In roster moves, Vikings put backup QB competition behind them

Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell was responding to a question about his handling of the backup quarterback situation when he made a smooth pivot to praise starting quarterback Kirk Cousins’ leadership abilities.

Perhaps no moment so far in the New Purple Regime has offered a starker contrast between O’Connell and his predecessor Mike Zimmer.

“I don’t want to give last minute news, but [Cousins] got a lot of votes to be captain,” O’Connell said Thursday. “You’ll find out how many when we go through this. [Cousins’ leadership] is not just in the quarterback room, but the whole team.

“I think with the platform that Kirk has with our team and how he took it and ran with it, he authentically led us forward. Obviously he has a role in this room. as a quarterback, but it goes much deeper than that.”

O’Connell obviously hopes Cousins’ amazing longevity continues into an 11th NFL season, especially early on. The only remaining replacement is Nick Mullens, who was acquired by trade on August 22, just 20 days before the September 11 season opener against the Packers at US Bank Stadium.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said Thursday the team is considering adding a third quarterback to the practice squad after releasing veteran Sean Mannion and second-year pro Kellen Mond. Mond was claimed by the Browns while Mannion opted to sign with the Seahawks practice squad.

On Thursday, the Vikings have two more spots on their 16-man practice squad after signing cornerback Tay Gowan and wide receiver Travis Toivonen, a Red Wing, Minnesota, who played college at North Dakota.

When asked if he assumed that going into the preseason, Mond or Mannion – both unproven as NFL quarterbacks and neither having earned the trust of Zimmer – would come forward and win the No. 2 job, O’Connell said: “It wasn’t my assumption and in fact I said to these two guys, ‘Just understand you’re not not just competing with each other.’ I said I wanted someone to win the job, not just a competition. That meant whoever we thought was going to be our No. 2 quarterback had to give us the best chance of winning football games. .

So why not add another quarterback to the competition in the spring instead of waiting until the end of August when there is so little time for the new player to learn the offense?

“Kwesi and I talked a lot about how we wanted to provide very fair and open competition between these two guys,” O’Connell said. “It’s pretty remarkable how close the rep count ended up being in games and throughout the spring and summer for these two guys.”

In the end, Mannion wasn’t good enough and Mond wasn’t far enough in his development.

“In my personal opinion, I still think Kellen has a huge advantage,” O’Connell said. “He’s got quite a football journey ahead of him. I’m a big fan of the way Kellen works. I’m a big fan of being human. I think he’s got everything you’re looking for in a quarterback. of the NFL.

“But to ask him to be that No. 2 quarterback, being one step away from a team, we feel very strongly [will be competitive]I didn’t think it was fair to Kellen.”

And that left Mullens, who made 17 career starts, going 5-12, with the 49ers and Browns.

“With Nick it’s about knowing the player, knowing his composition, the type of work ethic, and then the 17 games he’s played,” O’Connell said. “In not always the most ideal situations, he’s been able to compete, able to show his traits and how he’ll be able to fit into what we do. I think he’s already shown me that I’m really excited to have Nick here.

“We had to make some very tough decisions which I know we didn’t take lightly. But I think we made the best decisions to help us win football games.”

Wednesday’s trade for Eagles receiver Jalen Reagor and the corresponding decision to release receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette were other examples of the team’s “No stone left unturned” philosophy.

“We are always looking for opportunities to improve the team,” Adofo-Mensah said. “We saw Jalen as someone who has a very good skill set individually, but also how he complements this room, and then also our attacking football team.”

He added: “Smith-Marsette is a really good kid. He’s had a great summer. We think he has a great future.”

O’Connell said Reagor will have a chance to compete for the punt return position that belonged to Smith-Marsette, who was claimed on waivers by the Bears on Thursday.

Adofo-Mensah said Tuesday’s trade for Texans defensive lineman Ross Blacklock brought “different skill sets” the team was trying to add up front. To make room for him, the Vikings released alleged starter Armon Watts, who was later claimed by the Bears.

“We thought it was an opportunity to add someone who has really good passing-rush skills, really disruptive in this phase,” Adofo-Mensah said. “It was a difficult conversation with Armon – someone who has been here for three years, has been productive, a great teammate, a great person.”

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