Saturday, January 31, 2015
Tags Posts tagged with "Erin Henderson"

Erin Henderson

[Note:  Want to see a list of every player featured in our “Draft Target” segment?  Click here to visit the Offseason Tracker where there will be a list of all these players.  Check back often as there are plenty more to come!]

The Vikings are less than two days away from free agency and they have yet to resign any of their own pending free agents.  On offense, they stand to take a big step backwards if they lose Phil Loadholt, Jerome Felton, and maybe even Percy Harvin all at once.  Those are roles that would be tough to fill all at once, let alone upgrade.

On defense, however, the Vikings have three guys that have started games for them that are set to be free agents and it is hard to picture replacements being any major step back.  In fact, when it comes to Jasper Brinkley, Erin Henderson, and Jamarca Sanford I think the Vikings could conceivably upgrade each spot without too much trouble and without over-investing.  It may not come to that, as each player still seems possible to return, but the Vikings have to look for new linebacker talent regardless.

There are a number of linebackers at the top of the draft class that generate a significant amount of buzz, but each comes with red flags that can’t ignored, such as Manti Te’o’s bizarre girlfriend saga and Alec Ogletree’s DUI.  Arthur Brown seems to be quite popular with some fans, but I don’t know that I would want to spend a first round pick on a guy that might not be a three down player for the Vikings, and I do worry that it is the case with him.

Later on in the Draft, however, it is more excusable to select a linebacker that might have some question marks or maybe isn’t going to be a full time player.  Especially at weakside linebacker, manned by Erin Henderson these last few years, when two downs is possibly all that will be expected anyways.

When it comes to a guy that I think could prove to be a clear upgrade over Henderson, especially in coverage, that can be found a little later in the Draft I have to say that I have a crush on Connecticut linebacker Sio Moore.

For a while I thought I would end up writing this post as a “sleeper” feature that brought attention to a damn fine football player that was largely being ignored.  Then Moore had himself a dandy week during the East-West Shrine Game and lit it up at the NFL Scouting Combine, so the cat is out of the bag, and most are projecting him as a solid second or third round pick.

At 6′ 1″ and 245 pounds, Moore isn’t the biggest linebacker you’ll find, but he brings a rare combination of speed and strength to his game that Vikings could certainly use.  If their primary objective with their linebackers is to improve in coverage, which it should be, then Moore could be the perfect fit as evidenced by his 11 pass breakups in 2012.

At the Combine he was among the top performers in a number of categories including the forty yard dash (4.65 seconds), the bench press (29 reps), the vertical jump (38″), and the broad jump (127″).  His smaller frame is going to worry some personnel decision makers, but that bench press total was good for second place in Indianapolis, and indicates that he is actually as strong as he looks on tape.

Moore shows that he knows how to use his strength to shed blocks and rush the passer.  While he is already a good coverage linebacker, that strength also gives him an advantage here, as he is fairly proficient at jamming and rerouting bigger receivers and tight ends at the line of scrimmage, which makes everyone’s job easier on defense including his.

As a senior (he redshirted as a freshman) Moore actually saw his lowest tackle totals of his career (72) but was clearly better in all phases of the game, as evidenced by the increase of production in all other major statistical categories.  His 7.5 sacks and 11 passes defended were career highs, while his 15.5 tackles for a loss were only 0.5 away from his 2011 total.  Moore uses sound fundamentals while tackling and is usually going to make the stop, but does sometimes struggle with an agile ball carrier one-on-one in the open field.

The Liberian-born Moore is known as a disciplined and instinctive football player that works hard and is quick to diagnose a play.  He will benefit from being coached up at the NFL level, as he could increase his arsenal of moves and learn to use his hands better, but he is certainly a well-rounded prospect that should succeed on special teams from the get-go and move up the ranks fairly quickly.

Moore’s small frame is going to be his most worrisome trait, as many feel it limits his upside, but we have seen plenty of players defy these odds in the past.  We have seen talented linebackers fall in the Draft before because they are thought to be best suited for the 4-3, so the Vikings could be making a solid addition if they grab Moore in the second round, but get an absolute steal if he is available in third or fourth.

