EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — Thrust into a regular-season game for the first time, Minnesota rookie quarterback Jaren Hall walked to the huddle deep in Vikings’ territory in Lambeau Field on Sunday, trying to keep his team together after Kirk Cousins went down with an injury.
Hall’s command of the huddle, in just the eighth week of his first season out of Brigham Young, made an impression. The Vikings think he is ready to start this weekend in Atlanta.
“When he came in, he was spitting out the play calls with no hesitation, with no verbiage that was missing,” tight end T.J. Hockenson said. “It was good. He took control of the huddle and that’s what you need out of a rookie quarterback. They’ve got to have the confidence to come into the huddle and just really take control of it.”
Cousins is done for the season after he had surgery Wednesday for a torn Achilles tendon. A trade for Joshua Dobbs, who started all eight games this season for Arizona, added to the quarterback room on Tuesday, but it’s Hall who will start on Sunday.
“You always try to be prepared as if you’re going to play,” Hall said. “Now, it’s just understanding your role’s a little bit bigger, so you’ve got to take a little more urgency to it, spend more time with the coaches and be great at answering questions and make sure I’m getting the information that I need."
Minnesota took Hall, already 25 years old, in the fifth round of this year’s draft as the 12th quarterback selected. At 6-foot, 207 pounds, he was considered a bit undersized. But Hall is athletic and considered to be an accurate passer.
And he’s impressed everyone in the organization with his demeanor.
“How he came off, how he was on the sideline, getting some great feedback from the guys in the huddle with him, all that information led me to believe Jaren is ready for this moment,” Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said.
“We have a lot of confidence in him. We have a long way to go before Sunday, so we have to use every moment we can to get him up to speed and confident, so he can go out there and play fast.”
In his short time against the Packers, Hall was 3-of-4 passing for 23 yards. In three preseason games, he was 26 of 48 for 264 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He added eight runs for 35 yards.
Now, he’ll lead an offense missing Cousins and star receiver Justin Jefferson, with fellow rookie Jordan Addison taking on more of a role with Jefferson sidelined.
“We’ve kind of all told him he’s got nothing to lose, just go out there and sling it,” Hockenson said. “You can’t worry about anything, and just trust his guys, trust his receivers and trust that he knows what he’s doing because he’s ready for the opportunity.”
Perhaps no one expected Hall to be ready at this point.
Cousins has been one of the most durable quarterbacks in the league, starting all but one game the past six seasons. Nick Mullens, who started the year as the backup, is on injured reserve with a back injury.
Hall will become the third rookie quarterback to be selected on the third day of the draft and start a game this season, following Cleveland’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Las Vegas’ Aidan O’Connell.
Another fifth-rounder, Clayton Tune, could start this weekend for Arizona after Dobbs was traded to Minnesota. Undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent also has started for Chicago.
It will be the second straight year three third-day draft picks started at quarterback for a team in his first season. San Francisco’s Brock Purdy, Washington’s Sam Howell and New England’s Bailey Zappe did so last season. Before that, only six quarterbacks had done so over the previous eight seasons.
“Ultimately, you don’t know that anybody’s ready until they get out there,” Minnesota general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said of Hall.
“Everything you know about his background, his story, he is poised. … And look, your first snaps come backed up at Lambeau Field. That’s not, I would say, the ideal situation. On a third down, he stood in there and he converted a pass. You always look for those small signs, because sometimes the data is not going to be large, and you have to make decisions.”
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