As training camp gets underway, the Minnesota Vikings will begin open competition for vacant spots on the depth chart. Leading into the NFL Preseason, I’ll bring you a preview of each position on the roster.
In this installment we take a look at the Linebackers:
Overview: The linebacking corps can best be described by four words, lack of experienced depth. Long-time middle linebacker EJ Henderson is now gone, and the majority of the remaining players are young with little to no NFL expericnce.
OLB – Erin Henderson: EJ’s little brother, will be called upon to play a much big role this season than he ever has before. In 2011 he took steps towards being a reliable guy on the outside for Minnesota. He’s coming off easily his best season as a pro, 70 total tackles, and 2 forced fumbles in 15 games. At 6’3, 244, and only 26 years of age, Henderson still has a good upside.
MLB – Jasper Brinkley: Brinkley is the guy penciled in at middle linebacker at this point. He missed all of last season after hip surgery, and it was reported that he was still having issues during minicamps. Brinkley’s best season came in his rookie campaign, when he recorded 30 solo tackles. He’s also young at only 27, and presents some potential, but the reality is that he’s a big question mark going into training camp.
OLB – Chad Greenway: The unquestionable heart and soul of the linebackers for the Vikings. Greenway is coming off his first pro bowl season, in which he finished third in the league with 154 tackles. He’s a player that’s in his prime, and fans should expect a season that’s equal or better than 2011.
Others in the mix:
Audie Cole, Larry Dean, Solomon Elimimian, Everson Griffen, Tyrone McKenzie, Marvin Mitchell, Tyler Nielsen, Corey Paredes
The projected backups that will fight to make the roster, only have a combined 249 career tackles, due to the fact most of them are rookies. I think that stat alone paints the picture of the Vikings’ linebacker situation.
Everson Griffin will change positions from defensive line to linebacker to compete for more playing time in 2012.
This unit needs help, and I think GM Rick Spielman knows that. I’m hoping that Spielman makes the moves to bring in some veterans. Once cuts start happening around the league, I predict the first year GM will get on the phone and bring a couple of experienced guys in to compete.
As for the starters, they should at least be decent, and they have the potential to be good. You know what you’re going to get from Greenway, Henderson should improve with a full season now under his belt, and Brinkley must stay healthy. Just how good the unit can be, will largely depend on Brinkley’s performance. If he turns out to be the player they think he is, the Vikings will have themselves a respectable unit.
Photo courtesy of US Presswire.