Below is some game tape (not highlights) of Moore at work.  For fun though, I suggest you go to YouTube and search his name.  He has a number of entertaining videos posted that display his strength in interesting ways.  If you like Joe Webb’s jump-over-the-mats video, then you are sure to like some of Moore’s videos, as well.

 

[NOTE:  Click the links to see our free agency rankings for quarterbacks, running backs, fullbacks,tight ends, centers, guards, offensive tackles, wide receivers, safeties, and cornerbacks.  We’ll continue our way through all of the positions this week.]

Outside of Chad Greenway on the strong side, the Vikings have reached somewhat of a crossroads at the linebacker position.  Jasper Brinkley and Erin Henderson were not the world’s best starters at their respective positions in 2012, and each are scheduled to be free agents next month along with backup Marvin Mitchell.

I wouldn’t be shocked if the Vikings re-signed one or both of their starters at some point this offseason, but there are also plenty of opportunities to think about outside of the current roster.  The Draft has some interesting prospects, but free agency also contains some plausible options:

Top Tier

Perhaps the best linebacker set to be a free agent is one coming from our rivals in Green Bay.  Brad Jones filled in very well for the injured Desmond Bishop last season, and it is clear that he should remain a starter somewhere.  He could be a solid fit for the Vikings in the middle, and stealing from a divisional foe is always and added bonus.

It can be hard to spot decent individual talent on the Riaders, but weakside linebacker Phillip Wheeler earned himself a decent contract by sticking out during Oakland’s miserable season.

The Ravens already know that Ray Lewis is a goner, so that makes it even more crucial to re-sign Dannell Ellerbe, who was one of the NFL’s better linebackers this season.

With the starting duo staying healthy this season Larry Grant of the Niners did not get to see extensive action like he did in 2011.  Still, if Grant can go elsewhere and play like he did two seasons ago as a starter, then he will soon be name hear a lot about.

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Monday’s are never quite as fun after a loss like the one the Vikings suffered yesterday. Your boss being a Packer fan and informing you that the football universe is now back in alignment after their hearty win over the Texans (and the Vikings loss) makes it all the more worse.

But it’s okay – today is a new day separate from the angst and irrationality of last night. I’m not quite ready to start sipping the purple kool-aid again but Adam has some notes from yesterday’s game that I promise are more level-headed than mine.

For whatever reason, he wasn’t able to post them himself. So, on his behalf, here are some of our favorite Vikings blogger’s opinions on last night’s travesty.

Mobile Quarterbacks

I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe Erin Henderson should have replaced Jasper Brinkley on nickel downs. Maybe Jared Allen needed to ease up on his pass rush and focus more on containment. Maybe Everson Griffen needed to take more snaps. Whatever the issue, this Vikings defense struggles with mobile quarterbacks, and that could prove to be an issue down the stretch. Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler are both on the schedule, twice each, between now and the end of the season.

I Hate Those Penalties

I have said it a few times that the week two performance against Indianapolis was one of the worst games the Vikings have played in recent memory. A huge part of that reasoning is the disdain I have for penalties and this most recent game against Washington had that same feel. Too many penalties, too undisciplined.

A Whole New Appreciation For Harvin

The Vikings performed better against Washington than they did against Indy earlier this season, and had some better individual performances, but once again Percy Harvin is the biggest silver lining following the “L.” I want to make a fresh point about Harvin, however. After watching Matt Stafford flip the football, Victor Cruz salsa dance, Jared Allen rope a cow when his team is losing, and RGIII act like he is auditioning for Glee, I love how professional and sensible Harvin is during his moments of dominance. After a big play, it seems to take him about a nanosecond before he is focused on making the next big play. Chris Kluwe called Harvin the hardest working player in football following Sunday’s loss, and I believe him, because he is all business for 60 straight minutes.

“Lack Of A Deep Threat” Is A Myth

I keep hearing that Jerome Simpson is the Vikings only deep threat. If that is truly the case, then the Vikings front office and coaching staff have pinned themselves into a corner that is inexcusable. If your only way to stretch the field is a street free agent beginning the year on suspension, then you have screwed up.

