The Vikings still have two preseason games to figure out who fits where on the depth chart, and that’s good news because there are still several positions that need a lot of figuring out. And middle linebacker is one of those positions.
The Mike spot was a sticky issue heading into camp, but things seemed to become relatively settled there with Jasper Brinkley getting the majority of first team reps early in the process. Things have shifted however since the start of preseason, and now Audie Cole has stormed into the conversation as a potential starter.
Cole and Brinkley in fact now appear to be in a dead heat for the starting Mike spot. Mike Zimmer rotated the two players throughout Saturday’s game against the Cardinals and said after the game that he intends to continue the rotation for at least one more week.
Zimmer may not have made up his mind between Cole and Brinkley yet but from watching the two preseason games it seems Cole has at least a slight upper hand. He was very good against the Raiders two weeks ago, and did nothing to lose ground against Arizona. Brinkley meanwhile has been mostly nondescript.
If either player has a decided edge over the other it’s in coverage, where Cole is clearly stronger. The Vikings are planning to use a lot of nickel packages featuring Anthony Barr as a defensive end, and you will need a Mike with cover skills in those packages. The tall, instinctive Cole is better suited to the job than Brinkley.
If things continue progressing as they have, it seems inevitable that Cole will lock down the starting job, relegating Jasper Brinkley to backup status. Keep an eye on next weekend’s game against the Chiefs to see how this one shakes out.