EAGAN, Minn. — Kirk Cousins had a nondescript night at the Minnesota Vikings’ training camp practice session on Monday, but it was his backups who stole the show — and not in a good way. Neither Kellen Mond nor Sean Mannion looked ready for prime time as the Vikings staged a fully-padded evening practice in front of 7,000 fans, potentially leaving Minnesota vulnerable in the event of a Cousins injury.
The Vikings need a new No. 2 QB behind Kirk Cousins
The play of the night was arguably Cousins’ very first pass attempt, a completion to Justin Jefferson on a slant route. Cousins didn’t make any obvious mistakes throughout the evening, but he didn’t make any outstanding plays, either. Head coach Kevin O’Connell mentioned during a pre-practice press conference that training camp is “the time to try things,” but Cousins never really aired it out.
The bigger story was the substandard play of Mond and Mannion, the two signal-callers vying for Minnesota’s backup quarterback job. Mannion made one start in place of Cousins in 2021, but Mond — the club’s third-round pick in 2021 — is competing to become the Vikings’ new No. 2.
While we have to be careful not to make sweeping conclusions based on one training camp practice, neither Mond nor Mannion looked ready to win games at the NFL level on Monday night — and their struggles have lasted all camp long.
Mond is far more athletic than Mannion, which could help during in-game situations. But he made constant errors. He dropped a shotgun snap from backup center Chris Reed, a mistake he’s repeated throughout camp. In the Vikings’ two-minute drill, Mond threw a short checkdown inbounds with 20 seconds left on the clock. And he would’ve taken multiple sacks had tonight’s practice been an actual game.
Mannion was also “sacked” a number of times and looked incredibly slow and stiff on the field. Mond, at least, has his mobility going for him — Mannion was a statue in the pocket. The 30-year-old threw behind receivers on a few occasions, and his attempt at a quick-game pass got blown up by linebacker Jordan Hicks. The Vikings’ staff didn’t even give Mannion a chance to run his own two-minute drill at the end of practice.
Cousins has missed only two games since the 2015 campaign, so Minnesota has fortunately been able to refrain from turning to their backup quarterbacks. But Mond and Mannion’s ongoing struggles could force the Vikings to look elsewhere for a new No. 2 option.
Could they swing a trade for Sam Darnold (with the Panthers picking up the majority of his salary)? How about picking up Mason Rudolph from the Steelers or Mike White from the Jets? Depending on how much value O’Connell and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah put upon the backup quarterback position, they made need to make a move before the regular season gets underway.
Minnesota Vikings injury report
The Vikings are remarkably healthy at this point in training camp. That’s significant for a team seeking a new identity under a first-year general manager and head coach, as Minnesota’s decision-makers are receiving the opportunity to evaluate nearly every player on the roster.
Rookie safety Lewis Cine was nowhere to be found on the practice field, but the Vikings later announced that their first-round pick had been excused from practice. He’ll return to the club when they practice again on Wednesday.
Tight end Irv Smith Jr. was another notable absence, but that was to be expected after he underwent thumb surgery last week. He’s still likely to be ready for Week 1. In addition to Cine and Smith, rookie cornerback Akayleb Evans, defensive tackle Julian Taylor, and wide receiver Dan Chisena did not suit up. Wide receiver Blake Proehl and linebacker Ryan Connelly are on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.
Quick hits from Vikings training camp
- Kicker Greg Joseph had an excellent night overall, converting seven of eight field goals after Minnesota’s two-minute drills. He missed a 41-yarder wide left, but he was good from 50, 54, and 58 yards.
- Alexander Mattison had a nice touchdown run on a counter play from the 10-yard line. Fellow running back Kene Nwangwu, freshly back from a leg injury, broke free after a tough run and made his way down the right sideline.
- Zach Davidson made a couple of grabs, likely solidifying his status as the Vikings’ No. 3 tight end. Meanwhile, receiver Trishton Jackson also caught a few balls. Minnesota doesn’t have a lot of WR depth, so it will be interesting to see if Jackson can push his way onto the roster.
- Center Garrett Bradbury continued to struggle, getting pushed back into the pocket on several plays. Defensive tackle T.Y. McGill easily beat Bradbury on a run play, meeting Dalvin Cook in the backfield just as he took a handoff from Cousins. Chris Reed played as the backup center.
- The Vikings are staging a punt returner competition, and Ihmir Smith-Marsette received the first rep. No. 3 wide receiver K.J. Osborn was next in line, followed by rookie wideout Jalen Nailor.
- Safeties Josh Metellus and Myles Dorn, who saw more reps with Cine out, both made solid plays around the goal line. Metellus broke up a pass at the 5-yard line, while Dorn almost came down with an interception in the end zone. Veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson also broke up a pass in the end zone, but he probably should’ve been called for pass interference on the play.