Vikings Injuries and Tells too Much to Overcome?

By MikeBullock  |   Thursday, December 10, 2009  |  Comments( 0 )

Minnesota Vikings
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The loss to the Arizona Cardinals wasn’t the worst thing to come out of Glendale, Arizona last weekend for the Minnesota Vikings and their fans. What could be worse than the donnybrook beating the Vikings took? The brutal injury to star middle linebacker E.J. Henderson for one.

Henderson, who gets little notoriety outside the byways of the NFC Norse Division, is a household name inside it. Striking fear into opposing offenses, Henderson is the heart and soul of the Vikings defense, a defense that has historically performed better with Henderson on the field than off. The seven year veteran out of Maryland has sixty three tackles and two sacks so far this season. In 2007, his last full year, Henderson ended with ninety four tackles, four and a half sacks and three forced fumbles. Unfortunately, last season was cut short by injury as well. When Henderson is healthy and playing at full capacity, he’s a game changing kind of ‘backer who will be sorely missed.

Forward thinking by the Vikings Vice President of Player Personnel, Rick Spielman, landed rookie Jasper Brinkley in last April’s draft, as an insurance policy for Henderson. During his time at the University of South Carolina, Brinkley started all but one game, ended with one hundred and ninety three total tackles, seven and a half sacks, twenty and a half tackles for a loss and three picks. While those numbers aren’t off the charts or anything, it does illustrate this young man comes to play.

How well he does that will be determined this weekend when Brinkley gets his first start against the high flying Cincinnati Bengals.

Far more troubling, from a strategic perspective, is the story regarding starting left tackle, Bryant Mckinnie. Allegedly, McKinnie lines up in a different stance for a pass play than he does a run. If news of this “tell” has made it all the way into fandom, where I discovered it, you can bet your bottom dollar it’s circulated through every defensive film room in the nation that has any reason to even think about facing the Vikings, including Cincinnati, Chicago, Carolina, The Giants and Saints.

While it seems like it should be an easy fix, old habits are hard to break and McKinnie is rumored to have been doing this for some time. A possible quick fix is for quarterback Brett Favre to call a pass play in the huddle, then audible to a run periodically when he sees the defense keying on McKinnie’s body language. But that’s just a band aid that will bring its own problems.

If the Vikings are to continue their winning ways, they’ll have to do it without Henderson, and in spite of McKinnie’s mental mishaps. This team is certainly loaded enough to overcome the first, but few teams have ever been able to overcome the second.

All we can do is wait and see.

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