Kellen Mond, Devin Bush, and the Roster Bubble
NFL Preseason Week 2 - If you want to appreciate Kirk Cousins, watch Minnesota Vikings second-year quarterback Kellen Mond for a while.
Mond, a 2021 third-round pick out of Texas A&M, is competing with Sean Mannion for the Vikings’ primary backup role. He entered Sunday’s preseason opener against the Raiders midway through the second quarter and completed nine of 14 passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns…
Timeout. Forget the stats. Mond is competing with Sean Mannion, a 30-year-old career clipboard cozy who should be Jeff Fisher’s USFL Michigan Panthers offensive coordinator or something by now. And Mannion got the start. In the preseason, how you play matters a little, but WHEN you play matters the most. The fact that Mond has not yet pushed past Mannion is far more informative than his statline.
But back to that statline. Two touchdowns? Looks swell. My early-week news feed was full of headlines such as “QB Kellen Mond looks good for Vikings despite 26-20 loss to Raiders in preseason opener,” “Kellen Mond stakes claim to backup job in Minnesota with a pair of touchdown passes in Las Vegas,” and my personal favorite, “Mond, Mond, Mond.” (That’s the sound of a regional website suffering a collective seizure from talking too much about backup quarterbacks.) Mond wasn’t quite trending, but he was trending toward trending.
Boxscore scouting and wishful thinking are powerful mind-altering chemicals. Mond did not perform very well on Sunday. He ended his second quarter drive by drilling the back-corner end zone pylon with an overthrow, then doing whatever the heck this was:
Look at this dime from Kellen Mond👀 pic.twitter.com/7QYIH69erd
— Christian Williams (@CWilliamsNFL) August 14, 2022
In his first sequence of the third quarter, facing the Raiders quantum-string defense, Mond floated a near-interception along the deep sideline on first down, then tossed a sinker/slider of a screen pass that his running back couldn’t quite scoop off his ankles on third down. He followed that by delivering a pretty little touch pass on fourth-and-5 to set up a touchdown, but when analyzing performance instead of results, one solid play does not negate two awful ones.
Mond also engineered a dink-and-dunk fourth-quarter drive. Folks, preseason fourth quarters are like pickup games in the quad after a frat party: whatever happens there should either be forgotten or laughed about the next morning. When a preseason quarterback “struggles in his first series but then settles down as the game goes on,” it probably means that the players he faced got worse, not that he got better.
“This game, you could switch into two parts with Kellen Mond,” Vikings expert Mathew Coller said on the Purple Insider Podcast. “The first part was very shaky and kind of all over the place … And then, the second part is the Kyle Slotering of the fourth quarter [or] the McLeod Bethel-Thompsoning or John David Bootying … But there’s not really anything there when they’re playing against even slightly better competition, in vanilla defenses no less.” (quotes via Adam Patrick at FanSided).
Phew. Thanks Matthew. I thought I too was having a Grand Mond seizure.
Mond, you may recall, was just one among an unimpressive peloton of C-minus-tier prospects chasing Trevor Lawrence and company in the 2021 draft when Chris Simms tagged him as the fourth-best quarterback on his board, ahead of Justin Fields and Trey Lance. Draft Twitter responded predictably, with many howling and rending their cloaks while a few sought to fall in line behind a popular tastemaker. Some even watched a little Mond film, perhaps for the first time, including me.
“Kellen Mond is the kind of quarterback prospect you talk yourself into when you decide to talk yourself into a quarterback prospect,” I wrote at the time. The pro-Mond reasoning boiled down to: See those incomplete passes? They were against Alabama and LSU! That practically makes them completions! Can’t argue with that, because it’s the gibbering of a madman. But NFL front offices excel at talking themselves into quarterback prospects, and while general managers claim to tune out Draft Twitter, it’s obvious that most of them pay attention to at least some subsection of Draft Twitter.
So Mond is a clickable character: draft junkies are still emotionally invested in him, Cousins haters are searching for hope, and there’s little else to talk about when it comes to the veteran-laden Vikings. Mond playing well in preseason silly time means something to someone. Chris Streveler playing well in silly time means nothing to no one, even though the Jets are more likely to need a deep-bench quarterback this year than the Vikings.
