Vikings quarterback Sam Darnold already showing what he can do in new offense

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There’s a particular play from mandatory minicamp this week that stands out when analyzing veteran quarterback Sam Darnold. It was a perfectly placed throw in the corner of the end zone with the Vikings working on a layered concept near the goal line.

The most impressive part? The anticipation needed to complete the pass.

You see, when Darnold initially released that ball, receiver Trishton Jackson was still in the middle of the field as he sprinted toward the back pylon. The only way the play was going to work was if Darnold feathered the ball in with the right amount of touch, which he did, and Jackson did his part by hauling in a touchdown.

“Just trying to do my job every single play,” Darnold said. “It’s as simple as that.”

That sequence showcased how quickly Darnold has already picked up parts of the playbook as he attempts to prove the Vikings right for taking a chance on him.

After signing a 1-year, $10 million contract in the spring, Darnold has taken all of his reps with the starters throughout organized team activities and mandatory minicamp. Meanwhile, rookie quarterback J.J. McCarthy has been working in behind Darnold, which isn’t at all surprising given the way head coach Kevin O’Connell has talked about his approach to the position.

Not that Darnold is reading too much into anything right now. He’s too busy learning the new offense. He understands the opportunity in front of him.

“We’ve got a really good skill group and then, obviously, a great offensive line to go along with it,” Darnold said. “We’re excited to continue to put good days together and stack them.”

There is no question that Darnold has the arm talent necessary to succeed at the highest level.

There’s a reason the New York Jets selected him with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 draft and handed him the keys to the franchise.

There’s a reason the Carolina Panthers traded for him despite a slow start to his career with hopes of catching lightning in a bottle.

There’s a reason the San Francisco 49ers signed him to be their backup last season during their pursuit of a Super Bowl.

The early returns with the Vikings have been palpable as Darnold continues to familiarize himself with the new offense. He has made a number of incredible throws down the field that make observers do a double take. He also has done a good job not missing many layups.

“It’s about being able to put the ball in play and kind of being a point guard out there,” Darnold said. “Just get the ball to the skill guys and let them do their thing after the catch and manage the offense from there.”

The next step for Darnold is continuing to keep up with new offense as more things get installed in the summer. He has repeatedly drawn the plays on a whiteboard inside TCO Performance Center to get a better understanding of the concepts. He has also literally recorded himself calling the plays and listened back to them on a regular basis.

“The biggest thing for me is hearing the plays,” Darnold said. “The more I can hear the terminology and be able to call it right back to him and know my reads and go through it that way, the better off I’ll be.”

The better off the Vikings will be as well.

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