Mike Zimmer still doesn’t know who will start at middle linebacker for the Vikings come Sept. 7, but it seems he’s getting close to making a decision.
After Thursday night’s highly dramatic preseason finale vs. Tennessee, Zimmer indicated that Jasper Brinkley has nosed ahead of Audie Cole in the neck-and-neck race for the starting Mike job.
Mike Zimmer on Jasper Brinkley as potential starter at middle linebacker. "I would probably say Jasper has got the lead." #Vikings
— VikingUpdate.com (@VikingUpdate) August 29, 2014
Folk hero Audie Cole has had his moments this preseason, but not enough of them to separate himself from Brinkley, who was brought back on a free agent deal this offseason after a year in Arizona.
Cole and Brinkley both saw plenty of snaps in the final preseason game but neither did anything to particularly stand out. By this time, we know what each player is and what he is not.
Cole is a decent coverage backer with nice instincts and some lateral flow who lacks great speed. Brinkley is a downhill gap-filling type player who struggles in coverage but is solid in run support.
If you could combine Cole and Brinkley into one player, you’d have a heck of a linebacker. Since the DNA splicing technology necessary to create this horrifying Cole-Brinkley chimera doesn’t exist yet, Zim will have to settle for rotating the two players on a matchup-by-matchup basis.
Given Zimmer’s love for rotation, it probably doesn’t even matter which man starts and which man doesn’t. Both will see their fair share of action, and both will get a chance to shine.