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.


Mystery at the middle linebacker spot continues

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: August 1, 2014 - 1:49 PM

We’re a week into training camp, and the only clarity we have when it comes to the Vikings’ vacant middle linebacker position is that Chad Greenway probably isn’t going to be that guy. Head coach Mike Zimmer has moved him back to the outside exclusively so he can settle in on the weak side.

So who is in the running to be the Mike? It depends on the down, distance and situation, really.

Zimmer has been plugging and playing with different combinations of linebackers throughout camp and said yesterday that the team could possibly go with a committee at the middle linebacker spot.

“We are trying to get the best guys on the field in each situation so we’re looking at a lot of different guys,” Zimmer said, adding, “The more you can do the more value you have to this football team.”

In their base 4-3 defense, the Vikings have been using Jasper Brinkley, who is more of a downhill thumper than a cover guy, in the middle. We have also seen young linebackers Michael Mauti and Audie Cole, who had a pick-six of Teddy Bridgewater during yesterdays’ practice, at the Mike, too.

In the nickel package, with the Vikings using four down linemen, we have seen Greenway manning the middle. We have also seen rookie Brandon Watts get some snaps in that role. In the dime, we have seen different guys, too, including Gerald Hodges and, interestingly, top pick Anthony Barr.

Another question is who will wear the green dot? The middle linebacker is typically the defender who wears a headset in his helmet to communicate with the coaching staff. It is usually the Mike because, well, he is in the middle of all 11 defenders, making it easiest to relay the play calls and checks before the snap. Ideally, you give that responsibility to a veteran who is never going to come off the field. I’m guessing that was part of the appeal with experimenting with Greenway at the Mike.

So yeah, like I said, we don’t have much clarity when it comes to who will be between Barr and Greenway in the base defense and who Zimmer will plug into his sub packages. But the good news is that the Vikings still have a five more weeks and four preseason games to figure everything out.

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