Sunday, July 5, 2015

Erin Henderson

The topic of the week, which happens be literally the only topic of the week, is the decision of linebacker Desmond Bishop to choose the Vikings over multiple other offers.  Details of his deal have been revealed and it appears Rick Spielman signed a high-upside player to a very low-risk one year contract.  Bishop’s deal is reportedly worth up to $1.35 million, with playing time incentives built in, which is a bargain by just about anyone’s standards.  Even Erin Henderson, who Bishop is expected to force back to the weak side position, will make more money this season than Bishop.

So, despite the lack of experience in a 4-3 defense and his recent injury woes, I can’t see why anyone would have any issue with this signing.  Some might be expecting far too much from our new linebacker, but I just fail to see the downside.

Now is your chance to voice your opinion, however, so use the poll below and the comments section to let us know what you are thinking.

Immediately following the NFL Draft, no matter the year, fans eagerly fantasize about seeing what the new crop brings to the table.  This offseason, Vikings fans have been giddy about the prospects of the Penn State linebacker duo, consisting of Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti, and figured the relative lack of depth at the position would quickly see one of them forced into action.

They may end up having an impact in the NFL, and we all hope they are studs, but it now appears that their moment will have to wait for current group of formidable veterans to fizzle.

The strong side spot is manned by a Pro Bowl caliber talent in Chad Greenway, entering the third year of his $40.6 million contract, and that is unlikely to change barring an injury.

We entered this offseason unsure if unrestricted free agent Erin Henderson would be retained, but the Vikings showed confidence in his abilities by signing him to a two year deal worth $4 million.  They didn’t have enough confidence in his abilities, however, to keep them from signing recently released linebacker Desmond Bishop to a one-year deal.

Due to my unexpected time off, I have yet to really weigh in on the Vikings interest in former Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop, who was a surprising offseason cut after he missed all of 2012 with a torn hamstring.

Bishop had been with the Packers since 2007 and started as an inside linebacker both in 2010 and 2011.  As a member of their 3-4 defense, Bishop really began to make a name for himself, but his hamstring injury derailed an entire season and now he is looking for work.  With reports swirling that he has offers from the Vikings, Chiefs, and Giants it is hard to imagine he’ll be unemployed very much longer.

The Vikings claim Bishop had a good workout with the team, which hopefully means trainer Eric Sugarman came away unconcerned about his health, and this speculation is another sign that Erin Henderson is destined to move back to his native position on the weakside.  Henderson, as we all know, is the current guy with his paws on the starting Mike job.  At a minimum, Bishop represents very significant competition at the position.

Of course, as Kevin Seifert wisely notes, assuming they aren’t looking to him as an outside linebacker might be a mistake.

Bishop turns 29 in about a month and his official profile says he stands at 6′ 2″ and weighs 238 pounds.  In five seasons he has started a total of 16 games, only once playing in every game of the season, and had a career high 115 combined tackles in 2011.  Over his career he has nine sacks, nine deflected passes, eight forced fumbles, and one interception (which he returned for a score).

Changing to a 4-3 scheme, as well as the injury concerns, could be a reason to have only cautious optimism that things will work out between the Vikings and Bishop.  Also, while he might represent an upgrade over some current options at the middle linebacker spot, Bishop isn’t exactly a game-changer in any facet of the game.  He is more your solid and dependable guy that does a decent job with gap discipline and sound fundamentals.

On the other hand, Spielman may look like a genius for waiting so long to find a middle linebacker, as he is arguably the best one to be available in free agency this offseason.  Karlos Dansby’s decline, Larry Grant’s suspension, and Rolando McClain’s bizarre personal life are all reasons to call Bishop the guy with the highest ceiling of this offseason’s choices.

The Vikings are thought to have about $7.13 million in current cap space.  That should be plenty to sign all three of their first round draft picks (the rest of their draft class is already signed) and also bring in a veteran or two, such as Bishop.

I really, really, really apologize for having been so absent of late.  Life kept me from updating VT at the rate you’ve grown accustomed to and I am sorry for that, but I am back now and ready to get back into the groove.  The Vikings minicamp is underway and the best way to get caught up is our weekly links feature.  Enjoy!

  • The Vikings have parted ways with a number of players this offseason and it is always interesting to keep tabs on how they are doing in their new surroundings.
  • Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton could see an expanded role in his second season in Minnesota.
  • Greg Childs is packing on the pounds and waiting patiently for his chance to prove himself.
  • It didn’t take more than one measly season for Harrison Smith to establish himself as one of the NFL’s most feared tacklers.
  • Chad Greenway underwent a minor operation on his knee but says he’ll be ready for training camp.
  • Terrell Owens thinks he could be a good fit in Minnesota… by which I assume he means as a season ticket holder.
  • We look forward to speed and athleticism being the source of numerous Cordarrelle Patterson highlights, but Greg Jennings says he possesses another unique trait that will separate him from other rookie wide outs.
  • When he took the nameplate off his locker, Antoine Winfield knew he wouldn’t be returning to the Vikings.
  • An extensive look into what Jared Allen did in 2012 and what we can expect in 2013.
  • Adam Thielen, Josh Robinson, and John Carlson were among the standouts from the first minicamp practice.
  • Mike Priefer spoke to reporters about the respect he has for Chris Kluwe and the decision to cut him.
  • Despite the Vikings kicking the tires on linebacker Desmond Bishop, Erin Henderson won’t accept the notion that he isn’t the guy to man the Mike position this year.
  • It is nice to see Kenechi Udeze back as a member of the Vikings once again.
  • Linebacker Michael Mauti is nearly ready to start competing for a roster spot.
  • While the Vikings posted ten wins in 2012, some are expecting disappointment during the coming season.
  • Let this page load to get a little glimpse at the minicamp action.
  • Adrian Peterson and Mistral Raymond are two guys not practicing during minicamp.
  • The Vikings might visit London three seasons in a row while their new stadium is being built.
  • Coordinator Alan Williams says Desmond Bishop had a good workout with the Vikings.

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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