The Vikings had an underwhelming performance against the Broncos in their first preseason game of 2021. It wasn’t a pretty game by any means, but the 33-6 loss should be taken with a grain of salt considering 33 players were held out for Minnesota.
The roster got cut down to 85 players this week and there are still several key positional battles that need to be worked out ahead of the regular season. One of those battles isn’t for a starting role, but Minnesotans should know the importance of the backup quarterback position.
Jake Browning has been the favorite to win that job since the Saturday night training camp practice in which he was the only quarterback available due to COVID-19 protocols. After a shaky performance against Denver which included a pick six, it seems as if the gap between Browning and Kellen Mond has gotten smaller.
Mike Zimmer said after Monday’s practice that he thought it was Mond’s best day of practice thus far. Getting better with time is something Mond has been doing throughout the last four years, as he gradually improved in every season at Texas A&M.
Mond went 6-16 for just 53 yards through the air and looked out of sync at times in his NFL debut. Even with a below average day, the former Aggies quarterback seemed to take a stride in the QB2 battle.
What he did on the ground was entertaining and a complete change of pace with the typical Vikings’ offense. He scrambled around the pocket and ran the ball five times for 25 yards. Mond flashed his mobility frequently, something the state of Minnesota hasn’t seen on a regular basis in several years.
Throughout 2020 the Vikings had Sean Mannion as QB2 on the depth chart. He knew the offense, but there really wasn’t an aspect to his game that could help the Vikings if Kirk Cousins were to get hurt.
In my eyes Browning is similar to that of Mannion, as he knows the offense better than the other options, but the season would seem close to over if Cousins were to get hurt.
Mond on the other hand would bring an entire new aspect to the offense with the amount of athleticism and mobility he plays with. In 2017 when Sam Bradford got hurt Case Keenum took over and led the team to one of the most electric seasons in the franchise’s history.
I’m in no way saying that Mond would do the same thing if Cousins were to get hurt in 2021, but the change of pace in Keenum’s game took that Vikings team to the next level. Plus, the offensive line still looks like it could be shaky, so mobility at the quarterback position might be needed more frequently.
The scary part about Mond taking over the backup role is the fact that he still has a lot of developing to do. However, the Vikings knew that he’d need to be on the 53-man roster the moment they selected him early in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Keeping three quarterbacks on the roster isn’t something the Vikings have done regularly in the Zimmer era, and it remains to be seen if that will change this year. It does seem like the team has a ton of young talent mixed with veterans on one-year deals, so it’s possible that the front office would welcome any extra roster spots.
There’s plenty of room for debate on the Mond vs. Browning topic, but the Vikings knew exactly what they were doing when they drafted a quarterback on the second day of the draft.
It’s clear that Mond needs more development, but sometimes getting thrown into the fire is the best way to evaluate a player. Cousins gives this team the best chance to win in 2021 and he has a proven track record of being durable throughout his career.
If something were to happen to Cousins at some point in the season, having Mond take over the offense makes the most sense. It would allow the front office to begin the evaluation process earlier than expected and could give them a glimpse of the future post Cousins.
At this point the backup quarterback job is still up for grabs and the rookie should be given plenty of chances to show off his unique skill sets against the Colts on Saturday. If Browning struggles and Mond shows any sort of improvement, we could be looking at Mond as QB2 as early as next week.
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