NFC North: Michael Mauti

 

Vikings re-sign LB Larry Dean

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
11:35
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings brought back another one of their free agents on Monday morning, re-signing linebacker Larry Dean, who has made his mark on special teams more than anywhere else during his last three seasons in Minnesota.

Dean
The undrafted free agent played all 16 games last season, forcing and recovering a fumble in addition to making 13 tackles. He made $555,000 last season, and was a restricted free agent headed into 2014.

As some of you have pointed out, the Vikings' linebacking group mostly consists of young, unproven players (Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti) and backup types (Dean and Jasper Brinkley) in addition to Chad Greenway and Audie Cole, who got some experience at the end of last season. The Vikings will bring in former Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain for a visit Monday, and could pursue Bengals restricted free agent Vincent Rey, who wouldn't cost the Vikings a draft pick if they signed him. Otherwise, though, the Vikings could be relying on a young group and the upcoming draft, where a number of intriguing linebacker options could be there for the Vikings at No. 8.

Dean, though, was mostly brought back to help on special teams, and the fact he's been an important cog there is why he's got a new deal with the Vikings.
MINNEAPOLIS -- If the Minnesota Vikings aren't able to land a quarterback with the No. 8 overall pick in the draft in May, one popular alternative is for them to take a linebacker -- possibly Buffalo's Khalil Mack or Alabama's C.J. Mosley -- who could help shore up the middle of their defense.

They might, however, have another option worth considering before then. The Cleveland Browns released linebacker D'Qwell Jackson on Wednesday, parting ways with the leader of their defense instead of paying him $4.1 million in bonuses on March 15.

Jackson is 30 years old, and reportedly already had interest from seven teams after the Browns cut him, so the Vikings would have to decide how much they'd want to pay for a linebacker entering his eighth season. They unsuccessfully tried a similar tack with former Green Bay Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop last year, though injuries were a major risk factor with Bishop while Jackson has been durable for most of his career. But Jackson, like Bishop, is well-respected around the league and might be worth a look from the Vikings, especially considering how much their new coaching staff already seem to know about him.

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner were on the Browns' staff with Jackson last season, and though they wouldn't have coached him directly, they could vouch for his character and leadership abilities. Similarly, coach Mike Zimmer and linebackers coach Adam Zimmer wouldn't have game-planned against Jackson while they were in Cincinnati, but they'd at least have had two chances to watch him each season.

Jackson has been a solid tackler throughout his career, though he's historically not been the kind of linebacker you look to for a huge number of impact plays. The Vikings already have a linebacker like that in Chad Greenway, who turned 31 in January, and there's an argument to be made for younger, cheaper middle linebacker options like Audie Cole and Michael Mauti. But the Vikings defense suffered a leadership void when the team released Antoine Winfield last March, and Jackson could help provide some direction for a defense that figures to change dramatically under Zimmer this season. That alone might be enough for the Vikings to take a look at him.
MINNEAPOLIS -- We're continuing on with our position-by-position outlook of the Minnesota Vikings' roster. Today: the linebackers.

LINEBACKERS

2014 free agents: Desmond Bishop, Marvin Mitchell, Larry Dean (restricted).

The good: The Vikings might have found something at the end of the year at middle linebacker. Second-year man Audie Cole stepped in for Erin Henderson in late November and played well at the position until a high ankle sprain kept him out of the last game of the season. The Vikings hadn't planned to build around Henderson at middle linebacker, as former coach Leslie Frazier acknowledged during the season, and Cole mostly held up well as a blitzer and in pass coverage.

The bad: There wasn't much else to like at the position in 2013. Henderson had his moments, particularly when he was used to blitz, but often looked like he was guessing in pass coverage. He was also arrested on his second DWI charge in as many months in early January. His future with the team would appear to be tenuous at best. Chad Greenway played with a broken wrist for much of the season that impaired his ability to tackle and also seemed a step late in pass coverage too often. He might have been caught trying to compensate for the instability at the linebacker positions around him. Desmond Bishop had taken the weak-side linebacker position from Marvin Mitchell when he sustained his second season-ending injury in as many years, Mitchell made few impact plays, rookie Michael Mauti excelled mostly on special teams and fellow rookie Gerald Hodges struggled to gain the favor of the coaching staff.

