Monday, August 3, 2015

audie cole

The name Jasper Brinkley causes some Vikings fans to shudder as they recall his final season with the Vikings two years ago.  He started 15 games that season, after missing a season to injury, and the results were not overly inspiring.  After his four years with the Vikings, Brinkley signed as a free agent with Arizona last offseason.

Arizona then drafted rookie linebacker Kevin Minter.  Brinkley started three games before the rookie took over and Brinkley was released in February.

At 28 years old, Brinkley doesn’t seem like the type of guy that is suddenly going to get any faster or develop impressive coverage skills (both weaknesses of his), but I will admit that I have never been as down on his performances as many fans and analysts have been.  He is a downhill player that can deliver the big hit, but it is mistake to think he can cover a tight end like Vernon Davis on a deep seam route.  He has his limitations, but he also has his value.

In landing back in Minnesota, Brinkley has land in perhaps the best possible position available to him in the NFL, as the Vikings currently have a wide open vacancy at middle linebacker.  Audie Cole and Michael Mauti are expected to compete with Brinkley in training camp for the starting honors, but another free agent signing or significant draft selection could certainly see them all fighting to remain employed as backups.

Brinkley should be entering the 2014 season fully healthy (I don’t believe he was in 2012), seems to be liked well enough by his former teammates, and he’s already back to his ways of making headlines for all the right reasons off the field.  Even newly signed cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said the presence of Brinkley during his visit to Minnesota helped recruit him to join the Vikings, as they were roommates in college.

His contract is very low risk and, since he was released by Arizona, will not count against the Vikings in the compensatory pick formula.  Brinkley’s contract included only $25,000 in guarantees, according to Spotrac, and carries a total cap hit of only $830,000.

In the end Brinkley’s return is a low-risk and probably low-reward one for Rick Spielman.  He is never going to become a consistent game-changer and dominant force, but I do believe he can help a run defense that struggled greatly in 2013, if he is called up to do so.  If he doesn’t have a future with Mike Zimmer and the Vikings, however, they can simply part ways with him and move on… again.

Adam’s Grade:  B

 

 

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.

 

The overtime victory against the rival Bears on Sunday was a positive step for Vikings fans that just wanted the team to prove they still know how to win football games, but a step back for those that want to see the Vikings nab the first overall selection of the 2014 NFL Draft.

The mixed emotions about this win don’t end there, though.  A win is a win, but this was not a pretty one, and there is certainly a great deal of things we saw on Sunday that were beyond worrisome.  I’ve decided to split the difference and will look at five things I liked and five things I didn’t following the 23-20 victory.

FIVE POSITIVES

1.  Matt Cassel Shows Stones

When Christian Ponder had to exit early it was Matt Cassel, not Josh Freeman, who was dressed and ready to take the reigns.  Cassel came in as a reserve, but played in a way that should clearly give him a leg up in the quarterback conversation in Minnesota.  He went 20 for 33 and a touchdown.  His lone pick was not his fault in the slightest, as tight end Rhett Ellison bobbled a perfect strike, and it really should have ended up being a second touchdown on the statline.  The only reason it wasn’t a touchdown for the Bears, by all appearances, was Cassel’s hustle as he chased down linebacker Khaseem Greene after he returned the ball for 49 yards.  Cassel may not be the starter next week against Baltimore, because no decision regarding this team ever seems to be the obvious one, but he showed up big after the Vikings offense netted just 16 passing yards through the first half with Ponder at the helm.

2. Nobody Does It Better

Much was written about Adrian Peterson’s greatness Monday, after the future Hall of Famer broke the 10,000 rushing yard threshold Sunday, but I’m so in awe of his everyday accomplishments that I can’t even begin to put into words how prolific his career has been thus far.  Peterson ran for 211 yards on 35 carries (6.0 yard average) against the Bears and seemingly willed the offense down the field at times, including moments in the fourth quarter and in overtime, and you just know he is the still a player that makes his team a competitor week-in and week-out.  Even when they are a bad team.

Quarterback Josh Freeman will continue to ride out the 2013 season as the third-string quarterback for at least another week.  Freeman is inactive for today’s game against Chicago.

The rest of the Vikings inactive players are:  CB Josh Robinson, DT Chase Baker, G Jeff Baca, T Mike Remmers, WR Rodney Smith, and TE Kyle Rudolph.

Linebacker Erin Henderson is active this week, but Audie Cole had a nice debut in his absence last week and is again expected to get the start.

The Bears will be without S Major Wright, QB Jay Cutler, and LB Lance Briggs today.

Join us in our VT Chat Room during today’s actions.

There is little we fans find more frustrating about our Vikings than their willingness to sit on young players, hoping they develop into quality players via practice rather than rushing them into action before their ready.  The frustration is compounded when we never get a chance to see what the player has on game day and Audie Cole is the latest example.

In a curious move, just prior to Thursday night’s matchup against Washington, the Vikings decided to waive their young linebacker and promote offensive tackle Kevin Murphy from the practice squad.  With Phil Loadholt missing time, and Charlie Johnson also out, I can see the sense in needing more depth up front.  Still, making Cole the casualty just doesn’t seem to add up.

Tonight’s inactives are:  Cornerback Chris Cook, right tackle Phil Loadholt, guard Charlie Johnson, safety Jamarca Sanford, running back Matt Asiata, tight end Kyle Rudolph, and defensive tackle Fred Evans.

Surprisingly LeTroy Guion, who was listed as “doubtful,” is active for tonight’s game.  He will not start, however, and rookie Sharrif Floyd will be filling in.

Please make sure you join us in our VT Chat Room to discuss tonight’s action, including a Hall of Fame ring presentation for Cris Carter, with all the Vikings fans that hang out in these parts.

 

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