The countdown rolls on with the player at #14…
The Vikings linebacker corps has experienced a lot of upheaval over the past few years, but the constant through it all has been Chad Greenway. The one consistent factor through the seasons of turnover and experiment and occasional brutal failure at linebacker has been Greenway’s sustained adequacy.
Others have come and gone, switched positions, gotten injured, been cut loose and brought back, but Greenway has remained Greenway. A decent player who is never as good as his boosters want to believe, but never as bad as his detractors insist.
The detractors just happened to get a little louder in 2013 and the boosters a little more sheepish.
But was Greenway really one of the worst linebackers in the entire league last year, as the folks at Pro Football Focus claim? If he deserved the bad grade, how much slack should he get for fighting through a wrist injury?
The truth is that Greenway was at best mediocre for a couple of years before his shaky 2013, so it can’t all be attributed to the wrist. Some of it may be attributed to Greenway being dragged down by the level of play of those around him. There’s no question he was better with Pat Williams in front of him, E.J. Henderson beside him and Antoine Winfield on his side making plays against the run.
But any linebacker would be better with players of that caliber around him.
Greenway became a notably lesser player with Letroy Guion at nose tackle, out-of-position Erin Henderson at Mike and Josh Robinson at cornerback (both lined up outside and wildly out-of-position on the slot). But, so what? A great player or even a very good player would rise above such circumstances and still put in a solid season. Greenway put in a subpar season (maybe even a terrible season, a season that exploded the perception of him as an unswervingly adequate defensive stalwart).
Should we assume from this performance that there will be a continued downward trend? The graph doesn’t look good for Greenway, but there is a glimmer of hope. Or should I say, a Zimmer of hope. Under Mike Zimmer, Greenway has a chance for renewal. Whether he moves to the Mike or the Will – he won’t play Sam, the blitzing spot in Zimmer’s scheme and the spot Anthony Barr was drafted to take – the belief of some is that his strengths will be better utilized and his weaknesses better covered up in the new system.
The cold unbiased truth is that Greenway has a lot to prove this year. He may not have deserved all the bashing he received last season, but he deserved some of it. The whole defense slipped, and that’s not all on Greenway, but some of it is. A lot of those guys are gone but Greenway is still here. He gets a chance to erase the bad memories of Leslie Frazier’s brutal 2013 defense and create some new, happier ones.
The fact that Chad Greenway, with all his faults, riding an apparent steep downward slide, still comes in #14 says more about the Vikings’ roster than Greenway. He’s a question mark, like everyone else below him and a few still above him. But at least he’s done it in the past. And yes, there’s a chance he could be revitalized under Zimmer.