Linebacker Erin Henderson hasn’t seen any playing time these last two weeks, after his drunk driving arrest was made public, but that will change this week. Also, after getting ejected from last week’s game for making contact with an official, cornerback Chris Cook should return to his starting post.
Cook’s disappointing contract season hit an all-time low last Sunday as Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery repeatedly abused Cook on his way to a record-setting performance. Cook’s early exit was the result of frustration on his part, supposedly because the referee had failed to call a penalty for what Cook thought was offensive pass interference on Jeffery.
Cook has been fined $26,250 by the NFL, a standard fine for making contact with an official, but already had his agent appeal it. It’d be a pretty big shock if he won any sort of appeal.
Cook, who avoided the media following the game and has stayed away from social media (presumably to avoid people like me) all week, admitted he needs to keep his cool and that he has a lot riding on these last four games.
“I know I have to keep my composure, that’s basically what [Frazier] told me, that was the big thing,” Cook said via 1500ESPN. “I was just frustrated with some things that happened in the game, lost my composure. I can guarantee it won’t happen again. ”
Coach Leslie Frazier expressed to Cook that the nature of the cornerback position means you will be on the wrong end of a lot of big plays and that a key part of being successful is handling those moments better than Cook handled it last weekend. With Cook’s rookie contract nearly up, and with him still struggling as a player and as a personality, it is looking more and more likely that Rick Spielman will let his former second rounder enter free agency unrestricted.
Henderson started this season as the team’s middle linebacker, but has officially lost his job after his arrest open the door for Audie Cole to have back-to-back performances that show promise, and we have now learned what many of us suspected all along. This week, speaking with the media, Leslie Frazier admitted that having Henderson play in the middle was not the team’s first choice and that the results of the Draft made him the best choice by default.
“He was moved to the ‘Mike’ linebacker position not necessarily because that’s what we wanted to do, but that was the plight that we were in,” Frazier said. “He didn’t come in a year ago as our middle linebacker. There were some things that happened over the offseason that resulted in him being our middle linebacker. He’s a very good outside backer and expect him to play well on Sunday.”
As 4-3 outside linebackers go, Henderson has been one of the better weakside guys in the NFL since Ben Leber left the vacancy open, and it’ll be interesting to see how he plays at his intended spot. Henderson talked a big game prior to the season, denouncing the critics and the speculation surrounding the team’s decision to sign Desmond Bishop, but now Henderson admits he heard what was being said and that it impacted him personally.
“I have a lot of things to be happy about and thankful for, aside from all the naysayers and haters everybody else who’s had different things to say about me throughout the year,” Henderson said. “Sometimes I let it get to me and get down too much. I’ve come to grips with it and come to terms with it and I’m able to look at myself and know the man that I am and accept it.”
Cole is intriguing. Henderson moving back to the weakside is interesting. However, what most has my curiosity up is the question of who the Vikings were targeting in April’s Draft that was going to be the solution, and why Rick Spielman was unable to haul his guy in despite having (by the end of the night) three first round picks at his disposal.
I’m not saying the three picks he made were bad ones, I love this year’s rookie class, but it was no secret all offseason long that middle linebacker was a huge need for the Vikings and Rick Spielman’s inability to find a fix is a glaring mistake on his record. It isn’t like this problem can simply be blamed on injuries or suspension, this appears to be a flat-out swing and a miss.
And, in somewhat out-of-character fashion, Frazier seems to have gone out of his way to let the world know that he was given second-tier options at arguably the defense’s most important position.