Vikings could be Sam Darnold’s last chance as an NFL starting quarterback

Who will be be the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings and Kevin O’Connell in Week 1 of the 2024 NFL regular season? Will it be first-round pick J.J. McCarthy or USC star Sam Darnold?

This offseason, the Minnesota Vikings parted ways with Kirk Cousins. He signed with the Atlanta Falcons. The Vikings pivoted by signing former USC Trojan Sam Darnold and paid him $10 million on a one-year deal, of which $8.75 million is fully guaranteed.

O’Connell and Minnesota general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah traded up in the NFL draft and selected Justin James McCarthy at No. 10. McCarthy, 21, went 15-0 as a starter in 2023-24, winning a national championship at Michigan.

Despite the hype and excitement for McCarthy, according to ESPN, Darnold is on tap for QB1 duties, at least per the anticipated first-team reps next week, when the team convenes for organized team activities. ESPN’s Kevin Seifert wrote on Friday, “It is fully expected that veteran Sam Darnold will be taking the first-team reps when veterans begin football activities next week, but O’Connell did make a point to note that McCarthy’s recall of their previous schematic work ‘jumped out right away.’”

“The Vikings will follow an individualized development plan they created for each of the quarterbacks they considered drafting, one that requires McCarthy to hit specific benchmarks and gives coach Kevin O’Connell full authority to make the timing decision.”

Darnold will probably start for the Vikings when Week 1 rolls around, but McCarthy is inevitably on tap for the gig sooner rather than later. It’s only a matter of when. The big question is if Darnold can maximize this bridge year in Minnesota and become an attractive option for other teams in 2025. This is the year Sam Darnold has to step forward. If not now, when?

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Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire