The Minnesota Vikings are doing some re-shuffling of their linebacking corp this offseason, with Chad Greenway firmly established on the strong side on the heels of back-to-back Pro Bowl appearances and some question marks beyond that. Erin Henderson is moving to middle linebacker in place of the departed Jasper Brinkley, but that move creates a question of who will take over Henderson’s old spot on the weak side.
There are plenty of players in the mix to start at weakside linebacker for the Vikings, but rookie Gerald Hodges is the most intriguing player in the group. He was the first of two former Penn State linebackers the Vikings drafted in April, along with Michael Mauti, but Hodges has a much clearer path to significant playing time with Mauti working his way back from the third torn ACL of his college career in 2012. Stanford Keglar was added to Minnesota’s linebacker mix earlier this week, but he last played in the NFL in 2010 and is a long shot to stick.
Marvin Mitchell has seen time on the weak side early in OTAs, and Tyrone McKenzie could also make a push for playing time as offseason work goes on. But Mitchell and McKenzie have not shown a lot at this point in their careers, and based on pure physical tools and upside Hodges should be the front runner to start.
The mental side of the game will be important to the Vikings’ defensive coaches as they sort out the competition at weakside linebacker during training camp, but if Hodges shows he can handle that area there’s no reason he should not start Week 1 against the Detroit Lions.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.