Vikings Working on Mechanical Tweak With Rookie QB J.J. McCarthy

The Vikings are altering how McCarthy stands in shotgun.
Mar 2, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan quarterback J J McCarthy (QB05) during the 2024 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Mar 2, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan quarterback J J McCarthy (QB05) during the 2024 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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An NFL team's offseason program is more about teaching than it is about competition; there's plenty of time for the latter when training camp rolls around in late July. The spring is about coaching up players on their technique, installing offensive and defensive schemes, and aiming to get better through repetition. To that end, it's notable that the Vikings are working with rookie quarterback J.J. McCarthy on a specific element of his footwork. They're having start with his left foot forward when he's receiving snaps out of the shotgun, which is a change from what he did at Michigan.

"We've got him with the left foot up stance, which is a little different for him," offensive coordinator Wes Phillips said on Tuesday. "So just kind of adjusting how you're used to standing in the gun, with your left foot up or if you're used to more of a square stance or some people are right foot up. Trying to get everybody kind of on the same page with how we do it and how it times up with all of our concepts. He's doing well with it thus far."

In college, McCarthy stood with his feet on the same level when taking snaps out of the gun.

The Vikings want him standing with the left foot forward, presumably for reasons related to timing. That's how they had Kirk Cousins and all of their other quarterbacks stand in the shotgun. It's a subtle difference, but you can see how Cousins' right foot is a bit further back in the image below.

It'll be interesting to hear from McCarthy at some point on how he's doing with that adjustment. He dropped one shotgun snap for a fumble during Tuesday's OTA, but he also showed some positive signs during that practice.

As Phillips explained, there's a lot that goes into teaching quarterbacks who are coming from the college level to the NFL, specifically pertaining to the timing of their dropbacks.

"The NFL is such a timing and rhythm-based passing game," Phillips said. "Whereas, at times, in college, there's a little more bouncing around or just kind of shuffling around. Sometimes, quarterbacks aren't really given drops, it's a little bit on them to feel it out, and 'how many steps do I need to take to get this ball out on time?' Just defining those things, I think, helps these guys operate in the system. It takes a little bit (of time) on the front end to learn and adjust."

McCarthy has a long ways to go in his development. There's work to be done on his footwork and lower-body mechanics, his upper-body mechanics, his ability to read NFL defenses, his command of the playbook, the consistency of his accuracy, and everything else you can imagine. Nonetheless, the Vikings are pleased with where he's at right now.

"J.J. has come in, he's been a sponge, he's been preparing on his own," Phillips said. "It shows up that he's working on his own. Everything we give him, he's studying at night. And then on the field, you see the talent. The reason why we liked him were all those things. The intangibles of J.J. McCarthy, the things he does outside the building to get better, but also, you see the talent out here, you see the arm, you see the juice that he's got when he lets go of the football. It's real early, OTA 2, but we feel like he's right where he needs to be right now."

Related: How Soon Will J.J. McCarthy Start at QB for the Vikings?

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Will Ragatz