Vikings considering options at linebacker

The Vikings are considering how to proceed at linebacker after a solid performance from Audie Cole in his first NFL start. They have several options.

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.

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