Mond is no heir to Cousins, this year or ever. Instead, he’s on pace to be another Mannion, knocking his way around preseason second quarters six years from now. Walkthrough wishes him the best. It’s just time to start thinking about Mond like Mannion, Davis Webb, Logan Woodside, Jeff Driskel, or Jake Browning, the anonymous clipboard guys seen in August but never, ever talked about.
Devin Bush, Antonio Gibson, and the Bursting Roster Bubble
As a quarterback and a former third-round pick, Mond is in little danger of losing his job in 2022, even if he remains a third-stringer. The new Vikings regime won’t risk dumping a potential holdover asset from the Spielman-Zimmer epoch until they are certain there is a 0.00% chance he resurfaces as the Seahawks starter in a wild-card game in 2024.
Many high picks from the last few drafts, however, risk losing their scholarships over the next few weeks, as do some well-known veterans.
Take former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver/tight end JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who was traded to the Seattle Seahawks early this week for reserve defensive back Ugo Amadi. JJAW was a toolsy, late-rising draftnik darling selected 57th overall in 2019. He was a great “contested catch” guy, which should set off every siren in the firehouse, because repeat after Walkthrough: college wide receivers must be able to get open. JJAW reached the Eagles just when Carson Wentz was Wentzing and Doug Pederson’s staff got a little post-Reich wobbly. He never developed into anything more than a blocker for screen passes.
Arcega-Whiteside is a fine fellow with a cool backstory (his mother was a basketball standout in Europe), but the Eagles were just carrying too many justify-the-pick wide receivers in training camp this year. The Seahawks are comically thin behind Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, as usual, but Seattle, sadly, is more of a last chance than a fresh start these days.
The Las Vegas Raiders, meanwhile, released former Kansas City Chiefs receiver Demarcus Robinson on Monday. On paper, Robinson was the likely No. 3 receiver behind Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow, with Robinson probably getting starts as the outside receiver. Behind the scenes, Robinson has a reputation as not being the most focused camera in the studio, and he was competing with Mack Hollins, another Eagles tools-and-traits castoff who wants to be Matthew Slater when he grows up. Hollins performed his usual heaven’s-gift-to-punt-coverage routine on Sunday, Keelan Cole and Tyron Johnson have played well through two preseason games, and cutting a potential starter is a great way to light some fires under other veterans. And as we will see in a moment, Josh McDaniels has some fires to light.
Let’s go around the league and check in on some players who might be surprise cuts or trades over the next few weeks. Most are young veterans coming to the ends of rookie contracts, though we stop by East Rutherford at the end for someone not named Daniel Jones.
Devin Bush, Linebacker, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers moved up 10 spots to select Bush 10th overall in the 2019 draft. The guided missile out of Michigan initially lived up to his billing with 109 tackles as a rookie. Then came a 2020 ACL tear, and Bush has not been the same since.
Per Football Outsiders Almanac 2022, only three qualifying linebackers had fewer run tackles per snap than Bush in 2021. The Steelers declined his fifth-year rookie contract this offseason. They listed one of their inside linebacker spots as “Devin Bush OR Mickey Spillane” on the training camp depth chart, the equivalent of setting off a smoke bomb in the media workroom. The Pittsburgh media and fans have turned on Bush with the fury usually reserved for a wide receiver who expects fair market value for his services. Preseason lowlights like this don’t exactly help his cause. (If you’re curious, that’s practice squader Delontae Scott getting snowplowed in front of Bush).
Big Abe!! RT Abe Lucas with the syrup
...And I have no clue what to do with Devin Bush pic.twitter.com/NhLusNcOjy
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) August 14, 2022
Bush could be traded to a team still intrigued by his potential. The Dallas Cowboys are possible suitors. Otherwise, Bush might be released, though he could hang around and play special teams because his contract is affordable and he’s still (probably) better than whomever is behind him on the depth chart.
