Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Linebacker snapshot: Vikings believe Erin Henderson could be on verge of a breakthrough

Posted by: Updated: April 21, 2013 - 9:23 AM
As the NFL Draft approaches, the Access Vikings team is taking a position-by-position look at what will be available, offering insight and analysis on top draft prospects both through print and via daily “Access Vikings: The Show” videos. In addition, here on the blog, we’ll give you a brief review of how the Vikings are set up at each position heading into the draft.
Today’s snapshot: Linebackers
Current starters: Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson
Reserves under contract: Audie Cole, Marvin Mitchell, Tyrone McKenzie, Larry Dean
Biggest offseason move: Three of the Vikings’ top four linebackers from a year ago hit free agency. Two – Henderson and Mitchell – were re-signed. The other – Jasper Brinkley – moved on to Arizona. That was a calculated decision by the Vikings, who after doing full evaluations at the end of last season felt compelled to use this year’s draft as a way of finding a new starting middle linebacker.
Level of draft need: High. Chad Greenway and Henderson bring continuity. But the Vikings are without a starting middle linebacker and need to find a guy who not only has athleticism, toughness and coverage ability but has intangibles as an on-field leader and can be relied on as a three-down force.
You should know: The coaching staff feels like Henderson is getting closer and closer to realizing his true potential. That’s why they were vocal in expressing the desire to re-sign Henderson as the starting weakside linebacker. That deal got done with the 26-year-old signing on for $4 million over the next two years.
“He has shown flashes that he can be a good player for us,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “The consistency in his game is what we’re looking for. But we’d rather see that develop with us than someone else. He is so close to being a good all-around outside linebacker.”
Henderson’s biggest issue remains discipline. He made strides in 2012 but will readily admit that at times his eyes still get too big and he wanders out of place in an effort to make big plays that weren’t his responsibility.
That’s been a recurring issue throughout the past two seasons and the Vikings are hoping Henderson has heard the instructions – “Be where you’re supposed to be!” – enough to change his habits.
“He’s a guy who likes to make plays,” Frazier said. “Like most players do. But you need to be able to do it within the scheme of what we’re asking you to do. And he has some playmaking ability. But the most important thing to do is to take care of your assignment first and then some of those big plays you really want to make, they’ll come to you if you’re just where you’re supposed to be. That just comes with having confidence and just believing in what you’re doing. And that consistency will come. But just trust in what the coaches are asking you to do and just be consistently where you’re supposed to be.”
One more thing: Whomever the Vikings draft in the first round as a potential starting middle linebacker may have to compete with Audie Cole to secure that spot. Cole, drafted in the seventh round a year ago, played exclusively on special teams last season. His biggest splash came in the second preseason game when he had two interception returns for touchdowns within 13 seconds of each other.
Cole understands fully that Brinkley’s departure has created a big opening at middle linebacker. And it’s an opening he’s aiming to fill.
“When I left in January, the coaches made it pretty clear there was no one who really owned that [middle linebacker] spot. And they told me I’d have to bring it during the offseason and into camp to earn it,” Cole said. “That’s what I’m now fighting to do. I understand our roster situation right now. And I’m also aware that nothing is going to be handed to me. … I feel like there’s an open playing field and it’s my chance to prove myself.”

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Baltimore 2 FINAL
Detroit 15
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Northeastern 1 FINAL
Boston 2
Miami-Fla 1 FINAL
Miami 7
Pittsburgh 8 FINAL
Toronto 7
San Francisco 4 FINAL
Oakland 9
Cleveland 0 FINAL
Cincinnati 10
Boston College 0 FINAL
Boston 1
Arizona State 0 FINAL
Arizona 4
Boston 79 FINAL
Cleveland 110
LA Lakers 103 FINAL
Charlotte 104
Sacramento 124 FINAL
New York 86
Houston 96 FINAL
Atlanta 104
Utah 93 FINAL
Memphis 82
Washington 92 FINAL
Chicago 97
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
Denver 106
Nashville 1 FINAL
New Jersey 3
Calgary 3 FINAL(OT)
Philadelphia 2
Washington 5 FINAL
Columbus 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Toronto 3 FINAL
Florida 2
Ottawa 2 FINAL(SO)
Minnesota 3
NY Islanders 2 FINAL(OT)
Dallas 3
Anaheim 4 FINAL
Arizona 1
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
Edmonton 2
San Jose 6 FINAL
Vancouver 2
Ole Miss 82 FINAL
Alabama 74
Eastern Mich 67 FINAL
Ball State 60
Kent State 81 FINAL
Bowling Green 80
Ohio 66 FINAL
Buffalo 93
Georgetown 60 FINAL
Butler 54
Toledo 77 FINAL
Central Mich 85
Rhode Island 59 FINAL
Dayton 75
Youngstown St 67 FINAL
Detroit 77
North Carolina 81 FINAL
Georgia Tech 49
Loyola-Maryland 45 FINAL
Holy Cross 62
Iowa 77 FINAL
Indiana 63
Akron 63 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 70
Army 52 FINAL
Navy 56
Maryland 60 FINAL
Rutgers 50
Kennesaw St 54 FINAL
USC Upstate 90
Jacksonville 63 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 81
Lipscomb 76 FINAL
Northern Ky 73
Stetson 67 FINAL
North Florida 81
Wright State 57 FINAL
Ill-Chicago 60
Western Mich 63 FINAL
Northern Ill 65
Nebraska Omaha 80 FINAL
North Dakota 78
Houston Baptist 71 FINAL
Abilene Christian 83
NC State 66 FINAL
Clemson 61
Texas A&M 62 FINAL
Florida 66
Kentucky 72 FINAL
Georgia 64
West Virginia 69 FINAL
Kansas 76
Auburn 61 FINAL
Missouri 63
Michigan 78 FINAL
Northwestern 82
Villanova 76 FINAL
Creighton 72
Longwood 55 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 63
Charleston Southern 39 FINAL
Presbyterian 47
Coastal Carolina 54 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 68
NJIT 51 FINAL
UMass Lowell 60
West Virginia 55 FINAL
Kansas State 59
TCU 45 FINAL
Texas 79
Fresno State 61 FINAL
Air Force 41
San Jose St 76 FINAL
Boise State 91
Nevada 61 FINAL
Colorado State 68
UNLV 61 FINAL
San Diego State 76
Wyoming 61 FINAL
Utah State 57
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

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