Kellen Mond has played 67 total snaps in the past two preseason games. He has dropped back to pass 33 times yet has only completed three passes that traveled 10 or more yards. One of those passes was against prevent defense in garbage time.
That needs to change.
Rather than giving Mond an opportunity to showcase why he was drafted in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Klint Kubiak seems content to call plays that consist of either handing the ball off to the running back, having Mond throw quick slants over the middle, or a play-action passing play that results in a checkdown in the flat.
There’s nothing wrong with slowly introducing a beta version of the run-first, play-action passing playbook to Mond. But when it comes at the cost of being able to simulate what it’s like to play against live opposing defenses in realistic game situations, then the watered down preseason playbook can become problematic.
It certainly doesn’t help when the wide receivers and tight ends that have played with Mond have been underwhelming. Out of all WRs and TEs that have taken snaps with Mond under center, Myron Mitchell finished with the group’s highest PFF receiving grade through two weeks, which was 67.9 against the Indianapolis Colts. K.J. Osborn also played well in both preseason games, but he didn’t do anything that really stood out. The rest of the WRs and TEs ranged from mediocre to downright terrible.
A good way to fully showcase what Kellen Mond can bring to this team would be to have him play some reps with the first team. I am not suggesting that Mond should be challenging Kirk Cousins for the starting role; that would be ridiculous. However, Mond will need to be ready if Cousins suffers a serious injury. If there’s one thing the preseason has made clear, it’s that Jake Browning does not have what it takes to be the Vikings’ backup QB.
Despite everything that hasn’t been working in his favor, whether that be neutered playcalling or lackluster play at both WR and TE, Mond deserves part of the blame. He has a bit of a reputation of being a frustrating player to watch, stemming from Texas A&M days.
The physical tools and intangibles are there. Mond has a cannon for an arm, can evade pressure, and turn a would-be negative play into a first down. He played four years in college learning how to run Jimbo Fisher’s pro-style offense while showing signs of improvement each season, and is known to be a hard worker who strives to improve his game. Despite all those positive traits, he struggled with inconsistency throughout his college career. There are times when he’ll make a phenomenal throw and follow it up with a mind-numbingly stupid decision.
Additionally, Mond is sometimes a bit too conservative, often taking the checkdown instead of aggressively pushing the ball downfield. There are definitely some shades of Kirk Cousins in how Kellen Mond approaches the game. That’s not to say they are identical players, but Mond’s problems with consistency and his tendency to be risk-averse are similar to Cousins.
The Vikings drafted Kellen Mond to be Cousins’ eventual successor, and there’s a lot of things that he needs to improve upon with very little playing time. That’s why the preseason is so important for young guys. Part of Klint Kubiak’s job as a coach is unlocking a player’s full potential, whether by effectively implementing their individual strengths into the offensive scheme or by teaching fundamentals to help build a foundation upon which more complex skills can be stacked.
It shouldn’t be too difficult for Kubiak not only to design a playbook that caters to Mond’s strengths as a player but also pushes the boundaries of what he can achieve outside of his comfort zone for the betterment of his development. If by some chance that’s too tall of an order, then he’s setting up Mond to be exposed by opposing defenses should he be thrust into a starting role due at some point in the season.
That’s why giving Mond the green light to go absolutely bonkers in the preseason finale is so important, even if it results in his worst performance yet. Friday’s matchup in Kansas City is the last opportunity the Vikings have to evaluate and develop young talent against an opposing team. It would be a shame for it to be squandered because of an overly conservative and restrictive offensive game plan. It may also hurt Mond’s short-term development if he doesn’t get more chances to push the ball downfield, which is scary given the lack of clarity at the quarterback position behind Cousins and the pressure to win now.