Just two short weeks ago, while prioritizing my view on the offseason needs of the Minnesota Vikings, I placed inside linebacker at the top of the list and wrote this sentence:
Audie Cole and Michael Mauti have plenty of fan support, but it just seems like they are not destined for stardom.
Well, maybe I jumped the gun a little there. Maybe, just maybe, I underestimated how much perception could change over the course of two (or one, really) NFL football game.
In Week Seventeen, against an uninspired and lackluster Chicago Bears team, Audie Cole filled in for Chad Greenway and the results were genuinely impressive. In fact, I would personally go so far as to say Cole had one of the best linebacker performances we’ve seen since Antoine Winfield’s prime (I still stand by my assertion that Winfield was more linebacker than corner).
Cole received a higher game grade (+7.8) from Pro Football Focus than Greenway ever has in his career and, from what I can tell, is the highest grade given to a player of the same position all year. That, to say the least, is a pretty impressive “next man up” effort.