Blogs

Childress: Backup LB Battle “Neck and Neck”

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 26, 2009 – 2:42 pm

We mentioned yesterday in this space that the 3rd CB/nickel back position battle is still up in the air. Another position battle that’s been hotly contested since OTAs and through both training camp and the preseason is the backup LB position.

Reserves Jasper Brinkley, Heath Farwell, Erin Henderson, David Herron and Kenny Onatolu are the candidates to backup starters Chad Greenway, E.J. Henderson and Ben Leber, and at this point Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress characterized the position battle as “neck and neck.”

“It’s a hell of a battle; it’s neck and neck,” Childress said after preactice on Wednesday. “That’s what makes you a good football team. We’ve got guys striving at the linebacker position and striving at the special teams positions. It makes you better.”

As Childress mentioned, a big factor in determining who makes the final 53-man roster heading into Week 1 of the regular season will be special teams and which of the candidates can best display their ability to contribute in multiple phases of the game.

Childress also said on Wednesday that he has yet to decide on a 2nd-half QB rotation for Monday night’s game at Houston; he already said earlier in the week that Brett Favre will play the 1st half.


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Analyzing Position Battles – Backup LB

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 30, 2009 – 8:59 pm

We set out to analyze a few position battles right here on the blog before training camp began. The good news is that we’ve already done the RTWRs, nickel back and backup DT positions. The bad news is we still have the backup LBs and starting QB to finish. And the 1st training camp practice is roughly 2 hours from the time of this post.

So we’ll compromise. The backup LB spot will be broken down right here and then we’ll analyze the battle between Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels after Day 1 of practices.

When evaluating the importance of the backup LB spot on the Vikings roster, the same theory that applied to the importance of the backup DT position applies here: given how important the position is to the Vikings defense, it’s important for the Vikings to have solid backup options in the event of injury.

Right now it looks as if the Vikings will have a good opportunity to fill their depth chart with quality backup LBs. There are currently 9 LBs on the Vikings roster, and we know that Chad Greenway, E.J. Henderson and Ben Leber will comprise the starting group (barring injury). That leaves the squad with 2 returnees from last year, 1 guy coming back from injury and a trio of new faces.

The 2 LBs returning from last year are Erin Henderson and David Herron. Herron is more of an inside linebacker while Henderson is more of a versatile player who can play in the middle or slide outside. The main thing for these 2 players is their ability to contribute on special teams as well. If they can fend off other young players and cement roles on special teams, they will be more likely to be relied upon as reserve linebackers as well.

Speaking of special teams, the Vikings best special teams player over the past few seasons also happens to be a LB. Heath Farwell was lost for the 2008 season during the Vikings 1st preseason game, and both the depth of the LBs and the Vikings kick coverage units suffered as a result. Farwell has battled back from his knee injury and seems poised to re-insert himself in both of his former roles.

The 3 new faces in the LB corps are Jasper Brinkley, Robert Francois and Kenny Onatolu. Brinkley, a 5th round draft choice this year, is the one to watch in this group. He was a star at South Carolina after his freshman season, but then a knee injury sidelined him and hurt his draft stock. The Vikings selected him in the 5th round, and if he can fulfill his potential the Vikings may have found a real steal in the draft. Brinkley’s upside is good enough that he could be a key contributor on special teams this year and somewhere down the line become a starting LB for the Vikings.


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