Wednesday, November 25, 2015

audie cole

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The revolving door at linebacker continues for the Minnesota Vikings, who just placed Audie Cole on Injured Reserve and signed free agent Jason Trusnik to the active roster. Cole, who broke his ankle against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, will miss the remainder of the 2015 season.

Trusnik comes to Minnesota after stints with the Carolina Panthers, Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, and New York Jets. The former Ohio Northern Klondike was an undrafted free agent following the 2007 NFL Draft and has played in 109 career games (24 starts), tallying 146 total tackles, 4 PDs, 4 FRs and 1 FF in eight seasons.

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When Gerald Hodges was traded to San Francisco, it was rookie linebacker Eric Kendricks that was handed the keys to the defense. Those keys were tossed to Audie Cole when Kendricks was unable to face St. Louis on Sunday due to an injury to his ribs.

Cole, however, did not survive this game and Head Coach Mike Zimmer indicated he would miss the rest of this season after suffering a fractured ankle during the action.

“I think Kendricks will get back and I think we’ll be fine,” Zimmer said following the game. “[Edmond] Robinson is doing a good job. [Brandon] Watts is a doing a good job. We’re not going to cry because we have injuries. We’re going to get the next guy in there and go fight.”

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Today, the Minnesota Vikings will try to stop Todd Gurley without two of their best defensive players; linebacker Eric Kendricks and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. Both are inactive for what is the Vikings’ most important game of the season, as Minnesota will look to gain ground on the division-leading Green Bay Packers in the NFC North.

In their place, Audie Cole and Tom Johnson will start. Last season, Cole started the Vikings’ Week 17 game against the Chicago Bears and recorded 11 tackles. He’s shown the ability to step up when called on, though the loss of Kendricks will surely hurt the Vikings in blitzing situations. Johnson, meanwhile, has played well in place of Floyd. Below, a look at the rest of the team’s inactives:

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With rookie Eric Kendricks drawing the starting assignment at middle linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings in Saturday’s third preseason game, the second-round draft pick seemed to be inching closer to securing to the starting spot many believed he would fill.

After several weeks of playing behind Audie Cole, Kendricks was getting his chance. Then Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Monday the team had decided on a starter for this week, who could potentially keep the job. Zimmer withheld names because he hadn’t told the team yet.

“I’m just trying to get through this week,” Zimmer said, indicating he knew who would start Saturday’s preseason game at Dallas. “We’ll see, if it goes good this week, then maybe we will go with it the rest of the way. If guys are playing good, they’ll keep playing and if they’re not…I just haven’t told the players yet so I don’t want to tell you.”

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Heading into the offseason, one of my biggest concerns surrounding the Vikings was the depth at linebacker. Anthony Barr missed the final four games of the year after undergoing surgery to repair a slightly torn meniscus, and veteran linebacker Chad Greenway wrapped up his worst statistical season since entering the league in 2007.  And at middle linebacker, Jasper Brinkley finished the year with 54 tackles, but left a gaping hole in the defense after signing a free agent deal with the Dallas Cowboys.

As Brent pointed out last week, though, this roster is loaded with young talent at the position, from freak athletes like Anthony Barr to late-round picks like Audie Cole. General manager Rick Spielman isn’t just drafting college’s best linebackers (see Eric Kendricks), he’s letting the coaching staff develop a few lesser-known players.

Seventh-round pick Edmond Robinson has the size and raw tools to contribute for the Vikings in the future, but will have time to grow as he sits behind Brandon Watts, Josh Kaddu, and Brian Peters. In Sunday’s game, both Watts and Peters played well against Pittsburgh’s backups, with Peters flashing his open field skills on a fumble recovery in the third quarter.

If anything, the biggest gap remains in the middle of Mike Zimmer’s unit. The players mentioned above are going to shine during the preseason, as it’s their best chance to step foot on the field and show the coaches what — special teams depth, a practice squad spot — they can bring to the team. But three in particular appear to be fighting for a chance to man the middle of the defense: Audie Cole, Eric Kendricks, and Gerald Hodges.

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