Erin Henderson’s blown coverage on Reggie Wayne late in the first half was one of the big talkers coming out of Sunday’s loss to the Colts. That one glaring mistake aside, Henderson has actually been one of the bright spots on the Vikings’ defense this year. He currently leads the team in both tackles and sacks and has for the most part been one of their top playmakers on D. That’s why the news of his concussion is so alarming.
Henderson apparently suffered the concussion Sunday during a collision with his teammates Harrison Smith and Kevin Williams when the three players converged to make a tackle. Leslie Frazier initially reported that Henderson had an elbow “or something,” but later it was revealed that he actually suffered a blow to the head. His failure to pass the concussion tests meant the Vikings had to hold him out of Wednesday’s practice, putting in doubt his status for Sunday’s big game against San Francisco.
The Vikings as we know are already pretty thin at linebacker. Henderson and Chad Greenway are really their only two starting-quality players at that position (sorry Jasper Brinkley). Their top back-up Marvin Mitchell has been inactive the first two games with a lingering ankle issue, so it’s hard to say if he’ll be ready to step in Sunday. If not, Tyrone McKenzie figures to get the start at weak-side backer in the base 4-3.
The bigger issue though is who will pick up Henderson’s snaps in nickel. Jasper Brinkley filled in for Henderson after he left Sunday’s game and would figure to be the guy in nickel on Sunday, but that is far from an ideal solution. There’s a reason Brinkley plays as a two-down linebacker. Mitchell, if he’s healthy, might be the better option but only by a little. McKenzie also could be used in that capacity. With the Vikes this desperate at linebacker, look for San Francisco to really work all-world tight end Vernon Davis. Not that they weren’t already going to do that anyway.