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  1. #1
    singersp's Avatar
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    Vikings Linebackers: Full stable of contenders

    [size=18px]Full stable of contenders[/size]

    June23, 2006

    Author: Mike Wobschall, vikings.com

    There is a full field of contenders for starting linebacker positions on the Vikings roster in 2006, and five-year veteran Ben Leber is one of the favorites to have a spot locked down when the team opens the season at Washington in September.

    In adding Leber via free agency last March and drafting Chad Greenway with the 17th-overall pick in the draft, the Vikings have accumulated quite the stable of linebackers. Those two join Napolean Harris, E.J. Henderson and Dontrarrious Thomas in a five "horse" race for three spots at linebacker.

    Harris has been seeing the most time at middle linebacker during minicamps and OTAs, while Henderson, Leber and Greenway have been seeing time at both strong side and weak side linebacker.

    The debate about who should start and who shouldn't set aside, Leber ultimately sees the competition for playing time as a benefit to the team.

    "I think the positive thing about this group is that you could walk into our linebacker room and you'd never be able to tell there was a lot of competition," Leber said. "Competition at this level is not just competition, you're trying to take someone's job. It's a hard thing to realize but with this group I think we're all helping each other out and it's for the betterment of the team and it's a great attitude and philosophy."

    One of the guys in competition with Leber and others for playing time at linebacker is Greenway. As he prepares for his rookie season, Greenway should look no further than down a couple lockers for advice on how to transition from the collegiate ranks to the NFL. But Leber insists Greenway doesn't need much advice.

    "We've sat down and just talked as guys, not really about football, just to get to know each other," Leber said. "And the one thing I've learned about Chad is that he's not going to need much advice. The guy seems like he's got it figured out."

    Greenway and other rookies may want to seek advice from Leber anyway. During his initial NFL season, Leber earned Pro Football Weekly and Football Digest All-Rookie Team choice honors, tallying 49 tackles and five sacks in 16 games played.

    So while so many rookies in the league struggle throughout their first season, why was Leber able to shine? He credits veteran college football coach Bill Snyder's coaching and program at Kansas State for his success as a rookie.

    "It was an easy transition for me because Coach Snyder's program and Coach Schottenheimer's are very similar," Leber said. "They're both disciplined and detail oriented guys and their all about work ethic. Plus I had a great group of veteran guys like Rodney Harrison and Junior Seau to learn from."

    Very disciplined and detail oriented - sounds like current Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress. Would Leber agree?

    "I definitely do," Leber says. "He's very much a no-nonsense guy and you know what he expects out of you and he expects it every play and every day. So from that aspect there are a lot of similarities."

    Leber comparing Childress to his former coaches is likely a good sign for the Vikings. The 6-3, 255-pound linebacker did very well while playing under both Snyder and Schottenhemier.

    At Kansas State, Leber was team captain and a two-time All-Big 12 performer. He finished his Wildcat career as the school's fifth leading tackler, amassing 216 tackles, 46 of them for a loss. He also had 13.5 sacks.

    Leber feels he brings a broad knowledge of defensive schemes as well as position flexibility to the Vikings.

    "I was fortunate to be in a number of different systems, so I think versatility is one thing the Vikings saw in me," Leber said. "I can play over the tight end and I've played in this type of defense for two years. So I think versatility is one thing I can bring."

    During the 2006 draft, the Vikings targeted players who had the potential to play multiple positions. The team apparently was looking for the same trait in their free agents.

    "He has the flexibility to play outside linebacker on either side both off the line of scrimmage and on it," Childress said immediately following the signing of Leber. "Ben is really a solid football player. We got a chance to play the Chargers last year and he was an anchor as an outside linebacker. His best football is still ahead of him."

    If so, he might just run away from the rest of the field

    Full stable of contenders

    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

  2. #2
    PurplePeopleEaters's Avatar
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    Re: Vikings Linebackers: Full stable of contenders

    IMO Napo has the ability however Leber has the work ethic.

  3. #3
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    Re: Vikings Linebackers: Full stable of contenders

    "PurplePeopleEaters" wrote:
    IMO Napo has the ability however Leber has the work ethic.
    Napo may have the ability, but I haven't seen it yet. :wink:

    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

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    VikingsTw is offline Jersey Retired
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    Re: Vikings Linebackers: Full stable of contenders

    This is the one position i'm so exited for, we have alot of talent here but never had the coaching, adding leber and greenway boosts the core pretty good. I wouldn't be surprised to see EJ win a spot somewhere, he played real well last year for the most part, especailly at the end. Definitly our best LB last year.

    I have a hard time seeing Nap being our MLB as bad as he was last year, he was horrible. He had one good play all year, IN THE PRESEASON. I'm hoping that somehow he could come back and play at the level he did his rookie year, and some of things that made him a first round draft pic. Some people on this board believe MLB is the spot for Nap, maybe he'll click.

