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Monday Morning Mailbag: Fan Concerns About Vikings Starting Offense, Backup QB Options & Barr's Health

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The defense played a solid game against the Colts, albeit against mostly second stringers, but the offense looked awful. Honestly, it looked like they didn't try very hard. Granted, Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson didn't play, and that's a big part of the offense. But even if Jefferson was on the field, it didn't look like Kirk Cousins was wanting to go vertical at any time.

— Curt in Valdosta, Georgia

Curt's email was one of a few I received inquiring about the Vikings offense, including the first stringers who played Saturday night.

I waited almost 24 hours after that game before actually answering his email because I wanted to do so with a clear mind.

On one hand, the entire Vikings offense (that includes everyone who has played so far) has been nonexistant . On the other hand, it's just the preseason, right? Who cares? My thought lies somewhere in the middle, and might actually lean more toward the first idea.

I wasn't overly concerned about the performance of Minnesota's offense in the preseason opener, as the majority of those players likely won't be counted upon to make plays in 2021. But I do think there is a certain level of concern about the offense, as Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer alluded to Saturday night.

"Not enough consistency. I think we had, what, two first downs? They played a little over a quarter," Zimmer said. "We've got to make some more plays than what we did."

Zimmer was talking about Cousins and the first-team offense, which generated 63 total yards on 15 plays. That included a handful of strong runs and an untimely sack. Cousins threw for just 23 yards in three total series.

Yes, Jefferson and Cook didn't play Saturday, and that's worth mentioning in large, BOLD type.

But my rising concern level only has partly to do with the game. To be frank, Cousins and the Vikings offense has been a bit all over the place in practice, too. I've been hitting on it in my daily observations, but this was a chance for everyone to see out in the open.

Cousins himself downplayed the shaky outing, saying he saw the field well and felt comfortable, but that the offense was just a tick off in terms of full execution.

To me, the biggest reason to be more concerned after the second preseason game than the first is that most starters were in, and it was a shaky three series.

As a result, Zimmer is now debating whether or not to play the offensive starters Friday in Kansas City, something I don't think was on many people's mind before the Colts game.

If they do play, and play well, that would help ease the consternation of Vikings fans right now. Having a solid week of practice would probably help, too.

But if the offense struggles again, that would leave a whole lot of worrying with two weeks to go before the season opener against the Bengals.

At this point, nobody should be running to press the panic button right now. But you do have to raise an eyebrow to how the unit has looked overall in the past few weeks, practice time included.

View action photos from the Vikings-Broncos preseason game at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Hello, Eric. After watching another less-than-exciting Vikings football game, and after seeing the performance by Jake Browning and Kellen Mond, I am unsure that the Vikings have a viable QB2. I think Mond performed better than Browning, and that Browning is not ready for the NFL. Your thoughts?

— Mike Boswell in Goodwin, South Dakota

Mike is correct in that the past two Vikings offensive performances haven't been pretty on the eyes.

Take away the 15 snaps that Cousins was on the field Saturday night, and Browning and Mond have essentially combined to play seven quarters together.

They have been on the field for 101 offense plays, gaining 399 yards (3.95 yards per play), and converting on just six of 24 total third-down tries (25 percent). That is not good enough to win an NFL game.

Browning has perhaps been the more disappointing of the two, as he was clearly the Vikings backup after rising to the occasion and having an awesome training camp.

But through two games, he has completed 11 of 25 passes for 63 yards with an interception returned for a touchdown.

Mond, meanwhile, hasn't been much better. The third-round pick has hit on 12 of 28 passes for 113 yards with no turnovers and has also used his legs at bit at times.

To be frank, the Vikings would likely be in deep trouble if either of them had to start a few games or take over for the durable Cousins if he were to get injured at all.

Which is why, for the first time Saturday, we heard Zimmer publicly ponder the idea of potentially bringing in a veteran backup quarterback. Browning and Mond do not fall into that category, as neither has ever taken a snap in an NFL regular-season game.

