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.