A Minnesota Vikings starter since 2007, Chad Greenway could see his reign at weak side linebacker end this season. Although he’s been a rock at the position for 10 years — netting more than 1,000 tackles — he’s also admitted that this could be his final season in the NFL.
“This is going to be definitely my last ride for sure,” Greenway said, per KFAN. “That’s the way I wanted to go out, to be able to commit myself to Minnesota for one more year and just give it everything I have.”
Greenway will need to give it his all if he’s to remain the starter in Minnesota. Not only is his position becoming irrelevant in Mike Zimmer’s defense, but Greenway faces stiff competition from free agent acquisition Emmanuel Lamur. The former Cincinnati Bengal signed a two-year, $6 million contract this offseason and has an edge on Greenway in terms of youth and versatility.
With training camp nearly upon us, Vikings Territory explored the inevitable battle — or non-battle — to become Minnesota’s starting weak side linebacker. Follow the jump to see the team’s answers to the following question:
Who will open the season at weak side linebacker for the Vikings?
Brett: Chad Greenway
There are probably quite a few reasons why answers other than Chad Greenway make a whole lot of sense. Greenway isn’t as good as he once was and has sometimes proven himself to be a liability in coverage situations. However, I think in his final season with the Vikings, Greenway will be the guy who starts at weak side linebacker.
What it comes down to for me is the lack of a younger, alternative that has enough upside to beat out the veteran leadership and reliability that Greenway provides. I expect there will be some situations where younger alternatives are rotated in or times where someone needs to spell the aging veteran. But unless a dark horse really impresses in training camp, I think Greenway will get to go out on top as a starter.
Adam W.: No answer (!)
I honestly believe there is no correct answer to this question. The Vikings will field linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks in nickel situations, that seems like a near certainty. When a third linebacker is required, however, I don’t think that’ll be exclusively assigned to anyone in particular. A rotation featuring Chad Greenway, Emmanuel Lamur, and Edmond Robinson seems plenty possible. Sliding Kendricks over while Audie Cole plays in the middle also seems like a strong option. I would be genuinely surprised if someone is explicitly featured as the Vikings weakside linebacker in 2016.
Sam: Chad Greenway
Understanding that weak side linebacker is the least important position on the defense (NFL teams employ nickel/dime sets near 60% of the time), I think the ol’ vet begins the season as the starter, at the very least. I wouldn’t be surprised if his snaps — even in 4-3 sets — begin to wane as the year goes on, and the team works in some of the younger players once they get their feet wet. But for Week One, Greenway’s experience and savvy help keep him the starter, and I don’t believe his skills have deteriorated so far that he’s a liability on the field.
Adam P.: Chad Greenway
It is hard to imagine that the Vikings and Greenway would have agreed to a one-year deal this offseason if it did not mean that Greenway would open the season as the starter. He has been a leader on this team’s defense for so many years and Mike Zimmer knows how valuable that can be for a defense full of young players like Minnesota’s. However, just because Greenway may open the season as the team’s starter does not mean that Zimmer will not be making any changes to the defense’s lineup as the season progresses.
Austin: Emmanuel Lamur
I’m the lone wolf with this answer, but I just can’t give up on Lamur. I made the case for Lamur to start earlier this offseason, and I think he’ll open 2016 in Tennessee next to Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr in the base defense. When Zimmer switches to Nickel, his preferred defensive package, Lamur may not have a place on the field. But given his versatility and experience as a collegiate strong safety, it’s not impossible to believe Lamur could wiggle his way into some sub-packages for the Vikings.
(Maybe I’m way off; maybe Edmond Robinson comes out of nowhere to swipe the position away. Or maybe, Chad Greenway rides his final season out as the starter.)