The money (2014 salary-cap numbers): Greenway ($8.2 million), Henderson ($2.25 million), Hodges ($600,027), Cole ($570,000), Mauti ($480,000). Given the fact he turned 31 earlier this month and he is coming off a subpar season, Greenway could be a candidate to restructure his deal if the Vikings wind up in a cap crunch, though there's a good chance they'll have enough flexibility to avoid that. Cutting Henderson would only cost the Vikings $500,000, and in light of the fact he might have an NFL suspension coming, it seems possible the Vikings would part ways with him. The rest of the group is on rookie deals, and the Vikings can decide whether to let go of Mitchell and Dean.

Draft priority: High. The Vikings need an impact player at the position, no matter whether they think they have a solution at middle linebacker in Cole. Buffalo's Khalil Mack has been linked to the Vikings in a handful of early mock drafts, and he could make sense at No. 8. But with Greenway possibly entering the twilight of his Pro Bowl career, and new coach Mike Zimmer instilling a new defensive scheme, it's important for the Vikings to get some things settled at linebacker.

Mauti could see time at MLB on Sunday

December, 26, 2013
12/26/13
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Vikings' final regular-season game could double as an opportunity for them to assess their future at middle linebacker.

Coach Leslie Frazier said that while Erin Henderson will start in the middle with Audie Cole out because of a high ankle sprain, the Vikings could take a look at rookie Michael Mauti, who might have unseated Henderson at the spot earlier this season if he'd been healthy when Cole got his opportunity.

Bush
Mauti
Henderson was arrested for drunken driving and possession of a controlled substance on Nov. 19, and sat out the Vikings' next game against the Green Bay Packers because of a personal issue that he later said was not related to the arrest. Mauti, who'd had his left knee surgically repaired twice, banged it on the turf in Seattle on Nov. 17, and wasn't healthy enough to start against the Packers. That created an opportunity for Cole, who played well against Green Bay and started the Vikings' next four games at middle linebacker until he got hurt Sunday.

Frazier reminded reporters last month that Henderson wasn't the Vikings' top plan this offseason at middle linebacker, though he wound up starting over Mauti and Cole almost by default when the Vikings didn't bring in a proven middle linebacker. In a perfect world, the Vikings would likely put Henderson back at outside linebacker, like they'd been doing before Cole got hurt, and Mauti -- who likely would've gone higher than the seventh round in the draft if not for concerns about his knee -- might give them another truer middle linebacking option than Henderson.

"(We) Might get Michael in there some and take a look at him. See how Erin is doing, but get Michael some as well," Frazier said. "He's done some good things. This offseason is going to be big for (Mauti)."

It will depend on what kind of scheme the Vikings are running if they end up with a new coaching staff, but Mauti might have a chance to compete for the job. He's impressed the Vikings on special teams, and seems to have both the downhill speed and the temperament to play middle linebacker. He spent much of his first summer with the Vikings rehabbing from his most recent knee surgery, so the chance to go through a full offseason program could be a key opportunity for him.

Depending on how Sunday's game goes, Mauti could start to make his case for the middle linebacker spot early.

Vikings will wait and see on Peterson

December, 23, 2013
12/23/13
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier pulled Adrian Peterson from Sunday's 42-14 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in part because the Vikings' big deficit wasn't worth risking further injury to Peterson's sprained foot. But the Vikings might have to see some improvement in Peterson's condition before they'll put him on the field for Sunday's season finale against the Detroit Lions.

Peterson
Peterson
Frazier said the Vikings will make a determination about Peterson's status when they get back on the practice field this week -- the team will practice on Tuesday, while shifting its normal off-day to Wednesday because of the Christmas holiday. It seems unlikely Peterson would do much in practice on Tuesday, but as the week goes on, the Vikings will be monitoring him closely.

He carried seven times for 31 yards in the first quarter on Sunday, but had just four carries after that and was taken out of the game in the third quarter.

"I think there were some moments in that game where he did some good things and some other moments where we just weren’t sure he’d have the burst we normally see, so we all want to see if he’s better this week with some more time," Frazier said. He later added, "We always want to do the right thing by him when it comes to playing the game of football. He means so much to our franchise and organization so we have to be wise when talking about how to use him."

Frazier confirmed that backup running back Toby Gerhart again strained his right hamstring on Sunday, two weeks after his initial injury in Baltimore. He also said middle linebacker Audie Cole will miss the Vikings' final game after suffering a high ankle sprain, which likely means Erin Henderson will start at middle linebacker unless the Vikings decide to take a look at rookie Michael Mauti.

