The Vikings are relying on Jasper Brinkley to hold down the middle LB job this season (and many seasons in the future), which is an important position in the team’s 4-3 scheme. After missing all of last season and some of this year’s offseason program, some grew concerned about Brinkley’s durability and, subsequently, his ability to handle the task.
But after the first part of training camp and two preseason games, the Vikings coaching staff doesn’t seem to be sharing that concern.
The Vikings allowed too many rushing yards in their preseason debut against the San Francisco 49ers, surrendering 198 yards and 1 TD in the 1st half. As the middle LB, Brinkley encountered external criticism in the aftermath. Brinkley and the Vikings defense were much better the following week, though, as they surrendered just 68 rushing yards on 20 carries to the Bills in a 36-14 win. A big reason for the Vikings improvement against the run was the big step forward in performance by Brinkley.
“I thought he made tremendous leaps from the week before in game action against San Francisco,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “And what he did against Buffalo, you could see him begin to get his legs back under him. You could see the quickness and the burst that we’ve been wanting to see.”
As the Vikings work in a new middle LB, they’re also welcoming a new defensive coordinator in Alan Williams. And Williams liked what he saw from Brinkley last week, too.
“He played well,” Williams said. “He hustled, he ran around. I think Jasper is getting more comfortable with having to command the defense, making calls, making checks, getting people lined up. He is running extremely well, he played downhill a little bit better. We’re looking to see if he can do that in more of a consistent basis.”
Becoming a more consistent player comes with reps. After missing all of last season and parts of the offseason program, Brinkley is still working his way back into game form.
“When he tried to practice in the OTAs (Organized Team Activities) in the offseason, to have trouble then, that will plant a seed in your mind that, ‘I could be a guy that is going to struggle with injuries,’ and to see some of the tentativeness early on wasn’t a surprise,” Frazier explained. “But the more he has played, the more comfortable and the more confident he has become. We just have to keep putting him in those situations so he can just turn it loose and not be worried about getting injured.
“We’ll get him hopefully quite a few reps in this San Diego game so he can gain confidence and his teammates will continue to gain confidence in him as well but this preseason is a big deal for him with all of the time he has missed. They’re big for all of us because we’re counting on him to do a good job.”
Tags: Alan Williams, Jasper Brinkley, Leslie Frazier
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