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  1. #1
    singersp's Avatar
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    Vikings look to plug hole in the middle

    Posted on Fri, Jul. 28, 2006

    [size=18px]Vikings look to plug hole in the middle[/size]
    Harris, Thomas, Henderson to battle for linebacker job

    Editor's note: As the Vikings prepare to open training camp, we look at some of the key issues facing the team. Today's question: Who's going to start at middle linebacker?

    BY DON SEEHOLZER

    Pioneer Press


    Does the Vikings' new Tampa 2 defense have a hole in the middle?

    Time will tell, but the prospect doesn't seem to frighten defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin, who went through an entire offseason without naming a No. 1 middle linebacker and seems quite content to settle the issue in training camp.

    "It's absolutely unsettled, but we're comfortable with that," he said at the end of the team's final June minicamp. "I know there's been a lot written and said about uneasiness regarding the position, but we're excited. We feel like we're going to have some guys play in there at a high level, and we can't wait to see it happen."

    Napoleon Harris and Dontarrious Thomas split time in the middle during the offseason, and E.J. Henderson could join the competition if the Vikings decide to move him from weak-side linebacker.

    Middle linebacker is a key position in the Tampa 2 (or cover 2) scheme, a role Brian Urlacher successfully fills with the Chicago Bears, but Tomlin wasn't about to make any judgments based on offseason practices in shoulder pads and shorts.

    "Hey, if I'm looking for comfort, I need to find a new line of work," he said. "It's a continual process. I'm not going to lose sleep over the fact that's not sorted out right now. The reality is that we're trying to be the best that we can be. We'll have an open mind regarding a lot of positions this time of year."

    Running down the contenders, each candidate brings something different to the position, and all have played it some during their careers.

    Thomas started two games at middle linebacker as a rookie in 2004 and said he played the middle in a Tampa 2 defense at Auburn, "so I feel I fit it pretty good. It's a natural fit for me."

    During offseason workouts, he impressed Tomlin as someone who could play in space and with his vertical skills.

    Harris had a dismal first season with the Vikings after coming over from Oakland in the Randy Moss trade, starting just three games at strong-side linebacker before losing his job to Keith Newman.

    Before writing off the former first-round draft choice as a candidate, though, don't forget that Harris was the No. 1 middle linebacker for part of his time with the Raiders and started against Tomlin's Tampa Bay Bucs in Super Bowl XXXVII.

    As for Henderson, he started 14 games at middle linebacker in a different Vikings defense in 2004 before moving to weak-side linebacker last season, and Tomlin noted his experience, football instincts and short-space quickness.

    "All those guys are capable," Tomlin said. "It's not about capable; it's about instinctual. How quickly can they process information? And that's what we're exploring right now, playing multiple guys at that spot."

    Anyone who has watched the Vikings' defense the past few seasons knows linebacker has been a trouble spot, so the fact that they will be choosing a starter from among two or three returning players could be cause for concern in some quarters.

    Tomlin, playing the hand he was dealt, claims he's comfortable with the guys he has. Football skills aside, there are a few things he's looking for in whoever emerges as the starter.

    "Something goes with being the guy that stands in front of the huddle," he said. "You've got to have a man in front of that huddle with some presence. We feel like all of those guys have those kind of qualities."

    Don Seeholzer can be reached at [email protected]

    Vikings look to plug hole in the middle

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

  2. #2
    Prophet Guest

    Re: Vikings look to plug hole in the middle

    It's nice to get a glimpse into what Tomlin is thinking.

  3. #3
    VikesfaninWis's Avatar
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    Re: Vikings look to plug hole in the middle

    I say either Henderson, or Thomas come out as the starter in week 1..

  4. #4
    singersp's Avatar
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    Re: Vikings look to plug hole in the middle

    That is the most unanswered question heading into camp. I hope someone really shines in camp, steps up & assumes the role.

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

  5. #5
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    Re: Vikings look to plug hole in the middle

    Strongside- Leber
    Middle- EJ
    Weakside- Greenway

    Nickle Package- Dontarrious and Greenway




    One Love

  6. #6
    DCPologirl is offline Team Alumni
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    Re: Vikings look to plug hole in the middle

    Ithink EJ could step up.....

    DCPologirl:Maybe Randy will make Aaron Brooks look better......roflmao Del Rio: I guarantee he will

  7. #7
    VikingPatrick is offline Rookie
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    Re: Vikings look to plug hole in the middle

    I wont be suprised if they wait to see if someone gets released and then jump on him much like they did with Greg Beikert!
    I dont see them trading for anyone....but there is always someone who gets released unexpectedly!!
    I beleive they need someone who knows what they are doing in the middle much like Beikert did!
    When All else fails....at least theres Football. Beer, and Women (not necessarily in that order)

  8. #8
    Property0f's Avatar
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    Re: Vikings look to plug hole in the middle

    Dang, it's to bad we can't combine EJ, Harris, and Thomas into one body to create some super linebacker.

    I wonder how good Greenway would be at middle.
    I think in a year or two he will be moved over and be the Urlacher of our defense. Greenway, the face of the Viking defensive.

    Yea, has a nice ring to it...

  9. #9
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    Re: Vikings look to plug hole in the middle

    Thomas started two games at middle linebacker as a rookie in 2004 and said he played the middle in a Tampa 2 defense at Auburn, "so I feel I fit it pretty good. It's a natural fit for me."


    DT may be the longer-term answer but we ALL know what the short-term answer is...bring in more competition! DE...**hint hint**...and that DOESN'T stand for Defensive End!!! :lol:
    BANNED OR DEAD...I'LL TAKE EITHER ONE

  10. #10
    Mr Anderson's Avatar
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    Re: Vikings look to plug hole in the middle

    I have a strong feeling Napolean Harris is going to step up this season.

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