Vikings' Addison building connections with new QBs

The second spring of Jordan Addison's NFL career is unfolding in somewhat the same manner as his first, with the receiver stealing as much time as he can with a new quarterback while Justin Jefferson's absence from the Vikings' offseason program makes Addison the team's top receiver.

The difference in 2024 is, Addison is no longer the new face in Minnesota. It's his quarterbacks who are new, with Sam Darnold continuing to lead the Vikings' first-team offense while rookie J.J. McCarthy gets time to develop. But the challenge remains the same: Addison needs to earn trust and build a connection with an unfamiliar quarterback as soon as he can.

"I mean, [it takes] time, and we just don't have enough of it," quarterbacks coach Josh McCown said. "When you're in the situation that we are, where you got a couple of new players, they need to feel the routes from these guys. And they need to feel how Jordan is going to break or cut on a route. It may be more of a simple route, that maybe if you're two or three years into it with a quarterback, you don't spend as much time detailing because you've done that before. They know each other. But in our version of it right now, we've got to spend time on all those details. And that's good. That's good for all of us."

The process with the new QBs, Addison said Wednesday, has gone "better than expected." And while it might be just a matter of time before the Vikings reach a long-term deal with Jefferson, the fact the receiver remains away from the optional portion of the team's offseason program means Addison's connection with Darnold is even more important.

The Vikings' 2023 first-round pick did what he could this offseason to make himself a primary target for quarterbacks, working to refine a plan off the line of scrimmage he said was too indecisive a year ago.

"I wasn't as confident in my releases," he said. "I didn't have no plan. When I was coming up to the line, I was kind of just freelancing and trying to do what I could do."

He consulted with Vikings receivers coach Keenan McCardell, the 17-year NFL veteran whom Addison credits for his success so far. This spring, cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. said, Addison has looked more explosive because of the attention he devoted to his releases.

"That's been a main focus for me," Addison said. "It's been paying off. My work is showing out there."

His ability to support the Vikings' new QBs could be particularly important early in the season, with T.J. Hockenson still recovering from the ACL surgery he had at the end of January. Addison caught 70 passes for 911 yards and 10 touchdowns as a rookie and was named to the Pro Football Writers of America's NFL All-Rookie team. He could be in line for more opportunities, and bigger numbers, with Hockenson possibly out at the beginning of the season.

"It's on the field, too, but it starts in the building: just showing up to everything on time, answering questions in meetings, showing the quarterback you know what you're doing," he said. "We're playmakers out there, so I don't feel like it's that hard for us — we go out there, we get open, so that takes all the pressure off the quarterback. But it's also starting to build a locker room outside of football. So we're doing our thing."

Addison has built a friendship with Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels, through a connection between their girlfriends. McDaniels was there for the Vikings' Monday night win over the 49ers last October, when Addison posted 123 yards and two touchdowns.

"I gave him a jersey, and then we got close from there," Addison said. Then, in case McDaniels was watching his news conference Wednesday, Addison said, "So let me get a ticket to the [Western Conference Finals] game tomorrow."

Addison could become an even more recognizable face in the Twin Cities in 2024 if he can build on what he did as a rookie. He caught seven of his 10 touchdowns from Kirk Cousins last season; his numbers dipped as Jefferson's hamstring injury sent more defensive attention his way and the Vikings shuttled through quarterbacks after Cousins tore his Achilles tendon.

At least at the start of the Vikings' offseason, Addison's presence is particularly critical to the Vikings' offense. Cousins' successor could count on him heavily, too.

"Sam, Nick [Mullens], J.J., too, they all anticipate. They all look good," Addison said. "So I'm confident with whoever they throw out there."