Kirk Cousins Praises ‘Other’ Vikings TE
With Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith on the shelf for a few weeks after a sudden thumb injury, the team must pivot to different TE options, at least as a contingency. And that’s probably why quarterback Kirk Cousins praised a different tight end at training camp on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, Cousins mentioned third-year TE Zach Davidson, who is currently in the vicinity of TE3 on the team’s depth chart. Davidson had a commendable day at practice, leading Cousins to declare about his newfound option, “I see a lot of ability in him, a high ceiling, a desire to work and get better. Similar to how I felt about Tyler Conklin a few years ago.”
That same Conklin had an unforeseen and productive season in 2021, generating a lucrative free-agent contract from the New York Jets. How? Well, he stepped up in a big way when Smith was injured last year, tallying 593 receiving yards, three touchdowns, and a few circus catches. Evidently, Cousins believes Davidson could emulate Conklin.
Davidson found his way to Minnesota vis-a-vis the famous Stefon Diggs trade. In 2019, the former Vikings WR became disenchanted with the team’s offense and ultimately forced his way out of Minnesota. Diggs landed with Buffalo via trade, while Minnesota stockpiled draft assets that led to the selection of Justin Jefferson (WR), Camryn Bynum (S), Janarius Robinson (EDGE), Kenny Willekes (EDGE), and Davidson. So far, Jefferson has captivated the NFL, Bynum shined as a rookie in 2021, Robinson is a depth pass rusher, Willekes has battled injuries, and Davidson is seeking to contribute in 2022.
It is unclear if Davidson’s camp performance would lead to a TE2 job in Minnesota, as veteran Johnny Mundt is tentatively pegged for the role. When Smith was injured earlier this week, Mundt seemed to be the “next man up,” presumably on tap as TE1 if Smith isn’t ready to go in September. In that regard, Davidon may be vying for the TE3 gig that can graduate to TE2 if Smith’s injury lingers.
Drafted in the 5th Round of the 2021 NFL Draft from Central Missouri State, Davidson experienced no playing time as a rookie. He was a practice-squad personality. Depending on the health of Smith, Mundt’s fruition as a TE2, and Davidson’s training camp progression, Davidson may land a 53-man roster spot at the end of the month.
In the lead-up to last year’s draft, Pro Football Network‘s Tony Pauline scouted Davidson, “Davidson was a terrific small school tight end who is reliable as both a pass catcher and a blocker. He lacks elite athleticism but comes with the size, growth potential, and upside to develop into a second tight end in the NFL.”
Overall, it’s a longshot for Davidson to live up to the 2021 Tyler Conklin expectations. Those circumstances are typically outliers. But at least the team’s quarterback sees promise in the 24-year-old.
If the Vikings realize Mundt or Davidson are not suitable non-Smith options, free agents Jared Cook, Eric Ebron, Jimmy Graham, and Blake Jarwin are available.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).