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    UndisputedVike's Avatar
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    Re: Vikings Linebackers: Full stable of contenders

    "VikingsTw" wrote:
    This is the one position i'm so exited for, we have alot of talent here but never had the coaching, adding leber and greenway boosts the core pretty good. I wouldn't be surprised to see EJ win a spot somewhere, he played real well last year for the most part, especailly at the end. Definitly our best LB last year.

    I have a hard time seeing Nap being our MLB as bad as he was last year, he was horrible. He had one good play all year, IN THE PRESEASON. I'm hoping that somehow he could come back and play at the level he did his rookie year, and some of things that made him a first round draft pic. Some people on this board believe MLB is the spot for Nap, maybe he'll click.
    I see it this way, you can't judge Napo based on the 3 games he had TRYING to gel into Cottrell's lame scheme, when he struggled they didn't support him, they kicked him to the curb.

    I do see Napo at MLB for us and I think he'll make a huge impact, I feel confident about our defense, wait till 7th-8th week you'll see what I mean, the guys just need time to gel and adjust.

    Not to mention our coaches last year were incompetent.

  6. #6
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    Re: Vikings Linebackers: Full stable of contenders

    With the group they have now I am sure we will have a great LB core. It won't be the best in the league, but it will be up there.

    I too hope Nap can prove himself. I know we have all heard that he was hurt, he wasn't put in the right position with the Vikes, and that he will thrive in the cover 2. I just hope they are right and he can regain his level of play he had in college.

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    VikingsTw is offline Jersey Retired
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    Re: Vikings Linebackers: Full stable of contenders

    "UndisputedVike" wrote:
    "VikingsTw" wrote:
    This is the one position i'm so exited for, we have alot of talent here but never had the coaching, adding leber and greenway boosts the core pretty good. I wouldn't be surprised to see EJ win a spot somewhere, he played real well last year for the most part, especailly at the end. Definitly our best LB last year.

    I have a hard time seeing Nap being our MLB as bad as he was last year, he was horrible. He had one good play all year, IN THE PRESEASON. I'm hoping that somehow he could come back and play at the level he did his rookie year, and some of things that made him a first round draft pic. Some people on this board believe MLB is the spot for Nap, maybe he'll click.
    I see it this way, you can't judge Napo based on the 3 games he had TRYING to gel into Cottrell's lame scheme, when he struggled they didn't support him, they kicked him to the curb.

    I do see Napo at MLB for us and I think he'll make a huge impact, I feel confident about our defense, wait till 7th-8th week you'll see what I mean, the guys just need time to gel and adjust.

    Not to mention our coaches last year were incompetent.
    Thats a good point, another thing to add to that is really none of the defense was playing very well at the beggining of the season, thats the reason our ranking wasn't in the top have of the league. Culpepper was giving the ball away on a record pace, defense was on the field all game.

    If i'm correct we do have Napo's LB coach from when he was a rookie with the Raiders right?

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    Re: Vikings Linebackers: Full stable of contenders

    "jaymz7" wrote:
    With the group they have now I am sure we will have a great LB core. It won't be the best in the league, but it will be up there.
    Put your hands where we can see them and move away from the crack pipe :grin: . I'm nervous about our linebackers; the MLB is the linchpin for the Cover 2 defense and we simply don't have a proven player back there to run the show. I'm hopefull that the rest of the defense will be good enough to cover the weakness of our LB's and that they will develop into a serviceable unit sometime during the season. It's pretty hard to think that an unproven group like this will be anywhere near the best in the league though; I'm just hoping they don't lose too many games for us.
    I am a dipshit!!!

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    Re: Vikings Linebackers: Full stable of contenders

    "boognish" wrote:
    "jaymz7" wrote:
    With the group they have now I am sure we will have a great LB core. It won't be the best in the league, but it will be up there.
    Put your hands where we can see them and move away from the crack pipe :grin: . I'm nervous about our linebackers; the MLB is the linchpin for the Cover 2 defense and we simply don't have a proven player back there to run the show. I'm hopefull that the rest of the defense will be good enough to cover the weakness of our LB's and that they will develop into a serviceable unit sometime during the season. It's pretty hard to think that an unproven group like this will be anywhere near the best in the league though; I'm just hoping they don't lose too many games for us.
    If Tomlin says he's not gonna loose any sleep over it then i won't either.

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    Re: Vikings Linebackers: Full stable of contenders

    "VikingsTw" wrote:
    This is the one position i'm so exited for, we have alot of talent here but never had the coaching, adding leber and greenway boosts the core pretty good. I wouldn't be surprised to see EJ win a spot somewhere, he played real well last year for the most part, especailly at the end. Definitly our best LB last year.
    WRONG! Sam Cowart was. :wink:

    Cowart: 72 solo tackles, 13 assists & 2 sacks.
    Henderson: 53 solo tackles, 22 assists & 1 sack.

    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

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