Antonio Gibson, Running Back, Washington Commanders
As stated in the Kellen Mond opener, preseason usage patterns say more about where a player stands with his coaches than preseason stats or granular tape-grinding. So when Antonio Gibson fumbled early in the preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers, got benched in favor of rookie Brian Robinson, came back to take some handoffs with the second string, but then got replaced by Jonathan Williams on fourth-and-short after he was stuffed on third-and-short, well, Ron Rivera told you what he thinks of his third-year all-purpose back.
Also, Rivera explicitly told us what he thinks of Gibson. "Antonio's got to run harder," Rivera said. "When he starts to shuffle and go sideways, that's when he struggles."
Gibson was a shifty slot guy at Memphis. Officially, he was a wide receiver who worked out with the receivers at the 2020 combine, but he rushed 33 times in his final college season. I was impressed by him as a prospect, but mid-major slot jitterbugs can break a draftnik’s heart, especially when they morph into conventional running backs in the NFL.
Gibson rushed for over 1,000 yards last season but fumbled six times. His performance dipped late in the season, and he finished 2021 with negative DVOA as both a rusher and receiver. Robinson, a third-round battering ram out of Alabama, will probably siphon off Gibson’s between-the-tackles carries. Gibson could be traded to a team still intrigued by his potential; the Dallas Cowboys are possible suitors. Otherwise, he’ll compete with J.D. McKissic for passing-down snaps and touches, and Gibson was also fielding punts and kickoffs at the start of the week in practices. An outright release is possible.
Bottom line: Gibson is a far superior athlete to McKissic, but he’s gotta run harder and hold onto the football.
Alex Leatherwood and Clelin Ferrell, Las Vegas Raiders
Check out Alex Leatherwood (70, Raiders) on this sack by T.Y. McGill (76, Vikings) in the fourth quarter on Sunday:
Get you another, @__allcost!
📺: @NFLNetwork |@FOX9 | FOX9+ pic.twitter.com/07cuSltP7o
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) August 14, 2022
You can’t teach instincts and effort like that, folks. Leatherwood looks like me helping the marching band parents loading the equipment truck. Oooh, that marimba looks heavy; my sciatica is acting up. Eh, it looks like you fellas have got those speakers. I’ll just step back and supervise. Leatherwood probably expended more energy avoiding contact with McGill than it would have taken to, I dunno, block him.
Sorry if that sounds a little mean-spirited, but Leatherwood has looked terrible in two preseason games. His feet are slow. He doesn’t strike defenders with any authority. He blocks with his arms outside the defender’s frame. Josh McDaniels started Leatherwood in the Hall of Fame game but relegated him to the second half on Sunday, another clear sign of where the 2021 first-round pick stands with the new regime.
As for Clelin Ferrell, he hasn’t practiced in weeks due to an undisclosed injury. It sounds like he is not in the team’s plans and they want to keep him healthy as bargain-bin tradebait. This is where I insert the Dallas Cowboys runner; linking them (and their huge, clicky fan base) as trade partners for any well-known player is Internet sportswriting law. Walkthrough can imagine some team (like the Cowboys!) attempting an Ereck Flowers reclamation project on Leatherwood. It’s hard to imagine much of a market for Ferrell.
Leatherwood and Ferrell were both Mike Mayock first-round picks. It remains astounding how dreadful Mayock was at actually selecting prospects. Draft analysis, both in front offices and the media, follows a herd mentality. That’s not a terrible thing: I trust Matt Miller’s or Daniel Jeremiah’s insights enough to not stray all that far away from them in my appraisals, Eric DeCosta trusts his Ravens assistants and scouts enough to create draft boards that look like low- to moderate-risk stock portfolios, and the Dave Gettleman-types and Twitter hipsters who scream “Bailey Zappe is better than Kenny Pickett” are generally forgotten or ignored, because they really don’t know more than the much-maligned “conventional wisdom.” Mayock excelled at telling us which way the herd was heading and why from his television perch. But once he became part of the herd, at ground level, he alternately wandered off on his own (Ferrell) or tried too hard to go with the flow (Leatherwood). He ended up getting trampled.
