Vikings veteran has high hopes for rookie QB J.J. McCarthy: 'He's gonna be a great player for a long time'

When the Minnesota Vikings allowed Kirk Cousins to leave in free agency for a deal with the Atlanta Falcons, they needed to pivot to finding their next starting quarterback. Their first move was to sign Sam Darnold, who can be the type of stopgap option that serves as a bridge from Cousins to whomever would come next.

Their subsequent move was to trade up one spot in the 2024 NFL Draft and land former Michigan star J.J. McCarthy with the No. 10 overall pick. McCarthy was considered one of the top few quarterbacks in the draft, and he came off the board fifth among them, after Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye and Michael Penix Jr.

Unlike some of the other top QBs, McCarthy didn’t have a huge body of work in college. He started for only two seasons and threw just 713 passes in his college career. The next quarterback off the board after him (Bo Nix), by contrast, threw 1,936 passes across five years at Auburn and Oregon.

It seems like the Vikes want to bring McCarthy along his developmental progress at his own pace, but he’s already impressing teammates, including recently signed linebacker Blake Cashman.

“He’s gonna be a great player for a long time, and I can’t wait to continue to see his growth,” Cashman said during an appearance on The Jim Rome Show. “Not only as a quarterback with his skills, but also becoming an even smarter player.”

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Cashman apparently did not know all that much about his new teammate before playing against him during the offseason program, and what he’s seen has been eye-opening from both a physical standpoint and a mental one. On the physical front, Cashman pointed to McCarthy’s arm strength.

“He’s got a great long ball. And even those tight windows, where it closes fast at the next level, he can zip the ball past a linebacker or safety’s head and squeeze it in those tight windows,” Cashman said. “That’s very promising to see.”

And on the mental side of things, Cashman spotlighted the way McCarthy is already trying to take ownership of the locker room and establish himself as a leader.

“He’s a leader. He’s eager to learn,” Cashman said. “A lot of young guys, sometimes they can come in, be a little timid or shy, but he’s walking around the locker room, big smile on his face, shaking hands, getting to know everybody.”

It’s better to hear positive reports from teammates during the offseason program than negative ones, obviously, but it is still the offseason and we still don’t yet know if McCarthy will be the starter at any point this season, let alone Week 1. He has a strong infrastructure surrounding him in much the same way he did at Michigan and will therefore be well set up for success, but it’ll still be up to him to turn the physical tools and other traits into production on the field.

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