As we continue to go through the motions of Christian Ponders second offseason as the Vikings anointed starter at quarterback, we should all be clamoring for progress reports on the young signal caller that is facing a do-or-die type of season.  Leslie Frazier calls the middle linebacker position the “quarterback of the defense” and that is the position, however, that seems to be generating the most interest.

Kevin Seifert of ESPN detailed a play during today’s OTA sessions in which Ponder lofted a pass over the head of Henderson, who has been most criticized for his coverage skills, which landed in the hands of tight end Kyle Rudolph who was running a seam route (didn’t realize Bill Musgrave knew tight ends could run those) and came away with a big game.

As Seifert noted, it is only fair for readers to realize that this is one of the hardest plays to cover (hint, hint, Bill Musgrave) for a mike linebacker, especially in a practice session in which there is no pass rush.

Henderson once again bristled at the notion that he will struggle to transition to his new position and, in fact, partially dismissed the idea that he will be taking on a role different from what he has played in the past.

“It’s still football and still the same game,” said Henderson. “The majority of the game is played from nickel, so I’ve seen it from that perspective.”

“You guys have forced me to look at it as a position shift,” he said of the media attention being paid to him this offseason. “It’s definitely not exactly what you’ve done before. I can understand why it would be a big deal and why it would be looked at like a different position. But I’ve been asked to learn this position since I’ve been here and it really isn’t that different for me.”

When Jasper Brinkley’s struggles persisted throughout 2012, Henderson did play more of the mike role in nickel situations, as he indicated.  Still, this is his first year where the “quarterback of the defense” role is his to lose, as he has never really been a full-time, every-down player.  While Frazier is at least playing it off as there is a competition at the position, with Audie Cole and Michael Mauti both being mentioned, fellow linebacker Chad Greenway gave Henderson a vote of confidence on Wednesday.

“He’ll have to catch up on the pass-coverage part because it wasn’t as common of a thing for him to do before. But he’ll be fine,” Greenway said of Henderson. “I’m telling you: He’ll be great.”

If Henderson can be “great” as Greenway indicates, then the Vikings defense should be in pretty good shape this season, but if he struggles find success in the middle and the Vikings have to implement some sort of “plan B” scenario, then Rick Spielman’s unwillingness to invest heavily in the linebacker position over the last two offseasons could end up being this roster’s achilles heal.

Of course, that “quarterback of the offense” position is still pretty darn important, too.

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  1. ““You guys have forced me to look at it as a position shift,” he said of the media attention being paid to him this off season.

    Someone on the Vike need to teach Erin how to handle the media. This guy has a thin skin and communicates poorly. Give the guy a handful of clichés and tell him not to deviate from the script. He acts like he’s been cheated by the world and never given a chance. He’s had plenty.

    Erin, perhaps things like, “I’ll give 110% each and every snap”, or “It’s gut check time”, or “We just need to go out and execute”, “I just need to play Viking football”, “It’s a game of field position”, ‘We need to get off the field on third down.” You get the picture. Just don’t answer the questions.

    Inside linebacker is one of those positions that requires a great deal of “read and react skills”, and it must be done quickly. Erin seems to think way too much and is always reading and never reacting.

    • Interestingly enough, someone HAS recently taught Erin about the media… Literally. He recently attended a course at Bowling Green (where I live now) on how to be a member of the sports media. He conducted mock game analysis, pressers, and interviews with members of the BG program.

    • How many football games have you played in again? All he was saying was that he’s always been preparing for it. He wasn’t looking at it like a position change. He’s a Linebacker and has been one for over 10 years. Get off his back and get back to your non-physically and emotionally draining job.

  2. I have a bad feeling Erin is gonna be just as good as the mike as he was on the outside. His whining is already driving me crazy, geesh.

  3. I don’t like his whining… And I don’t think he is that good in pass coverage.
    The good news is his teammates are behind him.

    I just want to see some ota and camp reports that say Erin is all over the field making plays.

  4. I think we’ll get about the same level of play as Brinkley gave them. I’m more concerned about the depth because both Erin and Marvin Mitchell missed games last year with injuries. They will need Hodges, Cole, and Mauti to be ready to take snaps at some point. They signed Stanford Keglar for depth the other day. He could be a guy to watch in camp.

  5. waiting for that report, or at least some kind of rumor or mention that isn’t just lip service, that ponder has greatly improved

    can’t have sub-100-yd. passing games this year


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