What to make of the linebacker situation right now? Well, Chad Greenway will start, and everything else is a mystery.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and linebackers coach Adam Zimmer got their first look at the unit during the voluntary three-day mini-camp this week. It was the only defensive position the Vikings really couldn’t make a big upgrade in the offseason outside of Jasper Brinkley’s one-year deal.
There’s three linebackers -- Audie Cole, Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges -- that still have plenty to prove. Cole showed flashes of his ability at middle linebacker before suffering an ankle injury that sidelined him out of the last game of the season.
Mauti finally had an offseason where he wasn’t recovering from a knee injury. Hodges didn’t get much time on defense during his rookie season in Leslie Frazier’s Cover 2.
Zimmer has held off public opinion on players until he’s had a chance to get around them. How much can he learn in three days? Well, he said the mini-camp could help influence some draft decisions next week.
PROJECTED STARTERS: Chad Greenway, Jasper Brinkley, Audie Cole
DON’T FORGET ABOUT: While that unit above received first team 11-on-11 reps during the open portion of practice, the Penn State linebackers, Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, aren’t out of the picture. Adam Zimmer rotated and mixed all the linebackers, and Mauti and Hodges will have a shot to earn a starting spot in the coming months.
LEVEL OF NEED: High. Outside of quarterback, it might be the second biggest need for the Vikings. There’s too many unproven players and Zimmer has the opportunity to upgrade the position in the draft.
FIVE PROSPECTS TO REMEMBER: OLB Khalil Mack, ILB C.J. Mosley, OLB Anthony Barr, OLB Kyle Van Noy, OLB Ryan Shazier
OUR BEST GUESS: They’ll likely look to add another linebacker to the mix in search of starting middle and weak side linebackers. If Mack’s there with the eighth overall pick (highly unlikely), that’d be a steal. Otherwise, Mosley or Van Noy would be good picks too.