I don’t think that is the case, however, so it frustrates me to see Bill Musgrave act like the Sunday morning pre-game shows know what they are talking about in the way he calls plays. The Vikings begin the game by finding great success in the run game, Washington adjusts to stop the run, and then the Vikings fail to adjust their own plan and take advantage of them stacking the box. That is not a good blueprint to have on tape.

Luckily, however, the Vikings do have deep threats besides Simpson and soon they will have to realize it. I have seen Percy Harvin be successful downfield with Brett Favre throwing him the ball. I know John Carlson and Kyle Rudolph can be dangerous running streaks down the seam. Heck, even Devin Aromashodu has made plays deep every year since joining the Vikings. If Michael Jenkins can’t get there, then how about giving Stephen Burton a chance to show us what he can do? The options are there but Musgrave has to acknowledge them and Ponder has to take advantage of them.

No matter what, though, put receiver at the top of your offseason priority list for the Vikings in 2013.

Loadholt Extension

I have always thought that mid-season contract extension should be used as a way to reward excellent play and motivate others on the roster. Last week, news broke that the Vikings had begun negotiating with starting right tackle Phil Loadholt whose contract expires after this season. I didn’t get a chance to give my opinion on the matter, so I’ll take the opportunity now.

Does Phil Loadholt deserve a reward for his play this season? Is he easily enough replaced or upgraded via the Draft or free agency? Will cheaper options be available?

I like Loadholt okay. He is serviceable. I just don’t see him, as he gets older, somehow becoming more athletic and quicker on his feet, however. I’m just not convinced he is worth a larger, long-term investment at this point. If I had a vote (which I won’t and never will) I would say to leave it be until January and then see where things stand.

Injury Free And Rebound Opportunity

The Vikings fell to second place in the NFC North with their loss on Sunday, but they came out of it largely unscathed and have a chance to get their confidence back against a pair of lesser teams. Leslie Frazier indicated that the team suffered no major injuries on Sunday, so that is great news moving forward. The Vikings had back to the Metrodome to host the atrocious-looking Cardinals and then get to play the lackluster Bucs. It is possible, if not somewhat likely, that this Vikings team will soon be 6-2.

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The inactives list for today’s game:

VIKINGS:  Quarterback Bethel-Thompson, receiver Wright, safety Sendejo, safety Raymond, linebacker Mitchell, offensive lineman Asper, and defensive end Reed.

There is nothing here, really, that should take us by surprise.  We knew last night that Mitchell’s new injury would be keeping him out today, which makes the return of Erin Henderson even more important.  Wright continues to be inactive this season, joining Greg Childs as an unproductive receiver draft pick from this offseason (Childs went out for the season with a preseason injury).

TITANS:  Quarterback Locker, running back Harper, linebacker Bailey, offensive lineman Otto, guard Lutui, receiver Hawkins, and defensive end Solomon.

The first thing you should notice is that star receiver Kenny Britt will indeed be active today, despite earlier reports to the contrary.  Britt hasn’t practiced in a few weeks, but apparently is ready to go despite suffering a setback earlier this week.

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In Sunday’s game against Chris Johnson and the Titans, Minnesota will get one linebacker back from injury while another will have to sit because of a new injury.

Mike Wobschall of Vikings.com reports that Erin Henderson is sure to return from a concussion that kept him on the sidelines the last two games, while Marvin Mitchell will be inactive after suffering a calf injury during Wednesday’s practice.

Backups Audie Cole and Tyrone McKenzie are both expected to be active to provide depth in Mitchell’s absence.

Middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley is going to be staying on the field in nickel packages which isn’t too surprising considering how well he has been playing in Henderson’s absence.  Frazier explains that Henderson could eventually work his way back into the nickel package, but it won’t be this week.

“Yeah we’re going to keep Jasper at the nickel mike for the time being,” Frazier said. “He’s done a good job there. Give Erin a chance to kind of get his legs back under him and then we’ll revisit it later on. Jasper has done a good job so we have a lot of confidence in what he’s accomplished so far.”

Okay, now go back to putting on your Colts jersey… we’ll see you in a few hours.

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