Audie Cole's NFL starts could be one-and-done, despite a solid performance Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
The Vikings were trying figure out how to proceed with their starting linebackers Monday after Erin Henderson returned to Winter Park following a personal matter that caused him to miss all of the team's practices last week and their game Sunday.
Cole, a 2012 seventh-round draft choice, made the start for Henderson and led the team with 13 tackles, one sack, two tackles for losses, and three quarterback hits.
"He did a really good job yesterday for us. To step in, he hasn't had any true game experience other than the preseason at that position, so it was encouraging to watch the way he moved around and some of the plays he made," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "So we're going to talk about it (Monday) afternoon as a staff and just see what's best. But he did some things to make you take a hard look at where we are."
Cole went from playing only six defensive snaps in nine games played before Sunday to playing all 94 defensive snaps in the overtime tie with the Packers. The coaching staff had talked about getting rookie seventh-round pick Michael Mauti involved in a rotational role with Cole, but that didn't happen.
Mauti, coming off his third surgery to repair an anterior cruciate ligament during his senior season at Penn State, tweaked that left knee Nov. 17 at Seattle. If not for that, the Vikings would have considered him to replace Henderson. Instead, Cole filled in and performed well and didn't come out of the game.
"We talked about it during the week, knowing what Michael Mauti's situation was coming off an injury, that if Audie played well early, we stayed with him, see how he's doing. It seemed the more he played, the more plays he made, so there was no reason to sub him. He did a good job," Frazier said.
"When we sit down this afternoon and just talk about what we're going to do for this opponent, we'll probably talk about what's the best scenario to get the best 11 on the field. We'll have to determine that if Audie will be one of those 11 or how we'll do it. It's hard for me to answer that right now."
One option could be to keep Henderson in the middle and use Cole at Marvin Mitchell's spot on the weak side. That seems like the least likely option, but the Vikings will at least consider their possibilities for getting Cole more involved.
"We've practiced him there before, and he's played some there in the preseason," Frazier said, "so yeah, he possibly could."
According to the team statistics, Henderson led the Vikings with 125 tackles, including a team-leading 13 for losses, before Sunday's game. He was also tied for third with three sacks.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings considering options at linebacker
Viking Update Top Stories
Men in the middle: Scouting free-agent MLBsThe Vikings aren't in the pressing-need category for a middle linebacker, but with Audie Cole a free agent and Mike Zimmer looking to amass troops, it isn't out of the question.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 10:11 AM
Notebook: Zimmer holding off on surgeryMinnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is holding off on another eye surgery until after the heavy travel period; and we also look at the futures of Chad Greenway and Adam Thielen.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 8:36 AM
Combine Research: Defensive Ends (Part 2)Who was a star basketball player who honed his skills in the boxing ring? What small-school star's abs have abs? What star rusher was taken under his father's wing? Those answers…
Packer ReportFriday at 7:19 PM
Combine Research: Defensive Ends (Part 1)Which top prospect has been without his mom for most of his life? Who is the son of a former NFL star? Who are two of the top small-school standouts? Those answers and more as we…
Packer ReportFriday at 6:54 PM