Kellen Mond’s rookie season with the Vikings was one he would like to forget. The third-round pick spent the year as the team’s No. 3 quarterback, and his only game action came in a late-season loss in Green Bay. He completed 2-of-3 passes for 5 yards in that brief stint, and coach Mike Zimmer provided a harsh assessment of Mond when he asked about the QB.
Zimmer is now gone — replaced by quarterback-friendly coach Kevin O’Connell — and Mond will have a fresh start when the Vikings’ open training camp on Wednesday. How Mond performs will be key, considering it would make sense for him to be the backup to Kirk Cousins with Sean Mannion as the No. 3 for the Vikings’ Sept. 11 opener against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Mannion, 30, remains on the Vikings’ roster in part because Cousins wants him around, but if Cousins misses time because of injury, turning to a veteran who has played in only 14 games and started three in six seasons isn’t the best option. The good news is that Cousins has only missed two games since taking over as a starter in 2015, but given the expectation the Vikings have this season, there has to be a better backup plan in place in case something happens to Cousins.
Mond was the second player the Vikings selected as part of an 11-person 2021 draft class that got limited playing opportunities in Zimmer’s final season as coach. Stanford’s Davis Mills was selected one pick after Mond near the top of the third round and started 11 of 13 games in which he played for the Houston Texans. Mills, 23, will enter this season as the Texans’ starting quarterback.
So did former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman pick the wrong guy, or was Mond not developed properly? Mond started four seasons at Texas A&M and led the Aggies to a 9-1 record and victory over North Carolina in the Orange Bowl two seasons ago.
Mond, who is 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, threw for 2,282 yards and 19 touchdowns with three interceptions in 2020, completing a career-best 63.3 percent of passes. He finished his time at A&M having completed 59 percent of his passes for 9,661 yards and 71 touchdowns with 27 interceptions. He also rushed for 1,609 yards and 22 touchdowns.
It will be interesting to see if O’Connell designs a package of plays for a mobile QB who would provide a changeup from what Cousins brings. That would give Mond immediate value, but what really will make him valuable is if the Vikings trust him enough to be the primary backup to Cousins. Training camp and the Vikings’ three preseason games should go a long way toward helping O’Connell and his staff make a decision on this.
If they don’t trust Mond, it will be interesting to see if the Vikings pursue another veteran backup QB and try to get Mond onto their practice squad. It would seem likely that another team would claim Mond and give him a shot to prove himself.
- Bill Barnwell of ESPN ranks the Vikings’ offensive playmakers fourth in the NFL, behind only Cincinnati, Las Vegas and San Francisco. The Lions were 17th, the Packers 29th (yes, they’ve lost that much) and the Bears 31st. The Vikings were fifth in this ranking last year and 17th in 2020. Wide receiver Justin Jefferson’s presence could push the Vikings into the Top 3 come next summer.
- The Vikings, who will have three quarterbacks in camp (Cousins, Mannion and Mond), will essentially have a coach for each of them. Chris O’Hara is the quarterbacks coach, Jerrod Johnson is the assistant quarterbacks coach and Ryan Cordell is the pass game specialist and game management coordinator. O’Connell and offensive coordinator Wes Phillips also will be hands on with the quarterbacks.
- Cornerback Andrew Booth Jr., and guard Ed Ingram, both second-round picks, are the only two of the Vikings’ 10 draft picks who have yet to sign. The Vikings’ rookies are scheduled to report on Sunday. Booth underwent sports hernia surgery in the spring and was limited in the offseason camps. It’s unclear if he will be able to participate fully when camp starts next week.
- The Twins’ Miguel Sano, who had surgery on May 5 to repair the torn meniscus in his right knee, is nearing the end of a 20-day window for his rehab assignment. The clock began on July 4 and the Twins must soon decide whether to make room for him on their 26-man roster or jettison him. That could come through a trade — no team is likely to give the Twins anything for Sano and many probably wouldn’t even be interested in taking him for free — or by the team losing him on waivers or releasing him. Sano, an All-Star in 2017, was slashing .093/.231/.148 with one home run and three RBIs in 17 games when he was injured. He hit a career-high 34 home runs in 2019 and had 30 last season. However, he’s also struck out 1,038 times in 2,496 at-bats in eight seasons with the Twins.
- Sano is hitting .313/.353/.813 with two home runs and five RBIs in five games with the Triple-A St. Paul Saints. He slashed .313/.421/.750 with two home runs and four RBIs in five games with the Florida Complex League Twins in the Rookie League in Fort Myers, Fla., before being promoted to St. Paul.
- Former Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, who was with the New York Giants last season, reportedly gets a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and will replace Rob Gronkowski. There was some talk of Rudolph returning to the Vikings but that made little sense given how Minnesota’s offensive scheme is expected to run under O’Connell.
- Amazing how quiet it has gone on the topic of Wild star Kirill Kaprizov being back in Russia and the questions surrounding when he will be able to return to the United States? In this case, you can’t blame general manager Bill Guerin and the Wild for saying as little as possible, given how delicate the situation must be at this point.