Jerry Tillery, Defensive Tackle, Los Angeles Chargers
Poor Tillery has become the poster model for the Chargers’ defensive shortcomings in 2021. But he has come by that role honestly. Tillery was a shopping cart as a run defender last year. He then skipped OTAs because they are voluntary, as is employment. As for his preseason performance against the Rams, Alex Katson noted for The Chargers Wire that “Tillery got shut out on the box score in 12 snaps, while [Morgan] Fox had two QB hurries, including the brutal bull rush that led to [Chris] Rumph’s sack of Bryce Perkins.”
The only reason Tillery is clinging to the Chargers roster at this point is that he still possesses some value as a situational interior pass-rusher. That, and the fact that the Dallas Cowboys could call at any minute.
Denzel Mims, Wide Receiver, New York Jets
Mims’ Friday night performance against the Philadelphia Eagles: two catches with the second string, 25 yards, one drop, one illegal formation penalty. And so it goes for the former second-round pick, who has 31 career regular-season catches.
The current regime is working hard to say all the right things about Mims (Joe Douglas drafted him while still working with/for/through Adam Gase), sounding very much like a coaching staff trying to put a positive spin on the mutual frustrations between team and player. ESPN’s Rick Cimini notes that Mims lives a few miles away from the Cowboys practice facility. If that’s not a reason to trade for another team’s failed prospect, I don’t know what is!
Mims was a Senior Bowl/combine rockstar in 2020 after leaving Baylor as your basic big/fast Big 12 Sandlot Conference vertical threat who could run all the routes, so long as they were straight down the field. Receivers like Mims have a spotty development record, as do Jets top draft picks. Mims is likely to hang around the league as a tools guy for years; he may someday catch a fourth-quarter preseason touchdown pass from Kellen Mond. But melodramas tend to congeal around players like Mims when the Jets keep them around too long; perhaps they can get a conditional seventh-round pick for him, or maybe Jalen Reagor.
Kenny Golladay, Wide Receiver, New York Giants
Instead of dwelling on some other recent draft picks on the bubble (Falcons guard Jalen Mayfield, Cowboys cornerback Kelvin Joseph, the ubiquitous Reagor), let’s check in with Kenny Golladay, whose most noteworthy play last Thursday night was a drop in front of the goal line.
3rd down and…. Kenny Golladay drops it. pic.twitter.com/u5nLX1nZ7h
— Bobby Skinner (@BobbySkinner_) August 11, 2022
Brian Daboll suggested after the game that the drop might really be Daniel Jones’ fault. It wasn’t a perfectly thrown ball, but it hit a veteran receiver with a $40-million guaranteed contract in the chest, and that type of slant in front of the defenders is supposed to be thrown a little low. Whatever. Golladay missed much of the spring with an undisclosed injury, and reports from training camp have been up-and-down.
Daboll sounds like he is going out of his way to tamp down any Golladay controversies. Golladay even spoke to the media on Monday, after what was apparently a solid day of practice. No secrets, no drama, no worries. Right?
Keep in mind that Golladay, like so many Gettleman acquisitions, has a contract that’s built like a bear trap buried under leaves on a playground. Cutting Golladay is more expensive than keeping him. And if the Dallas Cowboys had money lying around to overpay sometimes-vexing wide receivers, they would still employ Amari Cooper. If the Giants cannot get the Golladay of 2018-2019, Daboll and Jones (or Tyrod Taylor) need him to at least run vertical routes and keep defenders semi-honest in 2022. Constant home-crowd booing and WFAN screaming won’t help.
For every rookie who’s “gonna be a problem” after flashing a highlight last weekend, there’s a former top prospect, some draftnik’s favorite sleeper, or a can’t-miss first rounder at risk of falling off the back of a roster. The end of August is cruel that way. It can also be humbling to those of us who think we know what we are talking about, which is why it’s wise to never get too high on any player. Especially a quarterback who’s still on the field in the fourth quarter of the first preseason game.
38 comments, Last at 23 Aug 2022, 10:12am
#3 by young curmudgeon // Aug 18, 2022 - 10:47am
Although Mickey Spillane’s gun is quick, I’m not sure he’s much of a linebacker. If Devin Bush can’t beat out a guy who died in 2006, he probably should be cut. However, that Mike Hammer guy might be a good UFA for the Steelers to look at.
