We heard earlier on the vikings.com Blog from TE Visanthe Shiancoe, who said the Vikings offense left a lot of plays on the field against the New Orleans Saints in Thursday night’s season-opener. While I’m sure the Vikings defense has a handful of plays they’d like to have back as well, one strong-point of the defense’s effort was the play of the LB corps.
Leading the charge was the man in the middle of the Vikings defense – E.J. Henderson. Coming off a severe leg injury that ended his 2009 season early, Henderson aggressively rehabbed all offseason and remained ahead of schedule in his return to the field. The latest step in Henderson’s return was his performance on Thursday night.
Henderson led all tacklers with 12, with 9 of them being unassisted tackles. One play in particular that stood out to me came late in the 2nd quarter when he filled a gap and ran through Saints RB Pierre Thomas to register a tackle for a loss. New Orleans eventually missed a FG to end the drive, eventually allowing Brett Favre to hook up with Visanthe Shiancoe for a 20-yard TD just before halftime.
“I thought E.J. played exceptionally,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said. “He showed up in a lot of different spots. I can think of one or two instances where you’d liked him to play something a little bit differently, but I thought he was very active.”
It wasn’t just Henderson who played well among the Vikings LB corps. Chad Greenway, with 9 tackles, was the game’s 2nd-leading tackler (Antoine Winfield also had 9 stops) and Ben Leber tallied 4 stops and 1 pass break up (PBU). Each of the 3 starting LBs had a tackle for a loss in the game.
“All three of those linebackers, and don’t leave Ben Leber out of the mix, he played very well last night,” Childress said. “Those three guys had an active night among all of them and Ben’s not taking back seat to any of them right now.”
Speaking of Leber, he saw several snaps in the Vikings nickel package and has been rotating in and out of that alignment with Henderson; Greenway is a staple at LB in the nickel package.
Finally, one more LB stood out to me as well, except it wasn’t with a performance on defense. Heath Farwell, a reserve LB who is a leader on special teams, tallied 2 special teams tackles and was a key aspect in the Vikings ability to hold punt returner Reggie Bush in check. Bush had just 7 punt return yards on 3 attempts.
Tags: Ben Leber, Chad Greenway, E.J. Henderson, Heath Farwell
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 75 Comments »