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Vikings Training Camp Recap, Day 8: Kirk Cousins Thrives, Backup QBs Shaky

Cousins has had a great camp. Kellen Mond and Sean Mannion? Not so much.

The Vikings got back to work on Friday at TCO Performance Center after having Thursday off. It was their third padded practice of training camp, and fans came out in droves on a beautiful Friday afternoon.

There's nothing new to report on the injury front. Four players remain out: Irv Smith Jr., Kene Nwangwu, Ryan Connelly, and Blake Proehl. Other than that, everyone on the 90-man roster was present and participating in practice.

Here's what I saw on Day 8 of Vikings training camp.

Kirk Cousins continues to thrive

Cousins has had a really strong camp, for the most part. He looks comfortable in this offense and has been delivering balls all over the field with pinpoint accuracy. If Kevin O'Connell and the Vikings' new coaching staff can coax a little more aggressiveness out of Cousins, it could be huge for making this offense explosive and dangerous.

Friday was another strong day for Cousins. He was highly accurate in 11-on-11 action, hitting Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn over and over on short and intermediate routes. Then, later in practice, Cousins started to flex his muscles in the deep passing game. He threw a perfect pass to Osborn for a long touchdown against Chandon Sullivan, then dropped another dime to Thielen with Kris Boyd in coverage. Cousins almost connected on one last deep ball to Jefferson, but it just grazed off of No. 18's fingertips.

Red zone action was a little shakier for Cousins. He threw a bad interception to Jordan Hicks over the middle of the field, then was maybe picked off by Cameron Dantzler when throwing one up for grabs after what would've been a sack. Dantzler made a nice play to rip the ball away from Thielen, but it's unclear if he secured the catch. However, Cousins bounced back with an easy touchdown pass to Johnny Mundt on a crossing route.

For the second consecutive day, Cousins led the Vikings into field goal range in a 1-minute drill. He hit Osborn twice, scrambled for a first down, then hit Zach Davidson to set up a 52-yard game winner from Greg Joseph.

The backup QBs still don't inspire much confidence

It goes without saying that the Vikings would be toast if Cousins were to get seriously injured at any point. That hasn't happened in his entire career, fortunately.

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If Cousins were to miss just a single game or a handful of games, you'd like to have a backup quarterback who could give you a chance in one game or go 1-1 or 2-2 in a stretch of games to keep the season afloat. Eight practices into training camp, I don't think the Vikings have a player on their roster who is capable of that.

Sean Mannion is a known quantity at this point in his career. He's a below replacement-level quarterback who is valued for what he brings to meetings and how he helps Cousins prepare each week.

What's been discouraging is the lack of progress Kellen Mond has seemed to show so far in camp. I've touched on it before in these recaps, but Mond's decision-making and accuracy still have a long ways to go based on what we've seen in camp. On Friday, he should've thrown a bad interception to Jordan Hicks on a ball that was both late and off-target, but got lucky when it bounced off of Hicks' hands and into Dan Chisena's hands for a completion. He had several other somewhat egregious misses as well.

Weirdly, just receiving snaps has been an issue for Mond all camp. He's had a bunch of shotgun snaps go through his hands, including another one on Friday, and he's had trouble cleanly taking snaps under center too. 

There have been flashes of promise, including a ridiculous deep throw to Albert Wilson he made while rolling to his left (although the play would've been a sack), but the overall production hasn't been there. Unless Mond turns it on soon, the Vikings may want to look outside of their building for another option at backup QB.

Other notes

  • K.J. Osborn is another player having a fantastic camp. He's a lock to keep the Vikings' WR3 job and has been playing like a WR2-caliber guy in my eyes. Osborn has been awfully impressive with his speed, route-running, and hands. Cousins seems to have just as much trust in him as he does in Jefferson and Thielen. Osborn caught a deep ball from Cousins on Friday and then made two key catches in the 1-minute drill.
  • Jordan Hicks nearly forced three turnovers in one practice. He had a forced fumble on Alexander Mattison, picked off Cousins in the red zone, and very nearly picked off Mond. He's going to be a big part of this defense.
  • Lewis Cine made a nice pass breakup on a Mond pass intended for Trishton Jackson. The rookie safety was all over it.
  • Greg Joseph is on fire over the last two practices. After going 8 for 8 on Wednesday, he made a 52-yarder to complete the first-team offense's 1-minute drill and then made a 58-yarder to complete the Mannion-led second-team's 1-minute drill. It was the second straight practice that ended on a 58-yarder from Joseph.
  • Zach Davidson dropped a wide-open deep pass from Cousins. That's the type of play he needs to make in order to make the 53-man roster.
  • When it comes to the linemen, Harrison Phillips continues to impress in both 1-on-1s and 11-on-11 action. Part of that might be going against Garrett Bradbury, but Phillips is impressive. Ed Ingram and Patrick Jones II are a couple young players who have had some nice moments.
  • It's hard to see how Kris Boyd makes this roster, unless the Vikings really value his special teams skills. He hasn't been great in camp, getting beaten deep a few times on Friday. Rookie Akayleb Evans has looked better, and you could argue that Harrison Hand and Nate Hairston are ahead of Boyd too with their versatility to play in the slot.
  • This wasn't Andrew Booth Jr.'s best day. He was beaten several times for catches.
  • Dan Chisena, of all people, made several big plays on Friday. I'm still not sure if there's a path to get him on the roster, even with his special teams value.
  • The battles between Danielle Hunter and Brian O'Neill in 1-on-1s are a lot of fun. Same goes for Za'Darius Smith and Christian Darrisaw, and the other two combinations of those four players when the edge rushers switch sides. The Vikings are strong at EDGE and offensive tackle.

That's all for today. The Vikings will be back at it on Saturday.

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