VIkings Linebacker preview by Joel Schafer

Vikings 2015

2014  was an interesting year for the Viking linebacker corps. There was the steady play of Chad Greenway, who keeps doing what he has since he started playing in the NFL, piling up tackles.  There was the weak play middle linebacker play of retread Jasper Brinkley  strong in the run but couldn’t do anything worth mentioning in the pass game. There was the flash and impact of the young and ready to prove everyone that he won’t be a bust Anthony Barr. Then there were the backups who had to fill in.  Gerald Hodges Audie Cole saw time in relief of starters. They did what backups do. They would look good for short stints and then make a blunder that would have people screaming. Will it be different in 2015?

 

Chad Greenway has been a stalwart as an Outside linebacker for the Vikings.  He has been healthy throughout his entire career  besides what would have been his rookie year where he tore his ACL before the season began in the preseason.  He has missed 4 games since his rookie campaign in 2007. Sure they all happened to be last year. Chad averaged 7.75 tackles a game in 2015 which is down from  8.3 the year before.   Greenway may be at the end of his career but he still has enough in the tank to be productive and not be a liability on the field. Expect  130-138 tackles 1 int 2 forced fumbles to be the watermark of a Greenway season.

 

Anthony Barr was an impact player for the Vikings defense last year. Barr played in only 12 games last year but was asked to do a lot. Pass rushing was one of those things he excelled at when given the opportunity. Barr had 4  sacks, 2 forced fumble 3 fumble recoveries, one which he brought to the house to win in over time. Barr has a nose for the ball and getting it loose. Look for more of that this year as the game slows down for him going into his sophomore campaign. Barr in his first year averaged only 4.375 tackles a game, part of the reason for that was the running game was run away from Barr. In 2015 expect 8 sacks  5 forced fumbles from the kid along with 100-115 tackles. The kid has game and he will only improve in year number 2.

 

Last year we brought in Jasper Brinkley, a Viking retread to man the middle. Not only was he not adequate, he was a liability that couldn’t tackle or play in the pass defense game. In comes a talented second round pick, rookie Eric Kendricks, who throughout his 4 year career with UCLA accumulated 480 tackles (9.05 per game).  In his senior year he piled up 149 tackle 101 of them being solo tackles. The kid knows where the ball is and it is apparent. Kendricks played along side Barr for a year in 2013, look for the chemistry of these two to be excellent. Many experts are concerned with his durability, when he missed only 3 games in 4 years.  There is not a lot to be concerned with, Kendrick will play and dare I say lead the team in tackles.

 

Let us move on to the all important reserves. Everyone knows you must have depth in the NFL. We have heard every good team say next man up when someone gets injured. Who will Skol Nation go to in these instances? The same 2 guys they went to last year Gerald Hodges and Audie Cole.  When Anthony Barr went down, Gerald Hodges  came in and averaged 8.75 tackles a game.  Notice the tackles doubled by the position when Barr wasn’t out there. Hodges is not as versatile as Barr but can play a little.  Audie Cole  has good instincts around the ball, the drawbacks with Cole is he isn’t the fleetest of foot. He is a more of a  liability in the pass game than any of the linebackers that will see substantial playing time. Cole is  suitable back-up that will do in a pinch.  Audie excels in special teams and is very productive there.