INDIANAPOLIS – The Vikings have a hole to fill at middle linebacker, but head coach Mike Zimmer doesn't sound overly optimistic about his chances of finding one who can both stuff the run and cover.
Middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley is an unrestricted free agent, and while he did the job last season when it came to the running game, the Vikings didn't trust him to cover in passing situations and left him out of their sub packages. As a result, he played just 42.5 percent of the defensive snaps.
While there is a chance that Brinkley could re-sign with the Vikings, it is Zimmer's preference to find in free agency or the draft a three-down middle linebacker who does a little bit of everything.
"You'd like that, you'd like to have a guy that plays all three downs," Zimmer said. "You kind of figure out what guys can do and plug them in the best you can, if you don't have that. You try to go by committee or something. There really aren't that many of them nowadays who play three downs."
And according to Zimmer, few will be up for grabs. He said the middle linebacker class in this year's draft is not as deep as he'd like. And free agency?
"That's a little thin in that area, too."
The Vikings are doing their due diligence at this week's NFL scouting combine, though. They have met with middle linebackers such as Miami's Denzel Perryman and Mississippi State's Benardrick McKinney.
'In for a shocker'
Consider Zimmer sick of the praise he has received for the job he did in his first season with the Vikings and also any talk from the media that his young team is on the rise.
"I'm tired of it, to be honest of you," Zimmer said. "I can't wait to get in front of our team and tell them all the reason why we were 7-9. I don't want to listen to this stuff about how great we're going to be and all this other stuff … They're going to be in for a shocker I think."
Asked what he takes away from his first 13 months on the job, Zimmer said there are many things he must do better, including being more demanding.
"When I go back and evaluate a lot of this tape, I can see how we can play a lot harder, tougher, more physical in a lot of different ways. That's going to be a big emphasis for me going forward, with the team, to continue to try and put my imprint on what I want this organization to look like," Zimmer said. "For us to compete in this division, with the teams in the division, we have to be way better than what we are. We're not anywhere close."
All about the U
Minnesota running back David Cobb might not be garnering as much attention as fellow Big Ten backs such as Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah, but the Gophers standout knows his name will be called at some point during April's draft.
"My goal is what it's been since I was little — to play in the NFL," said Cobb, who rushed for 1,626 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior. "So first or seventh [round], it doesn't really matter to me."
After generating buzz at the Senior Bowl last month, Cobb, who said he had an informal conversation with the Vikings this week, is projected by many analysts to be a mid-round selection. But Cobb can improve his stock further if he runs well during running back drills Saturday.
Speaking of Gophers in spandex, tight end Maxx Williams ran his 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds, third best at his position. Williams is considered a lock to go in the first two rounds of the draft.
"Maxx is a very good football player and he had a great year at the U," Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said earlier this week. "Extremely talented athlete. Extremely talented receiver."