The coach is hoping cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who has missed the Vikings' past two games with a sprained ankle, will also get back on the field for the season finale. "We definitely need him, so we’ll see if he can practice tomorrow or after Christmas."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The most interesting thing Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said on Wednesday afternoon, when talking about his coaching staff's decision to move Erin Henderson back to outside linebacker and keep Audie Cole in the middle for Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens, I thought, was this:

"He was moved to the 'Mike' linebacker position not necessarily because that's what we wanted to do, but that was the plight that we were in," Frazier said. "He didn't come in a year ago as our middle linebacker. There were some things that happened over the offseason that resulted in him being our middle linebacker. He's a very good outside backer and expect him to play well on Sunday."

[+] EnlargeErin Henderson
Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY SportsErin Henderson will try to give the Vikings a reason to cheer from his new outside linebacker position.
You'll recall the Vikings had big plans in the offseason to solve their future at the position; Frazier talked at the draft about how they wanted "to potentially draft someone" to handle the spot, and though he left the door open for Henderson to play there. Both Frazier and linebackers coach Mike Singletary indicated in April the Vikings planned to find a young middle linebacker.

The option of taking one high in the draft more or less disappeared when the Vikings traded four picks to the New England Patriots to move back into the first round to take receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. The week after the draft, Henderson said at an offseason workout that coaches had told him to prepare to play middle linebacker, and he essentially slid into the spot almost by default during the offseason, even though Frazier wouldn't commit to Henderson being there The closest he came was at mini-camp, when he indicated either Cole or Michael Mauti would have to do something to take the spot away from Henderson. But with the Vikings envisioning Desmond Bishop as an outside linebacker and concerns persisting about their two young options in the middle, Henderson got the job -- and the chance he coveted to follow in his brother E.J.'s footsteps.

Henderson had played respectably in the middle, but still seemed to struggle in pass coverage at times. Moreover, his departure from the weakside linebacker spot left a hole the Vikings had never really filled; Bishop tore his ACL in October, and Marvin Mitchell did little to distinguish himself after getting the starting spot back following Bishop's injury.

Now in Cole, they have a young player who intrigues them enough to put Henderson back outside. It will be interesting to see how the move plays out in the long run -- Henderson admitted he struggled last season when he would get too aggressive and abandon his gap responsibilities on the weak side, and while Cole has played well, he's also benefited from being a lightly-scouted player. Moreover, Henderson seemed to bristle at the idea of not playing middle linebacker in the offseason, enough that it beared asking Frazier how Henderson took the news on Wednesday.

"We talked about some things and explained to him why. And he accepted that. He's a pro," Frazier said. "He's going to be on the field. That gives him an opportunity to make some plays for us. He's played the position in the past. He handled it as well as can be expected."

Henderson ran the risk of this happening when he was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving last month, and at least for now, Cole has seized the spot. Henderson talked on Wednesday about being in a better frame of mind after the arrest -- and a personal issue that kept him away from the team for three days after it -- and added he sent Cole a congratulatory text when coaches gave him the news. He seemed acutely aware of outside criticism, particularly with what came across his Twitter account, and he's tried to put himself in a better frame of mind to handle it.

"I have a lot of things to be happy about and thankful for, aside from all the naysayers and haters everybody else who's had different things to say about me throughout the year," he said. "Sometimes I let it get to me and get down too much. I've come to grips with it and come to terms with it and I'm able to look at myself and know the man that I am and accept it."

Whether that leads to him regaining the middle linebacker spot remains to be seen. But Wednesday was a reminder that Henderson's grip on the job was only going to be so firm when the Vikings began the year with other things in mind for him.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings will officially be without middle linebacker Erin Henderson on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. Henderson is out because of a personal matter, coach Leslie Frazier said, and second-year man Audie Cole will start in his place.

Henderson
Rookie Michael Mauti could also see time there, though Mauti is questionable after aggravating his surgically repaired left knee last Sunday in Seattle. Frazier said the Vikings will see how Mauti does on special teams before making any more determinations about whether he will play on defense.

The Vikings also have to decide whether Cole or strongside linebacker Chad Greenway will run the Vikings' huddle; Frazier said the Vikings have had both Cole and Greenway relaying play calls in practice this week. Cole said he's prepared to handle the job, and the fact that he will likely stay on the field in the nickel package would lend some consistency to the defense if Cole is indeed running it.

Cole was released on Nov. 7, when the Vikings needed to make room for an extra offensive lineman before their game against the Washington Redskins, but the team brought him back two days later. Now, the former seventh-round pick is getting his chance to start.

