The highlight of the 2012 season for Minnesota Vikings linebacker Audie Cole came in the preseason, as he returned two interceptions for touchdowns against the Buffalo Bills. That performance propelled him to a spot on the Vikings’ 53-man roster as a rookie, despite being drafted in the seventh round (210th overall).
But Cole was only active for five games during the regular season, and registered no statistics in those contests. Still, Vikings’ head coach Leslie Frazier has continued to mention him this offseason when talking about who will replace the departed Jasper Brinkley as Minnesota’s primary middle linebacker. Erin Henderson is currently slated to move over from the weak side, but the team’s visit and workout with Desmond Bishop, who was released by the Green Bay Packers on Monday, confirms there is still some doubt within the organization about where they stand at linebacker.
It would be a huge surprise to see Cole get a legitimate chance to earn a starting job during training camp, so his clearest path to a roster spot looks to be as a backup at middle linebacker while also serving as a primary contributor on special teams. His primary competition for that role looks to be Tyrone McKenzie and Larry Dean, and I think it’s certain the Vikings won’t carry all three into Week 1 against the Detroit Lions. Of the trio, Cole may have the best chance of sticking on Minnesota’s practice squad if he doesn’t earn a roster spot.
The Vikings would have to be decimated by injuries at linebacker for Cole to play significant defensive snaps in 2013. But I think he has a chance to make it hard for the team to de-activate him on game days, starting with a good showing during training camp and the preseason.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.