MINNEAPOLIS - After a busy few days, the Minnesota Vikings have an initial 53-man roster set with Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium less than two weeks away.
Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and coach Kevin O’Connell spoke with reporters on Thursday from TCO Performance Center. With training camp and the preseason over, they’ll see their vision for the 2022 Vikings come to reality starting Sept. 11. But it wasn’t an easy path to get there.
"These last few days have been hard for a lot of people. It starts with the draft where I get to be on one end of the phone starting NFL dreams, and then we have to be in offices having hard conversations, delaying NFL dreams, which isn’t a great feeling for them or for myself or Kevin," Adofo-Mensah said.
O’Connell knows what that road is like. He was once an NFL quarterback in a meeting room with the front office, being told he didn’t make a roster. Now, he’s on the other side of it.
"This week has been hard, it’s been really hard for a lot of reasons. Tough week for sure, but I’m very excited about all those guys sitting in the room," O’Connell said.
SEAN MANNION, KELLEN MOND BOTH RELEASED
One of the biggest decisions facing the Vikings in training camp and the preseason was the No. 2 quarterback behind Kirk Cousins. Sean Mannion and Kellen Mond were given every chance to win the job, but the Vikings ultimately went outside the organization and traded for Nick Mullens.
Both Mond and Mannion were cut on Tuesday, and both have since found new homes.
"I said I want somebody to win the job, not just the competition. That meant whoever we felt was going to be our No. 2 quarterback needs to give us the best chance to win football games if that guy is called upon," O’Connell said. We were constantly evaluating it from a perspective of what gave us a best chance to win should that No. 2 quarterback be called into action. Ultimately we had to make a very difficult decision, but I do feel like we did what was in the best interest of giving us a chance to win football games."
Mond, a third round pick in 2021, played in one game last season. He showed promise after throwing two touchdowns in this year’s first preseason game, but then threw two interceptions in the lone home preseason game. Mond finished the preseason 29-of-51 passing for 303 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
He didn’t show enough accuracy or consistency in running the offense to stay on the roster. O’Connell felt he simply wasn’t ready.
"He’s got a heck of a football journey ahead of him. I’m a big fan of how Kellen works, he’s got all the things you look for in NFL quarterback. I think Kellen’s got tremendous upside, but to ask him to be that No. 2 quarterback, being a snap away on a team we feel very strongly about, I didn’t think that was fair to Kellen," O’Connell said.
ARMON WATTS RELEASED, VIKINGS TRADE FOR ROSS BLACKLOCK
One of the surprises of cut day was the team releasing Armon Watts, who took mostly first-team reps at defensive tackle during training camp and preseason. The Vikings instead traded for Houston Texans defensive tackle Ross Blacklock. He’s played 29 games his first two seasons, recording 36 tackles and two sacks.
"We thought that was an opportunity to add somebody in Blacklock who’s got a really good pass rush skill set, really disruptive. We’re trying to add that skill set," Adofo-Mensah said. "That was a hard conversation with Armon, somebody who’s been here for three years, been productive, a great teammate. There’s times in those meetings where how it goes, you wish you could take it back almost."
ED INGRAM WINS STARTING RIGHT GUARD SPOT
Another surprise on Tuesday was the Vikings trading Jesse Davis to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Signed in free agency, the idea was he’d be the Week 1 starter at right guard. Ed Ingram got first-team reps at the first preseason game, and never looked back. He’ll be the starter against the Packers.
"I think you just look back at that circumstance and see where Ed started, where he progressed through and ultimately how we feel about him now still getting better every single day. Feeling really good about where he’s at," O’Connell said.
VIKINGS TRADE FOR JALEN REAGOR
The Vikings felt they needed another receiver after Bisi Johnson went down for the second straight year with a torn ACL. Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and KJ Osborn are cemented as the top three receivers. Reagor was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2020 with the pick right before Jefferson.
In 28 games, he has 695 yards and three touchdowns. He also returned 35 punts in his first two seasons, averaging 9.2 yards per return. O’Connell said he’ll get every chance to compete for that job, along with Jalen Nailor and Osborn.
"We saw Jalen as somebody who had a really good skill set individually, but also how he complements that room and also our offensive football team," Adofo-Mensah said.
The Vikings host the Packers Sept. 11, and it'll be the first game action for any starters after none played in the preseason.