#7 by Akim // Aug 18, 2022 - 11:31am
I shudder whenever I think about how Riverboat Ron has misused Antonio Gibson, jamming that elegant rhombus into a very square hole.
And Steelers fans don't love to shit on just WRs. Any black player who disappoints, or does very well but asks for "too much" money, will face their thinly veiled wrath.
#9 by ImNewAroundThe… // Aug 18, 2022 - 12:04pm
84.8 grade for Mond on the 39th most attempts in preseason, so far, but t-1st in TDs and t-21st in passing yards. It's the Vikings own doing putting any actual faith in 30 year old Mannion. They're doing that to themselves for...him to just lose to GB like he did last year and...other reasons!
Oh wait, the new regime just re-signed Mannion too...and of course gave him guaranteed money. Where did he get the leverage to demand...anything with Kirk fully guaranteed (and extended?) and a much younger option in Mond still there? Goodness teams. Then again they extended Kirk so they apparently just love mediocre old white QBs.
Yeah Mond probably won't be much (Vikings making sure of that), but what were you expecting out of a 3rd rounder that can't even start his one game? But with such vitriol spewed against him, you're essentially just advocating that the Vikings are right in wanting Mannion over him for...experience...of losing? Just stating the obvious because people are talking about a draft pick at the most important position? Geez, got me defending Kellen Mond. Such a weird stance be so anti-Mond.
Devin Bush was nice prospect. But it does show the dangers of trading up. LB is hard to play man.
#10 by Aaron Brooks G… // Aug 18, 2022 - 12:07pm
Devin Bush was nice prospect. But it does show the dangers of trading up. LB is hard to play man.
He was a fine LB. He shows that ACL tears are a real bitch for a position that's mostly about lateral agility and short-area burst.
#17 by ImNewAroundThe… // Aug 18, 2022 - 12:48pm
He had a meh 62.9 grade in 2019 and 59.7 before going down in 2020. No injury didn't help but probably want to see more than that from the 10th overall pick anyway.
With that being said, if Krys Barnes is LB3 Ill gladly trade him for Bush. Barry didn't do much with him but he did help get the most out of newcomer Devondre last year, so maybe Bush just needs a change of scenery like him.
Ok Barnes and a 7th?
#15 by riri // Aug 18, 2022 - 12:33pm
As is so often with these columns, it seems that Tanier is railing against the local media coverage of Kellen Mond more so than Kellen Mond himself. Otherwise, yes, there isn't a whole lot of point in spending so many words on the QB2 competition for a so-so team whose QB1 has never been injured
#16 by ImNewAroundThe… // Aug 18, 2022 - 12:42pm
I too use twitter and the fact that he has to say "he was trending toward trending" just goes to show how little hype he was getting because I didn't even know/remember their backup situation since Kirk was extended. And apparently he graded well (to backup the stats). And in the Christian tweet linked above, multiple replies are of separate good Mond plays. Even from op himself.
Weird rant got me with another weird rant. Sorry.
#22 by theTDC // Aug 18, 2022 - 2:06pm
I watched Mannion since he was a third round pick by the Rams. Frankly, when he was picked I watched his tape and had no idea why he was a third round pick. He did not have an accurate arm in college, and he does not have an accurate arm now. He’s just flat out not good enough at throwing the football to be a good QB.
Maybe he’s brilliant, professional, and a joy to work with. I can’t think of many football reasons for teams to be keeping him around.
#26 by ImNewAroundThe… // Aug 18, 2022 - 3:37pm
Here's another testimonial.
I'm not sure why he hasn't been churned out of active rosters either but 🤷 I guess Mond is the one getting hate because...people said he wasn't the worst. Idk.
Gotta secure Mannion for those practices reps of his over and under throws.
#11 by KnotMe // Aug 18, 2022 - 12:26pm
Everyone is "gonna be a problem" somehow aren't they?
