Some observations from the Vikings’ depth chart that was issued for the regular-season opener on Sunday at Cincinnati.
- While Sean Mannion was signed to the practice squad to provide veteran depth behind Kirk Cousins, the Vikings could go into Sunday with rookie Kellen Mond as the No. 2 quarterback. Teams have the option of promoting two players from their practice squad to the game day roster without giving them a normal player contract. But it can only be done twice with a player during the season before they have to be signed to the regular roster. That means that if the Vikings are going to make Mannion the backup for Sunday’s game, they can only do that once more before having to make room for him on the 53-man roster. It’s possible that the Vikings only plan to promote Mannion if Cousins, who is not vaccinated for COVID-19, is forced to go into quarantine and can’t play at all. Otherwise, Mond might be the option if Cousins has to come out of a game he started.
- The Vikings signed Dede Westbrook in late July thinking he might eventually become their No. 3 wide receiver, but he has been limited as he recovers from an ACL injury suffered last season with Jacksonville. Minnesota will go into the season with Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson as its top two receiver and K.J. Osborn and rookie Ihmir Smith-Marsette behind them. Westbrook is the fifth receiver listed but that could change as his recovery continues.
- With Irv Smith Jr., lost for the season, Tyler Conklin is the Vikings’ top tight end. Brandon Dillon; Chris Herndon, who was acquired last week from the Jets; and Hawley, Minn.-native Ben Ellefson, who was claimed off waivers by the Vikings, are behind Conklin. Herndon likely will move past Dillon once he learns the Vikings’ offensive scheme. Ellefson is more likely to be used in a blocking role than a pass catching one.
- Blake Brandel will begin the season as the primary backup to offensive tackles Rashod Hill and Brian O’Neill and Wyatt Davis and Mason Cole will be the backups at the interior positions. Davis, a third-round pick out of Ohio State, is likely to be the backup to Oli Udoh at right guard, while Cole (who also can play guard) will be behind center Garrett Bradbury and, quite possibly, left guard Ezra Cleveland.
- D.J. Wonnum won the starting spot at right defensive end, but is likely to be replaced by Everson Griffen on passing downs. Stephen Weatherly, who lost the battle for the right end spot in training camp, is listed as the backup to left end Danielle Hunter. Rookie Patrick Jones II, a third-round pick from Pittsburgh, is No. 3 at right end. Hunter is expected to play some right end so these positions could be fluid.
- Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Nick Vigil are the starting linebackers, but with Barr having been sidelined by a knee injury, and his status uncertain for Sunday, the Vikings could be looking at starting Blake Lynch at strong-side linebacker. If that’s the case, Kendricks and Vigil will remain on the field in nickel situations, when Mackensie Alexander enters. Otherwise, Barr and Kendricks will be the primary linebackers.
- Patrick Peterson and Bashaud Breeland will be the starting outside corners and Alexander will enter in the nickel defense. The biggest news here is that Kris Boyd and Harison Hand are both listed ahead of 2020 third-round pick Cameron Dantzler, who had a rough training camp and preseason. Dantzler played in 11 games and started 10 times as a rookie and had been expected to push Breeland for a starting job.
- Smith-Marsette will return kicks, Osborn is listed behind him, and Osborn will open the season returning punts. Westbrook, who was signed in large part to handle punts, is second on the depth chart and eventually should take over this job. Smith-Marsette, a fifth-round pick from Iowa, is listed third.