The Minnesota Vikings enter OTAs this week with some uncertainty at linebacker, with only Chad Greenway slated to return to the same starting spot he had in 2012. Jasper Brinkley, who started 15 games at middle linebacker for the team last season, signed with the Arizona Cardinals in free agency and rumors surrounding the Vikings and Brian Urlacher officially ended with his retirement.
Erin Henderson is the current front runner to start at middle linebacker for Minnesota in 2013, after spending his career to this point playing predominantly on the weak side. He is coming off the best season of his career in 2012, with 80 total tackles and three sacks, and has reported bulked up to nearly 250 pounds in anticipation of a position change. Henderson played in the middle some last season when the Vikings were in their nickel defense, due at least in part to Brinkley’s shortcomings in coverage, so the transition may not be all that difficult for him.
Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier has mentioned 2012 seventh-round pick Audie Cole and Michael Mauti, a seventh-round pick himself this April, as potential options at middle linebacker as well. But through the first few days of organized team work Henderson has taken all the first-team reps, so barring injury that should not change when training camp gets going in late July.
Henderson has sounded like a player motivated to prove any doubters wrong this offseason, speaking forcefully about a lack of respect for what he has accomplished in his career during an interview with 1500 ESPN-Twin Cities earlier this month. I think he is taking any perceived slights a little too personally, but if he uses that as fuel to work hard and take the next step in his career the Vikings should be happy with the results.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.