Mannion focused on No. 2 QB role with Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings had wrapped up practice Tuesday for organized team activities, which are now in their final week.

Three players remained on the field long after the team workout was over: Sean Mannion, Jake Browning and Olabisi Johnson. Mannion, the current No. 2 quarterback behind Kirk Cousins, was making various throws to a team staff member.

Browning, a rookie out of Washington who went undrafted, was working on throws to Johnson that he missed during practice. He was also working on throws he watched Kirk Cousins make during Tuesday’s session. Browning will do anything he can to improve from one day to the next. It may eventually help him land on an NFL roster.

”I’m just trying to get better, trying to learn the offense as much as possible. I’m pretty focused on learning the offense and doing the best I can when my reps are up, and learn from there,” Browning said.

Mannion is a little more seasoned as he enters his fifth NFL season. He also knows what life is like as a back-up quarterback. In four seasons with the Rams, he’s played in 10 total games and has one career start. That came in Week 16 of 2017, where he threw for 169 yards in a 34-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

He’s been teammates with Case Keenum, a name Vikings fans know very well. He’s also been the back-up to Nick Foles, and most recently to Jared Goff. He’s learned a lot from all three.

“I think it was just how to be a pro. It sounds a little bit cliché, but kind of just how to handle your business day in and day out,” Mannion said Tuesday after OTAs. “How to prepare, kind of the mindset you take into a meeting, the mindset you take onto the practice field and into a game.”

His primary duty right now is to be ready if something happens to Kirk Cousins. If the $84 million quarterback can’t take the field, it’s on Mannion to run the offense. Unless somebody takes the job from him during training camp into the preseason, Mannion will enter the season the No. 2 quarterback.

Mannion had one of the highlights of practice on Tuesday, with a touchdown throw to a leaping Jordan Taylor in the back corner of the end zone during a team drill.

He doesn’t know if or when his number will get called, so his job is to be ready. That’s the life of a back-up quarterback.

“I’m no different than anybody else. Certainly I want to be a starter in this league, I believe in my ability to do that. But my role right here is to be the best back-up I can be for this team, which starts with being ready to play and going in and winning games if need be,” Mannion said. “The route to becoming a starter is to be the best back-up you can be and continuing to stay ready.”

Offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski is busy installing a new offense for the Vikings, but he’s noticed Mannion.

“I see a pro. He came from a successful program last few years there. He is really a guy that I think fits in extremely well with Kirk, extremely well with the backups,” Stefanski said during OTAs in late May.

For Browning, the NFL path is a little less clear. Despite leaving Washington as the school’s all-time leading passer and winning two Pac-12 titles with the Huskies, Browning went undrafted in April.

Browning set a school record with more than 12,000 career passing yards (12,296), which is also fourth in Pac-12 history. His 94 career touchdown passes are a school record, and rank sixth in league history. He had 43 touchdown passes in 2016, a single-season school record at Washington.

He was also the winningest quarterback in conference history with 39 wins in 53 career starts.

But he faces an uphill battle to make the Vikings’ final roster, with Mannion and Kyle Sloter providing the main competition. His focus is on mastering the playbook, and taking advantage of every rep he gets. Every play matters to him, whether it’s in front of coaches in a drill or after practice when the field is empty.

He’s learning with every snap, every play.

”We’re in the NFL so it’s pretty exciting to play at the highest level. Try to step in and perform at the highest level,” Browning said. “I think that’s pretty motivating and just any time you have a pretty cool opportunity is motivating. I’ve never really been one that needs a ton of motivation.”

Tuesday’s OTA Highlights

  • After missing last week’s session that was open to the media, tight end Kyle Rudolph caught a pair of touchdown passes from Kirk Cousins in team drills. One came on a quick slant while Harrison Smith was on a blitz. The other came over rookie defensive back Kris Boyd.
  • Dan Bailey went 5-of-6 on field goals during team drills. The kicks ranged from 30 to 50 yards, and he’s missed just three kicks total in three sessions open to the media.
  • Defensive back Trae Waynes had an interception during a team drill.
  • Long snapper Austin Cutting returned to practice after missing last week to attend his graduation at the Air Force Academy. Rudolph returned after being out of town for a charity event last week. Stefon Diggs was absent again after returning last week. Cornerback Mike Hughes did work on the side as he continues recovery from a torn ACL, and Tashawn Bower and David Morgan Jr. were present, but didn’t practice.