Vikings QB depth chart: Sean Mannion in line to start after Kirk Cousins’ positive COVID test
Kirk Cousins played all 1,039 of the Vikings’ offensive snaps during the first 15 games of the season and all 1,082 snaps during the 2020 season. However, his streak will come to an end in Week 17.
Cousins tested positive for COVID on Friday, Dec. 31. He will have to quarantine for a minimum of five days which will cause him to miss the Vikings’ “Sunday Night Football” game against the Packers.
This is bad news for the Vikings, who are currently the No. 8 seed in the NFC playoff picture. They are 7-8 and are a game back of the 49ers and Eagles for the conference’s final two unclinched Wild Card spots. A loss would put Minnesota in danger of being eliminated from the race entirely, so needless to say, their game against the Packers is an important one.
Minnesota beat Green Bay earlier in the season, but doing so without Cousins could prove extremely difficult. Why? Because their backup quarterback options are unproven.
Here’s a look at the Vikings’ quarterback depth chart as the team prepares to go to battle with a backup for the first time since Week 17 of the 2019 NFL season.
MORE: How Kirk Cousins’ absence impacts the Vikings’ playoff chances
Vikings QB depth chart
Below is the expected pecking order for the Vikings with Kirk Cousins out of action.
1. Sean Mannion
There was some uncertainty about Mannion’s availability for this week’s game, but he was cleared to return from the COVID list shortly after Cousins was placed upon it. As a result, he is expected to start for the Vikings against the Packers.
Mannion, 29, is a former third-round pick by the Rams who has been in the NFL since 2015. He has been around the league for seven years, but he has played sparingly during that time and hasn’t taken a snap since 2019.
The 6-6, 230-pound passer has an 0-2 record in two career starts and averaged 155.5 passing yards and an interception while his team averaged 16 points in those games. Mannion has never recorded a touchdown during his career, as he has completed 45 of 74 career passes (60.8 percent) for 384 yards and three interceptions.
Mannion has a solid arm but isn’t very mobile, so don’t expect to see him move around the pocket very much.
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2. Kellen Mond
Had Mannion not been ready to come off the COVID list, Mond would have started. Instead, he’ll back up the veteran.
While Mannion has been in the league for seven years, Mond is a fresh face. The 22-year-old is a fourth-round rookie who played collegiately at Texas A&M. He started for most of his four-year career and racked up 9,661 passing yards, 71 touchdowns and 27 interceptions. As a runner, he generated 1,609 yards and 22 touchdowns over his four seasons.
Mond (6-3, 211 pounds) wasn’t a consistent passer in college and had some accuracy issues, as evidenced by his 59 percent career completion rate. His issues continued during the NFL preseason, as he completed just 55 percent of his passes (28 of 51) for 310 yards and an interception. He ran for 73 yards on 13 attempts as well.
If Mond is on the field Sunday, you can probably expect to see a lot of read-option plays out of the Vikings. For now though, it looks like he’ll serve as a backup for just the second time during his NFL career. The first time came last week when Mannion was out.
MORE: What Kirk Cousins has said about virus, NFL COVID protocols
3. Kyle Sloter
Sloter, 27, has been with the Vikings all of four days. He signed with them on Dec. 28 when Mannion was still on the COVID list. It was his second stint with the team and he was added to serve as a third-string depth option for them.
Sloter entered the league in 2017 as an undrafted free agent out of Northern Colorado. He starred with the Broncos during the 2017 preseason, completing 31 of 43 passes for 413 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He posted a passer rating of 125.4. That wasn’t enough for him to make the Denver team, but he has gotten attention around the league for it over the years.
Over his first five seasons, Sloter has bounced around to six different teams and has never taken a regular-season snap. This is his second stint with the Vikings — the first came during the 2017 and 2018 seasons — so he is familiar with Mike Zimmer and the team’s coaching staff.
In all likelihood, Sloter will be inactive on game day if Mannion and Mond stay healthy. But he is around should the Vikings need an emergency option to activate against the Packers.