FanPost

A Look at the Vikings Linebackers

Kyle got the ball rolling with his excellent round-up of the Vikings free agents this off-season. That got me thinking about one of our biggest needs heading into the offseason: Linebacker. I am of the opinion that we need a major overhaul of our linebackers. Outside of Chad Greenway, we need a major infusion of talent and skill at the MLB position and the other OLB. We ran a lot of nickel defense this year, which only calls for two LB. And in most of those instances, Jasper Brinkley rotated out of the lineup and to the bench. Why do you think that might be? It could perhaps be due to the fact that his coverage skills are so poor. If we instead had a dominant MLB that could stay on the field in passing situations and that could run our base defense (like Patrick Willis in San Fran or Ray Lewis in Baltimore) it would only help our 4-3 defense.

I went scouring through the regular season stat sheet and I was shocked by what I found. Check out these stats:

Games

Tackles

NFL Rank

LB Rank

INTs

Passes Def

Sacks

Forced Fumbles

Fumble Recoveries

Chad Greenway

16

148

3rd

3rd

1

5

3

0

2

Jasper Brinkley

16

97

55th

40th

0

2

0

3

0

Erin Henderson

14

79

90th

52nd

0

2

3

1

0

Looking primarily at tackle totals, Brinkley and Henderson are pretty low on the totem pole, and pale in comparison to Chad Greenway. Greenway is almost doubling Erin Henderson's tackle total (although Henderson only played 14 games). However, even Brinkley and Henderson's coverage skills look a bit suspect with no INTs and a low number of passes defended. That said, they are showing up on the stat sheet in other key areas like sacks and forced fumbles. But there is a lot left to be desired. If that isn’t enough to cause you worry, back at the mid-point of the season, Pro Football Focus put out their “Tackling Efficiency” ranks for linebackers, and our own Jasper Brinkley made their “Top 20 Worst Tackling Linebackers” list.

KJ just happened to point out in his article today that both Jasper Brinkley and Erin Henderson will be free agents this offseason. I would love to see us either retain their services as backups and depth (not likely) or institute a complete overhaul of the LB corp and find replacements either in the draft or in free agency. If you remember last offseason we let EJ Henderson go with the thought that Brinkely (who was returning from IR) could take over the middle. Erin Henderson’s undrafted free agent deal was up and he was looking for a major pay day. Unfortunately, nobody offered him one, except for the Vikings on a 1-year deal. Essentially, we filled in our LB spots with what looks like a patch-over job. And I think it’s safe to say that Brinkley and Henderson didn’t quite live up to the task.

So, where does that leave us? What other options are there? Well check out this list of free agents this offseason, and scroll down to the Linebackers. Here are some names that jump out at me:

-Rey Maualuga, he’s coming off his rookie deal at age 25, and may not have lived up to the hype coming out of USC in 2009. But he’s still a great MLB and it would take a lot to pry him away from the Bengals. He would be a good upgrade over Jasper Brinkley.

-Daryl Smith, He’s an older player at age 30, but is still one of the best OLB in the league with the Jaguars. He was dealing with a groin injury this season, but would be a major upgrade over Erin Henderson. He may not fit the “rebuilding” theme of last off-season, but he could still play a role as an excellent stop-gap player until we can draft/groom a long-term solution.

I haven’t really done my NFL Draft research yet, but according to CBS Sports, here are some names to watch this off-season as potential 1st or 2nd rounders at Linebacker:

-Manti Teo – Notre Dame
-Jarvis Jones – Georgia
-Barkevious Mingo - LSU
-Kevin Minter – LSU
-Khaseem Green – Rutgers
-Arthur Brown – Kansas State
-Chase Thomas – Stanford
-Alex Ogletree – Georgia

I didn't even list the backups on the depth chart, but we also have the following guys already on the roster who are mostly playing special teams: Audie Cole, Larry Dean, Marvin Mitchell, and Tyrone McKenzie. Audie Cole flashed some potential in the preseason, and Marvin Mitchell came over as a highly rated free agent last off-season. I'm not sure what we have in Larry Dean or Tyrone McKenzie, but I do know that if none of these guys could see the field over Jasper Brinkley and Erin Henderson...then they must not be very good. What are all your thoughts regarding our linebacker situation? Are Brinkley and Henderson worth keeping around and re-signing? Should we go after a big name free agent? Should we spent a high round draft pick on a LB?

This FanPost was created by a registered user of The Daily Norseman, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of the site. However, since this is a community, that view is no less important.

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