"They told me [they wanted to bring me back when they cut me]," Cole said. "Obviously it’s still not cool. It’s not what you want to happen. I understand why they did it. Someone had to go; I wish it wasn’t me but it was. You’ve just got to take it. It sucked, I came back and things have been going good for me lately."

In other Vikings injury news:
  • Both running back Adrian Peterson (groin) and wide receiver Greg Jennings (Achilles) are listed as questionable -- possibly a sign of caution after Jennings went from probable to inactive last week against Seattle -- but both are expected to play on Sunday.
  • Defensive end Brian Robison is questionable with muscle spasms in his neck -- "It was just something that popped out of nowhere," Robison said -- but he remains optimistic he'll be able to play. If he can't, the Vikings would put Everson Griffen at right end, and might either have to use a defensive tackle to spell Griffen and Jared Allen or move Justin Trattou up from the practice squad.
  • Center John Sullivan has cleared the NFL's concussion protocol; he's questionable, but Frazier said he expects Sullivan will be ready to play.
  • Cornerback Josh Robinson (fractured sternum) and tight end Kyle Rudolph (fractured foot) are both out.
  • Allen (back) was a full participant on Friday and is probable. So is running back Matt Asiata (shoulder), linebacker Chad Greenway (wrist) and quarterback Christian Ponder (left shoulder).
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith, who in October was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return after he suffered turf toe on his left foot, said he still plans to be back for the Vikings' final three games of the season.

Smith
Smith is eligible to start practicing next Wednesday, at which point he'll be able to see whether he's able to return on Dec. 15 against Philadelphia. He has been running on an underwater treadmill -- "It's amazing how out of shape you can get in a few weeks," he said -- and will get a MRI on his foot in the near future. But at this point, Smith sees no reason to think he won't be back to help the Vikings finish the season.

"Even when we come in for training camp, you can be in the best shape you think you can be in and it’s still not football shape," Smith said. "So I think you've just got to play into [it] through practice.’’

In other Vikings injury news:
  • Coach Leslie Frazier said middle linebacker Erin Henderson, who has missed the last two days of practice due to a personal matter, might not make it back in time for Sunday's game. If that happens, Frazier said, second-year linebacker Audie Cole would start in Henderson's spot. Rookie Michael Mauti got eight defensive snaps last Sunday against Seattle, but Frazier said Mauti is dealing with some soreness in his left knee; he tore his left ACL in each of his last two seasons at Penn State, and jarred his knee on the turf last Sunday, Frazier said. "It scared him a little bit," Frazier said.
  • Defensive end Brian Robison was limited in practice on Thursday with a neck injury, and defensive end Jared Allen stopped practicing early because of a back injury. Both players, though, seem likely to play Sunday.
  • Center John Sullivan has still not been cleared to return from a concussion. If he's unable to practice on Friday, Frazier said the Vikings would likely rule him out for Sunday's game, putting Joe Berger in at center.

Vikings: Jennings, Peterson sit out

November, 20, 2013
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Both wide receiver Greg Jennings and running back Adrian Peterson sat out of the Minnesota Vikings' practice on Wednesday, but coach Leslie Frazier was hopeful that both would be ready for Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers.

The Vikings will try to get Jennings, who was a surprise scratch on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks with a strained right Achilles tendon, a full day of practice on Thursday, Frazier said. Though he added Jennings "had some soreness" on Wednesday morning. The coach, meanwhile, is "cautiously optimistic" Peterson will be able to play after being limited by a strained groin against the Seahawks.

"We'll see what we need to do this week. Is he able to practice today or tomorrow, or do we hold him back until Friday?," Frazier said. "We'll make that determination this afternoon when we sit down and talk with our trainers."

In other Vikings injury news:
  • The Vikings were also without center John Sullivan, who had not cleared the NFL's concussion protocol in time to practice on Wednesday. Joe Berger is preparing to start if Sullivan is not cleared before Sunday.
  • Linebacker Erin Henderson missed practice, but the team said the reason for the middle linebacker's absence was not injury-related.
  • Tight end Kyle Rudolph (fractured foot) and cornerback Josh Robinson (fractured sternum) were out of practice.
  • Tight end Rhett Ellison (ankle), defensive tackle Fred Evans (knee), defensive tackle Letroy Guion (chest) and linebacker Michael Mauti (knee) were limited.
  • Lastly, wide receiver Greg Childs returned to practice for the first time since tearing the patellar tendons in both knees last August. The Vikings have three weeks to activate the second-year player from the physically-unable-to-perform list or put him on injured reserve, but Childs was still hopeful he could see game action this season. "I’m going to work hard and I”m going to get on the field," he said. "There was never a doubt that I was ever going to play again."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Minnesota Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil, who was questionable to play against the New York Giants because of back tightness, is active for Monday night's game.

