Brinkley, Blanton named Vikings starters

Mike Zimmer ended the questions about his starters at two key positions by naming Jasper Brinkley and Robert Blanton starters at middle linebacker and strong safety, respectively.

Jasper Brinkley was named the starting middle linebacker and Robert Blanton the starting strong safety, Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday.

Brinkley started all three preseason games that the Vikings began in the base defense (when they use three linebackers) and Blanton started the preseason finale.

“Jasper is a little bit more of a thumper in the running game and I think this week they’ve got a good running game so I think they’re offensive line does a nice job in run blocking,” Zimmer said. “I think it will be a good matchup for him.”

The Vikings open the season against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday and, while the Rams offense finished 30th in the league last year, they were 19th running the ball. Rookie Zac Stacy led the Rams with 973 yards on 250 carries (3.9-yard average) and had seven touchdowns.

Zimmer said earlier in the preseason that Brinkley is a little better communicator than Audie Cole, who was vying for the starting job, and that also went into the decision.

“It’s a one-week deal, one week at a time,” Zimmer said. “They play good, they keep playing. I think the defensive team feels comfortable with Jasper making the calls. He’s been lining up with the first group since the first day. In a game like this, it’s nice to be settling in. Everything nice and smooth and hear the same voices and things like that.”

However, Cole is still expected to see time on defense because Zimmer likes to mix up the looks and the different packages he uses, and Cole may be better defending the pass with his size (6-foot-5, 239 pounds).

“Just because they guys aren’t starting doesn’t mean they won’t be playing some packages that we have in the game,” Zimmer said. “We just have to put 11 out there to start with and it’s really got nothing to do with … Audie’s made a lot of plays and he’s doing a lot of different jobs. Sometimes special teams come into play on these decisions, too.”

Blanton started out training camp listed as the starter on the depth chart. Despite a hamstring injury four days into camp that limited his availability for much of the preseason, he remained atop the depth chart.

The Vikings released veteran safeties Chris Crocker and Kurt Coleman, who made two starts each in the preseason.

“(Blanton) probably made less mistakes, but he’s got some cover skills,” Zimmer said. “All those safeties we probably didn’t see them enough because of the injuries or whatever. But Robert’s a good kid, smart kid, and we’ll see how he does. Hopefully he does well.”


  • Zimmer said his captains will be named on a weekly basis instead of using specific captains for the whole season.

  • Marcus Sherels will return punts, despite a solid preseason from Adam Thielen, who averaged 25.4 yards on five returns, including a 75-yarder. Sherels averaged 6.3 yards on six returns, including a 32-yarder, in the preseason.

  • The Vikings enter the regular-season opener in relatively good health. LBs Brandon Watts (knee) and Michael Mauti (foot) didn’t practice, and neither did FB Zach Line (ankle). OT Mike Harris, claimed on waivers Sunday, was limited with a shoulder injury. CB Jabari Price (shoulder) and WR Rodney Smith (neck) were full participants.

  • Besides the season-ending knee injury to QB Sam Bradford, the Rams enter the opener in pretty good shape, too. CB Trumaine Johnson (knee) and C Barrett Jones (back) didn’t practice Wednesday. OT Jake Long (knee), DE William Hayes (chest), LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar (shoulder) and DE Eugene Sims (knee) were limited.

    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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