbs Stadium at the college. The Panthers’ Sam Darnold talks about working with his fellow players at training camp. © ALEX HICKS JR./SPARTANBURG HERALD-JOURNAL / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The problem for Sam Darnold has been his play during game action. The former first-round pick has failed to produce with both the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers. Largely a byproduct of poor circumstances, the Vikings hope they are right to believe that Darnold can get it done on the field.

Training camp largely reflects any other practice, and while there will be joint opportunities and scrimmage-like scenarios, it isn’t full speed. Even as training camp turns into preseason action, in which Darnold should not be expected to participate significantly, the training wheels won’t have totally been taken off.

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What the Minnesota Vikings, Kevin O’Connell, analysts around the league, and fans need to see is what Darnold does when it counts. Full-speed game action is the only way to know whether he is a legitimate option surrounded by solid offensive weapons. It’s fair to think that he may be productive, but putting anything concrete to that notion before he steps under center for real is unfair.

The hope is that Darnold immediately sees success and can keep the Vikings competitive. With the team in a better spot for the future, delaying the start of J.J. McCarthy until he is completely ready remains a must. All parties involved are aligned on that, and it directly correlates to what version of himself Darnold can be.

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy looks to pass against Georgia during the second half of the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Friday, Dec. 31, 2021. © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK.

It’s great that the former USC Trojan will get practice reps and be able to spin it for fans, but nothing matters until the games begin to count.

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.