Vikings HC Teases Emergence of Unlikely Hero

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T.J. Hockenson departed from last Sunday’s contest with a significant knee injury that will cost him at least the remainder of the season. Because of the severity, he might not be ready for the season opener in 2024. The Pro Bowler was on a record-setting pace, but now the Vikings must find a way to replace him. Kevin O’Connell has a vision of how that could be possible.

Vikings HC Teases Emergence of Unlikely Hero

Vikings HC Teases Emergence of Unlikely Hero
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The Vikings employed four tight ends on the 53-man roster, but without Hockenson, there are three remaining: Josh Oliver, Johnny Mundt, and Nick Muse. Oliver, of course, was a big signing in the offseason as a fantastic run-blocker. Mundt was on the roster last year but lost his role in plays that require two tight ends to Oliver. Muse was a seventh-rounder last year and had stints on the practice squad in his debut campaign, but has been on the 53-man roster all season.

While none of those guys is an inspiring option in the passing game as a dynamic playmaker, O’Connell wants to feature Mundt more in the final two games.

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Asked about which guy, Oliver or Mundt, will have an increased role, he said on Friday:

They are both going to take on bigger roles. I think you’ll see Johnny (Mundt) a little more on some of those third downs. You guys have heard me talk about Johnny Mundt in the past and why we wanted to have him here and just his role and value is he’s really a jack of all trades kinda guy and he’s always taking reps right behind T.J. (Hockenson) when it’s critical pass game and he’s always ready to step in the way he did last week against Detroit.

Josh has been in a huge role for us all season whether we’re throwing it, running it, whatever it is. Excited to watch those guys play but it is unfortunate to be without T.J.

Kevim O’Connell
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

O’Connell has made it known how much he likes Mundt since signing him in 2022. The two worked together in Los Angeles when KOC was the offensive coordinator of the Rams, and he helped him secure career numbers last season.

In 79 career games, Mundt has caught 37 passes for 308 yards and 1 touchdown. However, 251 yards and 27 receptions came in his 32 games with the Vikings. He is a decent blocker and has proven that he catches the football when the ball is thrown to him, although he lacks Hockenson’s rare dynamic skill set.

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Without the top tight end in the lineup, the Vikes will be more WR-heavy in the passing game and emphasize the rushing attack, but some touches will always be reserved for the tight end position. It remains to be seen if Mundt and Oliver can be a productive duo, but O’Connell’s optimism is a good sign that he trusts his guys in a next-man-up scenario.

Mundt, 29, will be an unrestricted free agent in March, and he can now prove that he can play well with a higher workload.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt