Middle linebacker is one of the few positions where there seems to be questions of who will be starting Day 1 of the regular season for the Minnesota Vikings. If the season started today, the starting job likely would go to fourth-year linebacker Audie Cole, who has been taking all the first-team snaps in the base defense so far this offseason.
Having the chance to earn a starting job has been a long time coming for Cole. Since entering the league, he has opportunity to start games because of injuries to other players, but he has never held onto a starting job and he admitted that it was hard to wait.
“Obviously you always want to be on the field,” he said. “Nobody out here, nobody on the team, wants to not play. Everyone wants to be playing, but only certain people can, so obviously it’s hard not playing. But when you get your chance you’ve just got to make the most of it, and that’s just what you’ve got to do.”
Cole realizes that even though he is working with the first-team defense right now, that doesn’t mean it will be that way when the season rolls around. He has been in the NFL long enough to know that the big decisions aren’t usually made until after the coaches can see how you play in a game situation during the preseason. So right now he is just working hard so he can be ready.
“It’s good playing there but you’ve still got to do what you’ve got to do,” he said. “I mean, it don’t really matter where you’re playing you’ve got to do what you’re supposed to do on the field and ones, twos, threes will play out after that.”
A big reason Cole might lose his opportunity to start is because the Vikings selected Eric Kendricks in the second round of the 2015 draft. These days, first-, second- and sometimes even third- and fourth-round draft picks are expected to start and make an impact on the team during their rookie year.
There is some pressure coming from Kendricks, who has had a good camp so far, but Cole is not very worried about it. He just thinks of it as everybody is pushing everybody and hopes it will make him better.
“I guess you could say that about everybody out here,” Cole said when asked if Kendricks is pressuring him. “We’ve got a lot of good linebackers and everybody’s pushing each other. There’s no one that’s not pushing anyone. Everyone’s getting pushed by someone or pushing someone else. So that’s just how it is; it’s training camp.”
Right now, Cole doesn’t want to focus on Kenricks. He wants to worry about and improve his own game in areas such as pass coverage, getting off blocks and becoming a sure tackler. And ultimately be ready for the first week of the season.
”It’s going good; it’s been a good first week,” he said. “It’s training camp, we’re all just trying to improve and keep getting ready for the season.”
Cole looking inward, not at Kendricks
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