Browns Poach Standout WR, ‘Mr. Mankato’ Winner From Vikings

Alexander Hollins

Getty Alexander Hollins was signed by the Browns off the Vikings' practice squad on Monday.

When former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski left for the Cleveland Browns head coaching gig, he carried with him a blueprint to running a wide-zone running scheme that present Vikings offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak helped create.

The Browns find themselves short at wide receiver after their top-four wideouts were ruled out of last Sunday’s game due to COVID-19 contact tracing and opted to sign a wide receiver off Minnesota’s practice squad who has familiarity with the system and Stefanski.

Alexander Hollins was poached off the Vikings practice squad on Monday and is currently undergoing coronavirus protocol to join Cleveland’s 53-man roster in time for a pivotal showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

If the Browns win, they’re virtually in the postseason. If they lose, their playoff chances fall to 30%, per the New York Times, as they’ll leave their postseason hopes to fate, making for a bright stage for Hollins to prove himself.

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Hollins Named ‘Mr. Mankato’

Hollins, who earned a spot on the 2019 practice squad as an undrafted rookie played was elevated for five games a season ago, including in the NFC Wild Card game against the New Orleans Saints.

He impressed at training camp this season, earning “Mr. Mankato” recognition from Zone Coverage’s Sam Ekstrom, a figurative award given to a small-school player that exceeds expectations at Vikings training camp.

Here’s what Ekstrom wrote on Hollins’ training camp performance:

Hollins has evolved tremendously to the naked eye. As a receiver with a disadvantage size-wise, he’s started winning with quickness and route-running. Throughout camp he’s shown the ability to shake cornerbacks down the field and demonstrated better deep speed than other diminutive receivers on the roster like Chad Beebe and even Bisi Johnson.

Wide receivers coach Andrew Janocko was high on Hollins in the offseason, saying “it’s been a lot of fun to see him develop. The mental steps that he took in the offseason were huge. He committed himself to learning the playbook and being open to play X and play Z and learn the concepts as a whole, not just one position, and I think that’s really helped him.  And then he’s working physically. He’s working hard in the weight room. We challenge him to take another step physically, and I think he’s really been working hard at that, so it’s been fun seeing some of that stuff pay off for him so far in this camp.”


A Surprise Cut

It was no certainty that Hollins would make the 53-man roster after the Vikings rostered only four wideouts in 2019, but when the 2020 53-man roster was announced, there was shock surrounding Hollins not making the cut among a group of seven rostered receivers to start the season in Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, Bisi Johnson, Chad Beebe, Tajae Sharpe and special teams rookies Dan Chisena and K.J. Osborn.

Osborn was pinned as the team’s lead returner but quickly relinquished those duties to running back Ameer Abdullah after struggling early in the season. Sharpe caught zero passes on three targets through 13 games before he was cut and signed by the Kansas City Chiefs, begging the question of whether there was room to elevate Hollins.

It was believed that Hollins had surpassed Beebe and potentially even Bisi Johnson as a speedy deep threat, but Hollins was ultimately hampered by his thin frame, standing 6-foot-1 and only 166-pounds. His struggles to become a blocker in the run game and battle for contested catches were likely the reasons for the coaching staff not elevating him this season with a slew of other weapons.

The Vikings, without a practice squad wide receiver, will likely need to address the position in the upcoming draft.

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