Kalil said on Saturday he expected to play unless he had a setback before Monday's game, and he'll man his normal spot, protecting Josh Freeman's blind side in his first start against a Giants pass rush that has struggled to get to the quarterback. New York has just five sacks this season -- the fewest in the league -- and is one of three teams with fewer sacks than the Vikings' 10 this season.

Cornerback A.J. Jefferson is inactive with a sprained ankle, and quarterback Matt Cassel -- who started last Sunday against the Carolina Panthers -- is inactive as the Vikings' third quarterback, as expected, with Christian Ponder as the Vikings' backup. With so many teams reeling from quarterback injuries around the league, the Vikings might be able to find a market for Cassel before next week's trade deadline, and it's possible the 31-year-old would be amenable to a move.

The only other inactive player of note for the Vikings is rookie Gerald Hodges, who looked like he might get some playing time with Desmond Bishop heading to injured reserve. The Vikings said they'd seen a sense of urgency from Hodges now that he is only one spot behind Marvin Mitchell on the depth chart, but the Vikings evidently will staff the weak-side linebacker position another way if Mitchell gets hurt. As much as the team is in nickel, and as much as other linebackers -- Larry Dean, Audie Cole and Michael Mauti -- contribute on special teams, Hodges might have lost out there.

We'll see in about 70 minutes whether the Vikings can get their second win of the year. I'll be chatting about the game through the night with ESPN Giants reporter Dan Graziano. Come join us here.

Raymond, Hodges make debuts

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
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LONDON -- Hello from Wembley Stadium, where we're about an hour from kickoff between the Vikings and Steelers. We already knew four of the Vikings' seven inactives on Friday, with Chris Cook, Jamarca Sanford, Rhett Ellison and Christian Ponder out, and the absences of Cook and Sanford helped put a pair of defensive players -- veteran safety Mistral Raymond and rookie linebacker Gerald Hodges -- on the active game-day roster for the first time this season.

Raymond was one of the Vikings' two starting safeties at the beginning of last season, but a persistent ankle injury opened up a chance for Sanford to take his starting spot, which he hasn't given back. Now that Sanford is out with a hamstring injury, Raymond will at least have a chance to re-assert himself, though the fact Andrew Sendejo will start in Sanford's place probably shows how far Raymond has fallen in the Vikings' eyes.

Hodges, the Vikings' fourth-round draft pick, hasn't found his way onto the field yet. I'd expect to see him mostly on special teams today, where he'd likely join former Penn State teammate Michael Mauti.

In addition to Sanford, Cook, Ellison and Ponder, defensive linemen Chase Baker and George Johnson and guard Jeff Baca are inactive for the Vikings.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Vikings tight end Rhett Ellison missed practice for the second straight day on Thursday with a knee injury, and coach Leslie Frazier wasn't terribly optimistic Ellison would play Sunday.

"I think you have to approach it (like he won't play)," Frazier said. "He's gotten better, but we'll see how much he can do, or if he can do anything tomorrow."

Ellison has been the Vikings' primary blocking back for Adrian Peterson with Jerome Felton suspended for the first three games of the season, and if he's unable to play, the job would fall to rookie Zach Line, who was primarily a ball carrier in college and hadn't been a blocking back until he signed with the Vikings.

"He's done a good job in these first two games," Frazier said. "His snaps will probably go up a little bit because of Rhett's absence, but we've got some other ways we can get some things done. We'll see what happens with Rhett."

Linebacker Desmond Bishop, who could get more snaps on defense against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, could also see some action on special teams if Ellison is out. Bishop has been working on the Vikings' kickoff team this week, and either he or rookie Michael Mauti could play there against Cleveland.

Here is the rest of the Vikings' injury report:
MINNEAPOLIS -- The call for rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson to become a bigger part of the Vikings' offense, it seems, is getting louder.

When he was asked why the first-round pick only got five snaps in the Vikings' first game against the Detroit Lions, coach Leslie Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said the team had more in its playbook for Patterson than it got to use on a day where the Vikings ran just 39 plays in the first 3 1/2 quarters. Then Patterson ran the game's opening kickoff back 105 yards for a touchdown against the Bears on Sunday -- and got just six snaps.

