EAGAN, Minn. – Minnesota's four quarterbacks went through low-key throwing drills together Tuesday.
April 19 marked the first opportunity for Twin Cities media members to take in a portion of the team's workouts, divided into defensive and offensive sessions, which meant plenty of eyes were on the QBs group.
Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion, Kellen Mond and Nate Stanley all remain on the roster from last season but are adjusting to a new regime under Head Coach Kevin O'Connell. There's no question Cousins will be Minnesota's starter for the 2022 season, his fifth campaign in Purple; O'Connell was asked, however, about position depth and how the Vikings will approach quarterbacks in the upcoming NFL Draft.
O'Connell emphasized he believes chemistry among the passers is "really, really important" as they resume working together and with quarterbacks coach Chris O'Hara and assistant QBs coach Jerrod Johnson.
"I think when you look at the whole group, obviously you want to feel good about your starter, which I definitely do – and we do as a coaching staff," O'Connell said. "Then there's a lot to like in the group, whether it's the experience of Sean … I think, Kellen, I'm excited to get on the grass with him, having never been able to coach him before. Get on the grass and evaluate where he's at from a technique and fundamental standpoint, his ability to retain the information we're putting on these guys. Then we've got a young guy, as well, in Nate Stanley who we really haven't seen a whole lot of."
Especially during this voluntary workout period when the NFL dictates coaches cannot be on the field during workouts, O'Connell and the rest of Minnesota's coaching staff expect Cousins to help lead in a variety of scenarios.
The head coach said Cousins has already proven he's taken that role seriously, particularly as he and his teammates learn a new offense.
"Obviously in a new system, somebody has got to take charge out there. For us, that's Kirk," O'Connell said. "He's sitting front and center in every meeting, is asking questions, both in the quarterback room and in front of the unit."
O'Connell noted that Cousins doesn't shy away from "speaking up and getting involved" during team meetings where appropriate.
"And from everything I'm hearing about what's [happening] on the grass with [Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Josh Hingst] and [Executive Director of Player Health and Performance Tyler Williams'] group out there, he's been great. Leading the charge," O'Connell said. "They're throwing different routes we're teaching in the classroom."
View photos of Vikings players working out during offseason programming at the TCO Performance Center.
Cousins and the rest of the quarterbacks are intaking new information daily, and O'Connell wants to make sure that whether it's the starter or the fourth-stringer, each feels involved in this process.
"How do you do that? As a former backup quarterback myself, you take guys under your wing," O'Connell said. "It may not be [Justin Jefferson] or Adam [Thielen], but there's a lot of guys that are willing and able and out here working. When you're a quarterback, all you're ever wanting to do is work on your own craft, but part of playing quarterback is uplifting other guys in the huddle – and that really starts right now.
"I think Phase One is really set up for someone like Kirk to come out and take the reins and run with it," he later added. "The best thing is that we get to start getting out there with him next week."
O'Connell does have previous coaching experience with Cousins, whom he spent time with in Washington as the quarterback's position coach.
He hasn't yet gotten to work with Mond, though, which he's looking forward to doing. O'Connell did say that as the Rams offensive coordinator, he did some scouting of Mond coming out of Texas A&M and "always thought he was really successful" for the Aggies.
The Vikings drafted Mond last spring with the 66th overall pick, but the quarterback was inactive for most of his rookie season. Then-Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer named Mond the backup to Mannion when Cousins tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of Week 17. Mond made his NFL debut in the fourth quarter against Green Bay; he completed two of three passes for 5 yards.
"Successful in the pocket, creating off schedule, he's got some real athleticism. And I think he's a really accurate passer," O'Connell said. "Now, what will that look like in our offense? That's really up to Kellen and the rest of our guys to make it go. Like I said, I'm excited to get on the grass with him next week. He's been great in the meeting rooms early on. You feel some leadership from him, feel some early ownership of what we're really putting on those guys. Now it's, 'Can you take it from the classroom to the practice field and go from there?' "
So with four quarterbacks already currently on the Vikings roster, will O'Connell and company look to grab one in the NFL Draft, or will they let that position pass them by?
O'Connell said he and new Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah have discussed the topic "a lot" and feel it's nearly impossible to answer the question directly.
"I think each situation is its own. It's where we're at in the draft, evaluating each pick, and I would ultimately defer to Kwesi," O'Connell said. "But the collaboration that has taken place between his group and our group as the coaching staff, I cannot tell you how impressed I've been. Not just with his leadership, but his entire staff and how our draft process has been put together.
"It's been a lot of fun. In a lot of ways, we're just in there talking ball and what our systems require. Then taking a look at these prospects and piecing it all together," O'Connell continued. "I don't think anything is really off the table, I think each draft is kind of its own entity. You go pick-by-pick and try to make the team as good as you possibly can."