Nov 24, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Audie Cole (57) sacks Green Bay Packers quarterback Scott Tolzien (16) during the first quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
From on the street to starting at middle linebacker in just two-and-a-half short weeks. That is a quick synopsis of the Audie Cole story. On November 7, he was cut by the Vikings to make room for an extra offensive lineman. 48 hours later he was re-signed. On November 24, he made his NFL debut in place of Erin Henderson, racking up 13 tackles and a sack.
Cole didn’t just hold down the spot for Henderson, he was arguably the second- or third-best defensive player on the field for the Vikings against Green Bay. Again, this isa guy the Vikings didn’t think was even worth having around three weeks ago. Talent evaluation issues in Minnesota?
So what does Leslie Frazier do with Audie Cole now? Erin Henderson is one of his guys, one of his veterans. If Frazier sticks to the script, Cole goes back to the bench despite his strong performance and mediocre Henderson returns to the Mike.
But even Leslie Frazier realizes this one isn’t that simple. The usual blind-loyalty approach ain’t gonna fly, not after the way Cole performed. At least in his public statements, Frazier is strongly indicating that Cole will remain at the Mike despite Henderson’s return from his mysterious “personal issues” of last week.
“He hasn’t had any true game experience other than the preseason at that position, so it was encouraging to watch the way he moved around and some of the plays he made,” Frazier said of Cole’s performance. “So we’re going to talk about it this afternoon as a staff and just see what’s best. But he did some things to make you take a hard look at where we are.”
It really shouldn’t be that hard of a decision for Frazier and Alan Williams. Cole earned the chance to be in the mix at middle linebacker. You don’t have to send Erin Henderson to the bench, you can just return him to the Will where he belongs anyway.
The guy who gets left out in this scenario is Michael Mauti, who may himself have been in line to start last weekend had it not been for a little knee issue he suffered in the Seattle game. Mauti’s knee tweak may have robbed him of the chance to start for now, but he is still in the mix for the future. Audie Cole played one good game but it was only one game.
Erin Henderson is the guy who should be most concerned. He is an average player with several promising younger guys creeping up behind him. Even that Will position isn’t safe with Gerald Hodges lurking. And yes, I’m forgetting about Marvin Mitchell for a reason. He’s forgettable.