Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Vikings' linebackers a work in progress
By Ben Goessling
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- We talked a bit on Tuesday about the Vikings' linebackers in the context of how little they've used rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in the first two weeks of the season, and how surprising that was, considering they could have used a high pick in last April's draft on a middle linebacker.
On Wednesday, coach Leslie Frazier acknowledged some issues with how the Vikings' linebackers have played so far, but with new starters at two of the three positions, it seems like Frazier knows he's going to need some patience.
Linebacker Chad Greenway said there were some communication issues on the Bears' final touchdown drive last Sunday, and in particular, it appeared middle linebacker Erin Henderson passed off Chicago tight end Martellus Bennett on the final drive, thinking Greenway was going to pick up the tight end, only to find him wide open in the flat for a 23-yard gain on first-and-20.
Frazier said Greenway "shouldn't feel like he has to do any more than he has in the past," and acknowledged that the Pro Bowl linebacker might have gotten caught trying to cover for other people on a few occasions.
"There's potential for that to happen with a new guy across from you," Frazier said. "That's something we've got to guard against. You've got to trust that [Henderson] is going to do his job, you do your job and we'll be fine as a group."
The Vikings have had some issues at linebacker in their first two games, but it's also important to point out there hasn't been as much change as one would think, given how little time they've spent in their base defense. Marvin Mitchell played only 15 defensive snaps in the Vikings' first game and 25 in their second game, and Desmond Bishop got on the field for two snaps on a goal-line series on Sunday. Essentially, it's been Henderson and Greenway on the field most of the time, as it was in the Vikings' nickel defense last year. In reality, the bigger issue might be the absence of Antoine Winfield, whose help in slot coverage and run defense made a tremendous difference in the middle of the field last year -- particularly when the Vikings were in nickel.
Frazier said the Vikings might try to find a little more time for Bishop on Sunday, and the Browns won't present the same kind of threat in the passing game that the Vikings saw from the Lions and Bears. This weekend might give them a chance to get into their base defense, and see what they have when their linebackers aren't put into passing situations quite as much. But in general, the Vikings still have some things to smooth out with their linebacking group.
UPDATE: Greenway talked about some of the issues after practice, and while he said he missed three open-field tackles on Sunday -- "When they're in space and you're one-on-one with guys, it's a tackle you've got to make," he said -- he added the knee surgery he had in June isn't an issue, and said no one can make a definitive statement about how well the linebackers are playing if they're not privy to the Vikings' game plan.
"A lot of times, it's easy to pick apart what's out in the open or what everybody can see," Greenway said. "But it's the things that happen that people don't understand that can't be graded or can't be said, 'Hey, he's doing good or doing bad,' because the reality is, you guys don't have really any idea, what's being taught or what's being coached in that room. Without getting into the details of it, I'm just going to answer questions like this, and you guys are going to wonder what the real answer is. You're not going to get it."
Greenway wasn't interested in shedding much more light on what he did wrong on Sunday, though.
"I don't need to do that, because I'm not being asked those questions," he said.