Friday, January 30, 2015
Tags Posts tagged with "jasper brinkley"

jasper brinkley

With two weeks of preseason in the books, and only two more remaining, we are getting quite close to the time when the Vikings (and everyone else) have to start trimming down the roster.  As our Week Three contest approaches, here are the best links I could find from around the internet, so tell them who sent ya:

 

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[NOTE FROM ADAM:  Brent Butler approached me with some questions regarding the media coverage of the Vikings linebacker spot and the lack of respect shown to Audie Cole.  I thought his email to me was coherent enough, and on a topic worthy of discussion, so I encouraged him to reformat his email into an article and send it my way.  This is the result.  Enjoy!]

By Brent Butler

Why isn’t Audie Cole a leading candidate for one of the three starting linebacker spots by the media?

I know he’s been mentioned as a competing candidate, but I don’t hear anyone saying he’s a leading candidate. Regardless of all the chatter around the Vikings linebacker competition; Chad Greenway, Anthony Barr and Audie Cole are the leading candidates for  the three starting spots coming into training camp this year. Few people question Greenway as a starter, and most people think Barr will start, but no one is talking about Audie Cole as a leading candidate in the media and I don’t know why.

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

 

 

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Some hack bloggers (anybody know one?) thought it was highly likely the Vikings would target a middle linebacker early in the Draft.  Other media types, including one guy who should return a paycheck to his employer for this clunker, thought it was a “100% certainty” that the Vikings would draft Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o in the first round.

They didn’t target a middle linebacker early on.  They didn’t wind up with Te’o… or Alec Ogletree… or Arthur Brown… or Kevin Minter.

In fact, they didn’t draft one until the seventh round, when they selected Michael Mauti from Penn State.  Mauti has the talent to be selected much earlier, but an injury history that rivals that of Humpty Dumpty.

Rick Spielman may have, for the second year in a row, used a little misdirection to lead to all of that speculation about the position.  Instead, he may have been planning to use Erin Henderson at that spot all along, and the proof of this might be the fact that Henderson has already packed on an extra eight or nine pounds in preparation for his possible move to the inside.  Another bit of proof might be that the Vikings quickly signed him to a two year deal worth $4 million, which seemed a little out of place considering how long they let him dangle on the free agent market last offseason before signing him to a one year prove-it deal.

Now that players are starting to flood Winter Park to take part in the offseason programs, things are perhaps starting to come into focus a little more, and we do know that the Vikings are planning on having Henderson play in the middle as of now.  This, of course, is a very similar path that his brother E,J. took to becoming a very solid middle linebacker for the Vikings.

Henderson has struggled with pass coverage at times, but he is quite a bit more athletic than last year’s starter Jasper Brinkley was, and could cover more ground.  Then, if someone like rookie Gerald Hodges can step into the weakside spot, the Vikings may have themselves a much faster group of linebackers than what we saw in 2012.  Considering the amount of mobile quarterbacks on the schedule this coming season, that might just be a key to their potential success, and is certainly something interesting to follow at the very least.

[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!]

With the fee agency flurry leaving the Vikings roster somewhat shaken up there is one glaring need that sticks out above the rest at this moment.  Sure, cornerback and wide receiver need to be a point of emphasis.  Defensive tackle could still use some work.  There is one need, however, that seems quite a bit more desperate than the others.

Jasper Brinkley has signed with Arizona while Marvin Mitchell remains a free agent.  That means the position is virtually unfilled at this point and could potentially be a first round priority during the NFL Draft.

So far, Manti Te’o is the only other middle linebacker we have profiled in this series, but we will certainly be filling you in on plenty of other prospects at the position prior to Draft Weekend.  Today, I want to take a look at LSU middle linebacker Kevin Minter, who many Vikings fans have on their wish list for April.

Minter became a starter at LSU in 2011 after his predecessor, Kelvin Sheppard, was drafted in the third round.  His first season was pretty pedestrian, really, as he started 11 of 14 games to rack up 61 tackles.  Of those, 3.5 were for a loss, he had one sack, a forced fumble, and one fumble recovery for a touchdown.  In 2011, Minter was barely a guy one noticed on the star studded LSU defense that included Morris Claiborne and a handful of guys that could easily be drafted ahead of him this year.

In 2012, that all changed as Minter not only became noticeable within the LSU defense, he was named LSU’s Most Valuable Player and seemed like he was All-Everything following the season.  He was certainly more productive, having started all 13 games and notching 130 tackles, 15 for a loss, four sacks, a forced fumble, five defended passes, and an interception.  He still had considerable talent around him, but he seemed to be elevating their play this season, not the other way around.

Minter measured into the NFL’s Scouting Combine at 6′ 0″ and 246 pounds.  He didn’t exactly tear it up with his 4.81 second forty yard dash or his 25 bench press reps, but he looked to be the same guy you saw on tape, for better and for worse.

He looks to be a very intelligent football player who sniffs out screens, shows great diagnostic abilities, and solid gap discipline.  Combine that with a knack for getting around, or through, blockers and you have a Mike backer that just always seems to be in the right place at the right time on running plays.

Minter is a very good run defender and would instantly make things tough on opposing running backs looking to stay between the tackles.  He is an excellent tackler, perhaps the best in this Draft class, and is going to add a lot of consistency in the middle to the team that drafts him.  The ability to crush a ball carrier, however, might be his best attribute when it comes to defending the pass.

I don’t mean to say that Minter is a completely inept pass defender (he isn’t), but my game plan as a coach certainly wouldn’t revolve around matching him up against a guy like Vernon Davis or Rob Gronkowski.  In fact, my game plan would try to make sure that happened as little as possible.

He’s a big man that plays big, but he is also of moderate speed and it shows in coverage.  He is a plodder that can look awkward trying to shadow a running back or provide zone coverage of a slot receiver   He is, in a lot of ways, a lot like what we saw out of Jasper Brinkley during the 2012 season as far as coverage goes.  He is going to struggle sticking with just about any various type of route runner, but will occasionally be able to deliver a jarring hit after the catch.

Minter is already a grade “A” run stopper, and could continue to develop his pass defending via some good coaching, and is a capable blitzer.  He possesses the physical skills to be a middle linebacker in the 4-3 scheme and makes enough big plays to make him very intriguing.

I do think that he is best suited for the 4-3 and that scouts will recognize this.  This might limit the number of teams that place him higher up on their draft boards.  The NFL Advisory committee reportedly gave him a third round grade when he was deciding whether or not to stay at LSU for another year.  Many draftniks have him grading out as a late first round talent, however.

I worry greatly that the Vikings will burn one of their first round picks on a two down linebacker, and I worry that Minter will be a two down linebacker throughout his NFL career.  Thus, I can’t say that I would be real supportive of them taking him at 23 or 25.  However, he has a skill set that is attractive enough, and if they can trade back a bit, or if he is somehow still on the board in the second round when they are on the clock, then I think he could represent a solid addition to the middle of the Vikings defense.

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