Zulgad: J.J. McCarthy gets his first ‘teachable’ moments under the eye of Kevin O’Connell

The rosters for Friday’s first day of the Minnesota Vikings’ rookie minicamp included 45 players. The seven draft picks were joined by 17 undrafted free agents, 16 players receiving tryouts, and five with the Vikings last season.

No offense to 44 of those players, but only one of them was the focus. That’s what happens when you are considered a team’s quarterback of the future, and that’s the title that J.J. McCarthy holds after being selected with the 10th overall pick by the Vikings in last month’s draft.

Only one of the past three days was open to the media, which could be considered a dry run for what is to come for McCarthy this offseason. The Vikings’ organized team activities — which are optional but often draw a majority of the roster — begin later this month and will include veteran QB Sam Darnold taking much of the first-team work.

On Friday it was McCarthy and Parker McKinney, in a tryout deal out of Eastern Kentucky, taking snaps. McCarthy was the one getting frequent feedback as he worked under the watchful eyes of coach Kevin O’Connell, quarterbacks coach Josh McCown and offensive coordinator Wes Phillips.

The 21-year-old McCarthy, coming off leading Michigan to a national championship, exuded a confidence that spoke to his preparation for this day. “It didn’t feel like my first day,” he said. “I’ve been going over the offense for a long time now. So being able to (go) out there and perform and execute, that’s new, but it was nothing that was overwhelming or too much.”

McCarthy, who was introduced to portions of the Vikings offense in pre-draft meetings with O’Connell and others, took 16 snaps Friday that the Vikings hope will be significant one day, only because they will serve as a reminder of his first time on the field at TCO Performance Center. There were some passes with nice touch and others that fell incomplete. There also was a pass that undrafted linebacker K.J. Cloyd stepped in front of and returned for what would have been a pick-six.

“We’ll go in and watch the competitive reps in (7-on-7) that we had,” O’Connell said. “We’ll watch individuals and try to tie some teaching points. You know, ‘Was he open enough throwing to his left? Was he closed enough throwing to his right? What did you see here pre-snap that made you anticipate making that throw, or why didn’t you anticipate making that throw?’

“Then we try to tie it all together with our multiple views. Total learning environment. I know some folks may be keeping track of completions and interceptions and things like that. Too early for that conversation, I can tell you that much. But it’s all teachable.”

This would be true for all position groups on the field this weekend, but especially for McCarthy and fellow first-round pick Dallas Turner, who will be stepping in as one of the Vikings’ key edge rushers this season.

O’Connell is a straight shooter for an NFL coach, so when he wants to turn down the temperature on McCarthy he will say that, and when he’s asked about the approach to developing him, you are going to get a relatively abridged but honest answer.

There will be continued questions about when McCarthy might start, but O’Connell clearly sees this as a work in progress and not a race to get the rookie under center in an NFL game.

The weekend camp was part of that process.

“We’re keeping it pretty tight for right now as a group, but J.J. is getting a little bit more – you know, a little bit extra here and there, a little bit of stacking some things together for him,” O’Connell said. “So when Monday
comes around, that’s the way I’m kind of looking at this weekend. … (It’s) really about preparing him to then step in with the full group next week, and then a week from there, we start our first OTA with the whole group.

“He’s doing a great job of handling everything and just enjoying seeing the process, rep-to-rep improvement, taking coaching points from Josh or Wes or myself, and just continuing to build on what we – we spent a lot of time together pre-draft, and one of the real benefits of that, is in a lot of ways, a lot of things we’re talking about he’s not hearing for the first time now.”

Story originally appeared on Vikings Wire