Is there any point in talking about backup QB unless:
1)It's the Browns, but that's to depressing to talk about anyway
2)Seattle, who only has backups, but that's also depressing
#12 by Theo // Aug 18, 2022 - 12:28pm
Devin Bush, Linebacker, Pittsburgh Steelers
FO has opened their eyes!
Only a few short months ago I asked Aaron, Mike and Weintraub about Bush on a podcast and was told not to question Pittsburgh Linebackers.
"nah, it'll be fine!"
#19 by mehllageman56 // Aug 18, 2022 - 12:56pm
I'd like to thank Tanier and whoever posted that tweet of Mond running around just to throw a pass to nowhere for making me feel much better as a Jets fan. I've never seen Zach Wilson, Mike White or even new crush Streveler pull off a play that absurd (usually when they come close, they hit a defensive back in the hands).
Also, I doubt the Jets would trade for Reagor, they outscored Philly somehow and it wasn't the running backs doing. If there's an offensive lineman or linebacker on the edge of a pink slip then the Jets would most definitely be interested.
#28 by mehllageman56 // Aug 18, 2022 - 5:09pm
Oh, I'm not suggesting that Mannion should be ahead of Mond at all, just that the tweet which I believe was promoting Mond if I am not mistaken, was an incomplete pass several yards to the left of a receiver open in the end zone. Of course, if it was a Mike White video, he would have not run around like a chicken with his head cut off, but hit the running back or receiver on the hands only to have them knock it up in the air for a defender to pick off. Statistically, the Mike White play is worse, but it's not worse quarterback play when you look at it.
#24 by Legion // Aug 18, 2022 - 2:52pm
I’m not at all convinced Mike Mayock did anything with early round draft picks other than call in the names Gruden said to put on the card.
Every time NFLN interviewed him about the Raiders drafts, he always came across like he was trying to sound convincing while repeating someone else’s justifications for the picks, rather than speaking with any conviction of his own.
I don’t doubt he was drafting on Day 3, after Gruden was long bored and gone. But I’m not buying that it was Mayock who wanted to draft nothing but players from the 2019 CFP Championship game. I’m pretty sure that’s the only college game Gruden sat through, and it determined the Raiders draft strategy for the next few years.
#29 by ImNewAroundThe… // Aug 18, 2022 - 6:12pm
Not sure why Washington wanted to turn a 9.29 RAS WR into a full time RB. Guess they wanted ceiling of Ryan Matthews instead of AJ Brown. Hmmm trading back to TN!
What can I say about the Raider overdrafts. There were better prospects on the board. Miami could still potentially need an OL upgrade, reunite with Tua, go back to his homestate! Clelin could go back to Carolina and team up with one of the better edges avaliable at the time of being picked!
Tillery...well at least the Chargers didn't panic and trade up for Jordan Davis like so many wanted (they had a huge hole on the OL).
Golladay just might be injuries. And/or gave up after the bag.
#33 by slacksterest // Aug 19, 2022 - 10:09am
What no love here for the Cowboys trade jokes? I think Mike your only option is to make this a constant running gag until everyone capitulates to its brilliance. Hot key in Cowboys trade phrase to use each time a player is slightly out of step with management.
#34 by DoubleB // Aug 20, 2022 - 3:07pm
why is Jones throwing to him in that spot and that coverage? It's straight Cover 0, the corner route by the #3 WR is the guy to hit and he never looks there. He also never a) adjusts protection for a 6-man pressure with 5 blockers OR b) throws a hot route to the wide open RB coming out of the backfield.
Golladay doesn't look like he's even expecting the ball when it comes.
I don't watch a lot of NYG football so couldn't tell you exactly what Jones should do but there are a lot of very plausible explanations that would put the blame on the QB as opposed to Golladay.
#37 by andrew // Aug 22, 2022 - 12:45pm
Mond stunk up the joint vs the 49ers the next week when he started, throwing two picks and generating less than 4 yards per attempt. Both his picks were passes just floated into coverage.
The Vikings seem to realize that deciding between Mond and Manion is no decision and traded for Mullins. So at least we're fairly certain the backup's name will start with "M".