For the 2nd consecutive season, the Vikings must replace starting middle LB E.J. Henderson after a season-ending injury.
Last year Henderson went down in Week 4 at Tennessee and was subsequently placed on injured reserve. This year Henderson was lost in Week 13 at Arizona to a broken leg.
While the challenge of replacing the heart and soul of its defense is the same, the circumstances around that challenge are a bit different this year. They’re also a bit more favorable.
The Vikings initially looked within the team to replace Henderson last year, giving Vinny Ciurciu and David Herron starts in the middle. Eventually, though, the Vikings had to go outside the club and bring back Napoleon Harris to play middle LB.
This year it’s different. The Vikings have rookie LB Jasper Brinkley waiting in the wings, and he’ll get the start on Sunday. In 2008, Harris came in from the outside and had to re-acquaint himself with the club. Brinkley, on the other hand, has been with the club through offseason workouts, training camp and the first 12 games of the regular season.
“The fact that he’s (Brinkley) been here with us, he’s had some reps in practice, he’s been in some games, because we’ve had some differentials in scores where he could get in actual games, should really help him be able to play faster than he would have if he hadn’t played at all this season or had not been with us in training camp,” Vikings assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said.
Frazier said he thinks once Brinkley gets past the first series of the game on Sunday, the rookie will settle down and play well.
“He is a very active guy,” Frazier commented. “He is a smart guy. He’s a very good athlete. He’s an excellent tackler and just very, very physical. So I think he’ll be fine, it’s just getting past those early stages of the game.”
Tags: E.J. Henderson, Jasper Brinkley, Leslie Frazier
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