"We'll see. We'll talk more about it this week," Zimmer said. "With the monetary situation, we have to be careful about that as well."

Zimmer is right in that the Vikings have a limited amount of cap space and can't go trade for an expensive backup. But he also seemed to highlight the fact that neither Browning nor Mond has done much to earn the backup job behind Cousins of late.

It's clear that Mond is a developmental quarterback who would benefit from sitting, listening and learning for at least one year, possibly more.

As for Browning, perhaps he finds his way onto the Vikings 53-man roster at the end of this month. But he likely needs a strong final preseason showing to help his case.

If not, he could be on the practice squad once again, with Mond as the No. 3 behind a veteran who has actual NFL experience.

No one ever mentions anything … why isn't Anthony Barr practicing? Is he injured?

— Tom Wiese in Portland, Maine

What is the issue with Anthony Barr? Seems like he's been off the practice field for quite some time. Thanks, and keep up the good work! SKOL.

— Craig Pederson

Fans' alarm bells are certainly going off about Barr, now that he has missed two-plus weeks of practice.

It's worth noting that Barr first didn't practice on Aug. 4, but returned on Aug. 5. He did not practice the next day, a Friday, and hasn't been on the practice field since.

His timeline includes the missed practice at U.S. Bank Stadium, joint practices with the Broncos and now both preseason games.

Zimmer on Saturday night did express concern, but also did not reveal the nature of Barr's injury.

"He's a concern, maybe a little bit, with his health," Zimmer said. "So we're taking that with real kid gloves.

"But we miss him out there. We can do so many different things with him that allows the rest of the guys — plus he does a great job of communicating to everybody," Zimmer added. "So we're just being cautious with him."

The goal going forward should be for Barr to return to practice in a limited fashion as soon as he's able to, while building up to the season opener against Cincinnati as fast as possible.

He doesn't need to play Friday against the Chiefs, but it is critical that he's available against the Bengals. Minnesota desperately missed Barr's veteran presence, leadership and versatility on the field.

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Oct. 12, 2021.

I do not like the fact that other teams can claim our practice squad players. We have a lot of young talent … it takes time to learn to play at an NFL level. I would like to see the NFL let you keep players for at least two years.

— Gerald Goblirsch

An interesting point here from Gerald, but a rule I don't think the league will be changing anytime soon.

It's worth pointing out that practice squads are expanded again in 2021 to 16 total players, and that teams can protect a certain number of players each week.

But the cat-and-mouse game of trying to stash a guy on the practice squad is one that all general managers play. Some GMs like to try and hide a guy there so he can learn for a year or two, as Gerald alluded to. Other GMs try to poach talent from other teams, but do so cautiously, as any player plucked from another team's practice squad must be put on your own 53-man roster.

This is what happened with Rashod Hill back in 2016. He was on Jacksonville's practice squad for half of the season before the Vikings added him to their active roster. Hill didn't start at all that season, but did start seven games in 2017 to help the Vikings win the NFC North title.

He's been a Viking ever since getting poached from the Jaguars — and is likely the Week 1 starter at left tackle. The Vikings know that if he were to be put on Minnesota's practice squad, he'd be gone in an instant.

Do you believe the Wilf family has considered making vaccination a requirement for ANYONE to enter U.S. Bank Stadium? I'm not being facetious, either, as we all see many venues around the country are heading in that direction. Thanks for the MMM, Mr. Smith!

— Mitchell Sjerven

As of now, the Vikings have not required vaccines in order to attend games, but that could certainly change based on how things continue to develop with the pandemic. I believe that decision would not only includes the Wilf family, but also state and local government officials as well. The Wilf family and the Vikings organization have consistently supported vaccine efforts and partnered with state and local officials in numerous ways, including the hosting of mobile clinics before both preseason games.

There's more than a month between now and the Week 3 home opener against the Seahawks. As of right now, the policy for Vikings games is that attendees are encouraged to wear masks, especially if they are unvaccinated, but vaccines are not mandatory.

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