After watching the two Vikings backup quarterbacks play in their preseason loss to the Raiders, it’s clear that Kellen Mond is better than Sean Mannion, both in terms of current ability and future ability. I don’t think that’s an overreaction to one game. The question is no longer who the backup should be, but whether or not Mond is ready to fill that role, or if the Vikings should look outside their building for a No. 2 option.
Veteran Mannion is a known commodity; he is a replacement level QB with a low floor and low ceiling. He’s a smart guy who has value in the boardroom and could be a great coach one day, but he doesn’t appear to be an NFL-caliber passer. Mannion went 8-for-12 for 79 yards in Las Vegas, had an average depth of target of under five yards, picked up two sacks and nearly threw a bad interception on a linebacker.
Mondt didn’t get off to a good start either, completing just two of his first seven pass attempts. Early on, the issues we’ve seen from him throughout training camp — determination and accuracy — reared their ugly head. Mond made some bad decisions and missed some open receivers. (For a more in-depth breakdown of Mond’s performance, this video from The QB School is excellent).
Then, as the game went on, he got into a rhythm and started playing well. Mond made his final two throws of the third quarter that led to the Vikings’ first touchdown, hitting Dan Cisena on a curve route for a big gain on fourth down and then rushing Wilson for the score.
His last ride was even better. Mond showed great touch on another corner route, this time to Myron Mitchell, for a 21-yard gain. After finding Mitchell on a cross, he made a great pass to Jalen Naylor across the middle of the field despite the pressure in his face. And to top it off, he delivered a dime on Wilson’s route for another touchdown. So, after starting 2-of-7, Mond finished his last seven pass attempts with a solid line: 9-of-14 for 114 yards, 2 TDs and no turnovers.
Encouragingly, most of those late-game throws weren’t first-timers. Mond was able to go through his progressions, make the right decision and deliver an accurate, timely ball.
“The only thing I told him was really after what he saw on that fourth down by Dan [Chisena], that was the clincher,” said head coach Kevin O’Connell. “His first progression was taken away, quiet in the pocket, just advanced in rhythm and threw an absolutely beautiful ball to Dan for a huge conversion. And then you saw him get to his third and fourth progression every time late to Jalen Naylor or Myron [Mitchell] on the back side. These were his secondary, and in some cases third or fourth progressions. And you see him coming back to that, that’s growth.”
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I think this game proved two things when it comes to the Vikings quarterback position. One is that Mond is better than Mannion, meaning the latter could be cut. The other is that Mond has enough long-term potential to at least stay on the roster through the end of this season and into next year’s training camp.
What O’Connell and GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah have to decide is whether they think Mond is ready to be their No. 2 quarterback right now. Kirk Cousins has been incredibly durable throughout his career, but the Vikings need someone who can give them a shot in one game or multiple games if Cousins has to miss time for any reason. This has nothing to do with Mond’s long-term growth. It’s about how he is right now and how effectively the Vikings think he can run their offense if he’s brought into action.
Again, Mond showed some really positive signs at the end of Sunday’s game. There is no dispute about that. But he was doing it against a Raiders team that was playing a lot of third-string players at that point. A strong finish in that game also doesn’t erase his poor start or the struggles I’ve seen while watching him up close in practice during training camp.
Monde should make the Vikings’ roster because of what he can become with continued development. And over the next few weeks, with more practices — including two joint sessions with the 49ers — and two more preseason games, it’s entirely possible he can prove he’s ready to be Cousins’ backup this season, eliminating the need for the Vikings to represent three defenders.
It’s also possible he remains inconsistent and the Vikings do explore signing or trading for a different quarterback. That player would replace Mannion as a theoretical “higher floor” option who could play as a pinch hitter while Mond continues to grow behind the scenes.
Mondt edged out Mannion on Sunday, but he still has work to do to lock down the Vikings’ backup job.
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