There’s only one question that really matters when considering the Vikings‘ linebackers going into camp: Is E.J. Henderson back from his broken femur, and can he regain the near-Pro Bowl form he demonstrated in 2007?
Reports are that E.J. is healthy enough right now to fully participate once camp opens. But we’ll have to see how the Vikings decide to play that. They could elect to place Henderson on the PUP list, and bring him along slowly.
As I indicated before, when healthy, Henderson has shown elite skills, especially as a run-stopper and up-the-middle pass rusher. But, the last two years, Henderson’s march to the Pro Bowl was cut short. In 2008, surgery on his left foot ended his year after only four games. And in ’09, as we all vividly remember, he suffered a gruesome leg break against Arizona, and was forced to watch the Vikings’ playoff run from the sidelines.
The man who replaced Henderson last season, Jasper Brinkley, comes into camp as a rising talent. We’re looking for further improvement from Brinkley, who becomes an important player when you consider E.J.’s history of not being able to finish seasons.
As far as the outside spots go, Ben Leber and Chad Greenway are as locked-in as you can get. Rookie Nate Triplett will vie with Kenny Onatolu, J Leman and Erin Henderson to win back-up/special teams roles.
Heath Farwell returns as one of the league’s most fearsome crazy man-crushing special teams bastards.