Since he was drafted in 2010, Everson Griffen has moved all over the field as the Minnesota Vikings continue their search for where he fits on their team. From defensive end (his original position) to linebacker to gunner on punts, the Vikings haven’t yet figured out his niche as an NFL player. They simply plug Griffen in wherever they most need his athleticism at the time.
That trend might continue in 2012, a season that could see the Vikings field one of their thinnest linebacking groups in recent history. Rumors have emerged that the Vikings could again be looking to switch Griffen to linebacker in hopes of bolstering one of their weakest positions.
The current starting lineup consists of Pro Bowler Chad Greenway, up-and-comer Erin Henderson and Jasper Brinkley, who missed all of the 2011 season while nursing a hip injury. Although there’s little concern about Greenway or Henderson, fears are beginning to arise that Brinkley might still be out of the picture due to a groin injury. The former 2009 fifth-round pick out of South Carolina has missed all of the Vikings’ offseason workouts and is questionable for the start of training camp.
Apart from the three starters, the Vikings offer little talent amongst their linebacking depth.
Solomon Elimimian, who was signed this offseason from the CFL, is an exciting young talent but might be limited to a backup role as he transitions to the NFL. Veteran Marvin Mitchell has some experience, but will likely be limited to special teams while serving as an emergency backup. Youngsters Larry Dean and Tyrone McKenzie are unproven and have yet to show that they’re ready for an expanded role in the defense. 2012 seventh-round pick Audie Cole is promising, but his rawness and lack of physical tools make him nothing more than a special teamer at this point.
The only other linebackers on the training camp roster are Corey Paredes and Tyler Nielsen, both undrafted rookies who are longshots to even make the team.
So what’s the best way to take advantage of an athletic defensive playmaker while supporting a position of need? Take a player with the talent of Griffen and make him a linebacker.
First and foremost, making the switch for Griffen allows the Vikings to put an electrifying talent on the field more often. It also gives them the opportunity to solve a lingering problem with a creative solution. The move would get him out from behind defensive ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison, which could easily allow him more than the 10-15 snaps per game he got in 2011. No matter the reasoning, Griffen giving it another go at linebacker offers more positives than negatives.
Whether or not Griffen makes the switch permanently for the 2012 season will be decided during training camp. The option will definitely be explored extensively once the Vikings reconvene.
It might not be the solve-all the Vikings need at linebacker, but Griffen would immediately provide the linebacking corps with some much-needed depth. He’s the type of talent that deserves playing time and a position switch would be the best way to give him that in Minnesota.