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Zulgad’s minicamp observations: The likely reality of Kellen Mond’s role this season

NFL: Minnesota Vikings OTA
Jun 9, 2021; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kellen Mond (11) participates in drills at OTA at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest storylines of the Vikings’ training camp this summer will be how rookie quarterback Kellen Mond looks and how ready (or not ready) he might be to play in the NFL. This is to be expected given the Vikings selected Mond in the third round of the draft and any quarterback taken before day three is going to draw plenty of interest.

If Mond looks good in a preseason game, or Kirk Cousins struggles, there will be immediate clamoring about whether Mond will be ready sooner rather than later. That’s how fans and media approach it. Not surprisingly, the team has a much different approach and that was on display Tuesday at TCO Performance Center as the Vikings opened their three-day minicamp.

It was pretty clear through watching the 1-hour, 10-minute practice that the Vikings view Jake Browning as the backup to Cousins and that, if anything, Mond and former Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley are both third on the depth chart. Mond took part in Tuesday’s session shortly after signing his contract.

Mond’s status on a yet-to-be released depth chart — that won’t come until a few weeks into training camp — could change at any point, but the Vikings are likely going to be cautious to make sure they don’t rush the soon-to-be 22-year-old (his birthday is June 22). Patience is possible here because the Vikings have no need to rush Mond.

Cousins is entering the second-to-last season of his current contract and hasn’t missed a start because of injury since taking over as the No. 1 quarterback in Washington in 2015. But there does need to be a plan in case something happens to Cousins.

That’s where the Vikings probably want to get a look at Browning, who was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Washington in 2019 after throwing for 12,028 yards in four seasons and has spent the past two years on the practice squad. Browning is familiar with the Vikings’ offensive system and his presence ahead of Mond would give the rookie the luxury of being able to learn without immediate pressure that he might have to step in for Cousins.

Should Browning show he can’t handle the backup role, the Vikings could look to sign a veteran on the cheap, if they remain concerned that Mond simply won’t be ready to play in 2021. The last thing the Vikings want to do is put Mond in an immediate situation to fail and ruin his confidence before he ever gets started.

A few other observations from Tuesday:

  • The starting offensive line had Rashod Hill at left tackle, Ezra Cleveland at left guard, Garrett Bradbury at center, Dakota Dozier at right guard and Brian O’Neill at right tackle. First-round pick Christian Darrisaw, who missed time during Organized Team Activities because of a groin pull, worked with the second team at left tackle. Wyatt Davis, a third-round pick, was at right guard with the second unit. The Vikings have to be hoping that Darrisaw and Davis win the competition for the starting left tackle and right guard spots, respectively, in training camp. Hill is a capable backup but not a starting left tackle, and Dozier is coming off a very rough season at left guard.
  • Cornerbacks Cameron Dantzler, who battled injury issues last season, and recently signed veteran Bashaud Breeland (shoulder surgery) both watched practice, leaving Mackensie Alexander and Patrick Peterson to work as the outside corners with the first unit. Veteran Tye Smith, another free agent addition, and Kris Boyd were not at practice. Jeff Gladney also continues to be absent from the offseason program. The second of the Vikings’ two first-round picks in 2020, Gladney was arrested in April on assault charges in Dallas. The minicamp is mandatory, so any absences would have to be excused or the player can be fined.
  • The Vikings made it official, signing defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to a one-year contract. The deal is for $3.6 million but could be worth up to $4.35 million with incentives, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Media. The Vikings were able to make the move in part because of the 2021 salary-cap space they cleared by reworking defensive end Danielle Hunter’s contract this week. Hunter, coming off neck surgery, was at minicamp but did not take part. Richardson has been a starter for much of his career, but figures to be used in passing situations and play behind starting 3-technique Dalvin Tomlinson. Richardson has been assigned No. 9.