The image of Erin Henderson riding on the cart last Sunday night clutching the hands of his brother, who had just fractured his femur, is one that remains vivid in the minds of everyone associated with the Vikings.
Erin was inactive for the game, the 11th time in 12 games he hasn’t suited up this season, but it was obvious that his emotions were anything but inactive as he saw his older brother, the heart and soul of the Vikings defense and a team captain, suffer a serious injury.
But in what is a fitting development, Erin’s days of being inactive this season will likely end in light of his brother’s injury. Jasper Brinkley, a 5th round pick of the Vikings last April, will take E.J.’s spot as the starting middle LB. And Erin will see his playing time spike because he’ll fill the role Brinkley previously had as a special teams contributor and reserve LB.
With E.J. leading the pack, the Vikings LB corps represented perhaps the deepest position on the Vikings roster. The team decided to keep 7 LBs as they broke camp and 6 of those 7 have been active every week; in Week 8 at Green Bay all 7 LBs were active.
The depth at LB will now come into play for the Vikings defense, but previously it was strengthening the special teams unit and is probably a primary reason why the kick coverage units have undergone such a dramatic turnaround from last season.
In 2008, the Vikings ranked last in the NFL in both punt return average allowed (14.9) and punt return TDs allowed (4). This season, the Vikings have allowed 0 just 1 punt return TD and they’re giving up 9.6 yards per return. Also, their kickoff return average allowed has dropped from 21st in the NFL during 2008 to 15th this season.
With Brinkley special teams reps likely to dramatically be reduced, there’s no reason to think the unit will see a drop in reliability with Erin in the mix. In his only game played this season, Erin recorded 2 special teams tackles.
While riding off the field with his brother last Sunday night, Erin would’ve done anything to help his brother. When suits up to play on the field this Sunday, he’ll have a chance to help the Vikings.
Tags: E.J. Henderson, Erin Henderson, Jasper Brinkley
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 6 Comments »