With Kirk Cousins lost for the season, and his future employment with the Vikings in question, the Vikings coaching staff and front office have a lot of issues to resolve. The first is what to do at quarterback now that Cousins is out. Head coach Kevin O’Connell did not make any commitments regarding who his future starting quarterback would be, but with Nick Mullens still on injured reserve for at least one more game, it would seem that Jaren Hall will get at least one starting opportunity to show what he can do at Atlanta next weekend. The Falcons have a QB controversy, with Desmond Ridder remaining on the sideline after being cleared of a concussion, and former Vikings’ backup Taylor Heinicke taking over and producing 20 points in the second half to Ridder’s 3 points in the first half.
Be that as it may, Jaren Hall has a big opportunity to advance his career next Sunday. He didn’t show much in relief of Cousins against the Packers, but with a full week of practice with the starting unit, and knowing he’ll be the starter on Sunday- which isn’t confirmed yet at this point- will likely prepare him much better when he hits the field on Sunday.
The Vikings coaching staff will undoubtedly need to work overtime to prepare both Hall on the game plan for the Falcons, likely with a more limited playbook and perhaps some different plays to accommodate where Hall is right now and what plays he’s more comfortable running. He’ll also need to get as many reps as possible with the starters to help develop his timing and rapport with them as he’s only played with them for a handful of snaps.
The Vikings will also be without Cousins’ audibles- something he’s done with increasing frequency this season- and all the knowledge and savvy that comes with being a starter for the past nine seasons. Instead, they will have to go back to dealing with rookie mistakes, turnovers, panic in the pocket, indecision, misreads, and all the other things that go with rookie quarterbacks in the NFL.
It would certainly be nice if Jaren Hall was able to avoid some of those pitfalls, and he does bring greater mobility than Cousins, but also has some good plays on tape. Back in the preseason, former NFL QB JT O’Sullivan did a break-down of some of Hall’s plays in week three of preseason, with some nice takeaways. Of course preseason is just that, and the level of competition and complexity of the game increases dramatically once real games are played, but if Hall is able to make the same throws he was able to make in preseason with consistency (consistency being the key word), he could prove to be a pleasant surprise. Of course hope springs eternal from selective pre-season quarterback performances, as is the case not just with rookies, but veterans like Jordan Love and Justin Fields this preseason as well. We know how they turned out.
But Jaren Hall has yet to have a real opportunity to show what he can do, and we won’t really know how he’ll react to being a starting quarterback in the NFL until he actually starts a game. Indeed, we won’t really know his potential for about 25 games, if he gets that many, which former offensive coordinator and head coach Brian Billick used to say was when you begin to know what you have in a young quarterback. A few quarterbacks from modest beginnings proved to be pretty good. The overwhelming majority- probably 95-99%- do not. We can talk about Brock Purdy or Tom Brady or Kirk Cousins or some other late-round rookie that turned into a decent or better quarterback, but it’s rare for them to turn into a quality starter. It’s also rare for them to get much of an opportunity to start as well.
Jaren Hall was on-track, in all likelihood, to be a career backup prior to Cousins’ season-ending injury. He still may be. Cousins would’ve been the starter until the Vikings decided to move on from him, at which point they’d likely draft or bring in another quarterback with a top draft pick or big money contract and in so doing be committed to them as QBOTF.
But now Jaren Hall has the opportunity to show what he can do as a starter. It may not last more than a game or two, but it’s an opportunity he needs to make count if he’s to advance his career. The coaching staff has doubtless formed some opinions of Hall since he’s been drafted, and it’s at least a modest positive that they went with him as Cousins’ primary backup instead of promoting Sean Mannion in Nick Mullens’ absence.
Hall came across as well-spoken in his post-game press conference after the Packers game, showing maturity and not appearing to be overwhelmed or nervous or outside his comfort zone answering questions. That’s a good sign, as were his answers, in gauging his readiness mentally to step into a larger role next weekend. But still everything to prove.
Looking Back at Hall’s BYU Career
I did a break-down of Hall after he was drafted earlier this year, and I won’t repeat all of that piece here, but I will say the main detractions cited in his draft reports were the fact that he never played under pressure at BYU, he’s a 25-year old rookie, small for the position at 6’0” and 207 pounds, his accuracy was spotty, limited arm strength, and had issues with injuries and fumbles during his career at BYU.
On the plus side, most agreed he played with poise in the pocket, was very good getting through his reads quickly, moves well in the pocket, and has good ball placement. Those qualities were on display in JT O’Sullivan’s preseason breakdown of Hall.
Here is Dane Brugler’s breakdown of Hall in his pre-draft profile:
STRENGTHS: Athletic and quick-footed … very efficient in the RPO game and on play-action-boots … spins the ball well on the move and his arm strength looked better on his 2022 tape … controlled mechanics in the pocket or in motion, with a clean, compact release … displays workable ball placement on pitch-and-catch and bucket throws … cunning as a scrambler and when buying time (sacked just 12 times in 2022) … fully functioning internal clock and not afraid to throw the ball away (7.6 percent of his attempts in 2022 were throwaways, which ranked No. 2 among qualifying FBS quarterbacks) … well-built and strong for his shorter stature … mature and married with a family (Blake Freeland: “He’s very selfless and a great leader.”) … competitive, multi-year team captain and was raised to be a leader.
WEAKNESSES: Shorter than ideal with a history of injuries … inconsistent deep-ball accuracy and his receivers are often waiting for the football … accuracy suffers when forced to reset his feet/eyes on the move … when he misses, it is usually high … it will be tougher for him to make defenders miss in the NFL than it was in college … needs to take better care of the football, having accounted for more fumbles (13) at BYU than interceptions (11) … his durability is a question mark: missed five games in 2019 because of multiple concussions; redshirted in 2020 because of a hip injury; missed two games as a junior with a rib/core injury (September 2021); missed time as a senior because of a right ankle injury (November 2022) … turns 25 before draft weekend.
SUMMARY: A two-year starter at BYU, Hall was a multi-sport athlete for the Cougars and played in offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick’s balanced scheme. The first African-American starting quarterback in school history, he replaced Zach Wilson and posted an outstanding 51-to-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio the past two seasons. A compactly-built athlete with strong character, Hall is poised in the pocket and a smooth operator on the move to make plays with his arm or legs. He won’t benefit from as many scheme-winners at the next level and will need to improve his passing anticipation to push the ball versus NFL defenses. Overall, Hall is a cerebral, dual-threat passer with above average control and efficiency in his process, but his average arm talent, short stature and injury history are potential roadblocks. He has NFL backup potential in an RPO-based, play-action offense.
Another positive for Hall was that he reportedly scored high on the S2 cognition test which measures a QB’s ability to process information quickly, among other things, which is a must-have for NFL quarterbacks.
Jaren Hall seems likely to get his chance to start an NFL game next weekend in Atlanta. What he makes of it and how he performs will depend on a variety of factors, including his own preparation and readiness, talent, and ability to rise to the occasion.
We should all expect a significant drop-off from Cousins’ performance this season, simply given the fact that Hall is a rookie that has never started a game in the NFL and Cousins is a top ten quarterback in the league with nine years of starting experience.
We should also expect a more limited game plan offensively and rookie mistakes. But if Hall can limit those mistakes, and play well enough to get a win, he may get another chance to start at home against the Saints.
How many games will Jaren Hall start for the Vikings this season?
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