Friday, March 6, 2015
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jasper brinkley

[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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The Vikings were expected to struggle greatly this week, as the Texans represent the AFC’s best, but they made it look easy as they cruised to victory.

A number of individual performances contributed to the win, but none really stand far out above the rest, so now you have the tough task of casting a single vote for this week’s VT game ball.

Here are your nominees:

CHRISTIAN PONDER:  16 of 30 for 174 yards and a touchdown.  Seven runs for 48 yards.

ADRIAN PETERSON:  25 runs for 86 yards.  One catch for 4 yards.

JARIUS WRIGHT:  Five catches for 53 yards.  One run for 8 yards.

BLAIR WALSH:  Three for three on field goals (56, 41, 39) and two extra points.

HARRISON SMITH:  Seven tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble.

ANTOINE WINFIELD:  Five tackles, one sack.

JASPER BRINKLEY:  Three tackles, one forced fumble.

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Adrian Peterson didn’t have a hundred yard game.  Christian Ponder, while making some nice plays early on, didn’t suddenly transform into Tom Brady.  Jarius Wright is obviously not at the same level as Percy Harvin.

Still, the Vikings dealt Houston a convincing 23-6 loss, and the defense can stand proud after this one.

Rookie Harrison Smith led the Vikings with seven tackles, while also adding a forced fumble and a sack.  Jasper Brinkley and company held Arian Foster to almost no gains whatsoever, and he also had a forced fumble.  Everson Griffen and A.J. Jefferson took advantage of those forced fumbles with each recovering one.  Antoine Winfield and Fred Evans each came up with timely sacks, and Matt Schaub never seemed quite able to develop the rhythm that has downed plenty of their 2012 opponents.

The special teams did their job, as well, led by Blair Walsh who broke an NFL record for 50-yard-or-longer field goals.  He scored from 56, 41, and then 39 yards out.

Coach Leslie Frazier should be proud of the way his team played on Sunday, despite the fact that his passing game still looks completely lost at times, as the Vikings have edged a huge step closer to being included in the postseason tournament.

Heck, it has been a while, so let’s do this thing:

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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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