[+] EnlargeCordarrelle Patterson
Jerry Lai/USA TODAY SportsVikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson has shown glimpses of his potential, including a kickoff return for a TD against the Bears.
Frazier didn't mince words when asked about it on Monday.

"We’re going to get that rectified," Frazier said. "He definitely deserves to be on the field more. He’s shown that in the few snaps he’s gotten in the first two ball games. Hopefully, everything being equal, that should not be a part of the conversation next week. We want to get him on the field. He’s one of our explosive players, for sure. We see what he does when he gets the ball in his hands so we have to get him on the field."

It's not often Frazier is that frank in his calls for a certain player to see a bigger role in the game plan, and given the fact Frazier said it after answering a series of questions about how often he's willing to interject with his coordinators, it stands to reason that Patterson won't be so hard to find on the field going forward. It is interesting, though, that the Vikings have been so slow to use Patterson, given what they gave up to get him.

On draft night in April, general manager Rick Spielman was talking to reporters about the Vikings' other two first-round picks -- defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and cornerback Xavier Rhodes -- when he got word that the New England Patriots were open to dealing the 29th overall pick to the Vikings for a second- , third- , fourth- and seventh-round pick. Spielman sprinted back to the Vikings' draft room, completed the deal and minutes later, Patterson was headed to Minnesota.

In making that trade, the Vikings effectively forfeited their chance to use one of their top picks on a middle linebacker after both Frazier and linebackers coach Mike Singletary said the team planned to go after one. Spielman said after the draft that Patterson was the only player the Vikings liked enough to move back into the first round and take, and in finalizing the Patterson pick, the Vikings assured themselves they wouldn't get Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree (who went 30th overall to the Rams), Notre Dame's Manti Te'o (38th overall to the Chargers), LSU's Kevin Minter (45th to the Cardinals), Florida's Jonathan Bostic (50th to the Bears) or Kansas State's Arthur Brown (56th to the Ravens). Only Brown would have been available with the Vikings' second-round pick, but with two fourth-rounders, the team would have had some collateral to move up if it wanted a linebacker.

As it is, the Vikings have looked like they might need a little help at the position. Erin Henderson moved from weakside linebacker to the middle and has struggled his first two weeks (Pro Football Focus currently ranks Henderson 47th among the 50 inside linebackers who have played 25 percent of their team's snaps). The two Penn State linebackers the Vikings did draft -- fourth-rounder Gerald Hodges and seventh-rounder Michael Mauti -- haven't seen the field yet. Desmond Bishop, whom the Vikings signed in the offseason, is sitting behind Marvin Mitchell at weakside linebacker and has played just two snaps. And the two dual-threat running backs the Vikings have faced -- Reggie Bush and Matt Forte -- posted 191 and 161 rushing and receiving yards against the Vikings, respectively.

None of this is to say the Vikings won't improve at linebacker or that Patterson won't become a bigger part of the game plan soon. But as much as the Vikings gave up to get him, and as highly as they valued his explosiveness both as a receiver and a kick returner, it's been interesting to watch how little they've used him in their first two losses, particularly when he's given them some glimpses of what he can do.

"We’re well aware of his talents -- even on the smoke screen when we threw it out and he got 14 yards [on Sunday]," Frazier said. "He doesn’t get lost. We’ll get it rectified."

Three rookies sit for Vikings

September, 8, 2013
9/08/13
12:40
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DETROIT -- We already knew Kevin Williams would sit out the Vikings' 2013 season opener against the Detroit Lions, but the 32-year-old tackle will be accompanied in street clothes by three Vikings rookies -- linebackers Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti, and guard Jeff Baca.

Mauti could have factored in on special teams, but the Vikings have enough other linebackers -- Audie Cole and Larry Dean among them -- who can help there that the rookie will have to wait at least another week to get back into a game that counts for something. His last meaningful action came last November, when he tore his ACL for the third time in college against Indiana. Hodges wore his teammate's No. 42 in the Lions' final home game, and the rest of Mauti's teammates wore a decal with his number on their helmets, to thank him for his leadership in the wake of NCAA sanctions.

Safety Mistral Raymond also sits for the Vikings, after beginning last season as a starter. There aren't many surprises in the rest of the Vikings' inactive list. Here is the full group:
One other note on Williams: With the veteran out, Letroy Guion moves from the nose tackle to three-technique spot and gets the start today, with Fred Evans at the nose. We'll see plenty of Sharrif Floyd today, but the Vikings are trying to ease the rookie into his first NFL game, especially after he missed the team's final two preseason games after a knee operation.

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