Audie Cole to remain Vikings' MLB, Henderson will switch back to WLB
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Minnesota Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson will be moved back to his old position at the weak side so linebacker Audie Cole can start his third consecutive game in the middle, per coach Leslie Frazier.
This could end what has been a 10-game experiment for Henderson at the middle since switching over from the weak-side, where he started the previous two seasons.
"[Henderson] didn't come in a year ago as our middle linebacker," Frazier said. "Some things that happened resulted in [Henderson] being our middle linebacker...not necessarily because that's what we wanted to do. But that was the plight we were in."
"I like the way Audie [Cole] is playing, he's done a good job for us in that role. I want to take a look and see if that helps our team, and I think it does going with this configuration."
Cole led all defenders with 13 tackles in his first start at Green Bay on Nov. 24. Frazier wouldn't remove the second-year linebacker from the starting lineup after he batted two passes down in Sunday's win against the Chicago Bears.
Cole didn't get his opening until Henderson missed the Packers tie to 'personal reasons' that he and Frazier both contend are separate from a DWI arrest on Nov. 19. The Vikings need a long-term answer at middle linebacker and right now they're going with the 6-foot-5, 24-year old as opposed to the 6-foot-3, 27-year old.
"[Cole] has made some splash plays, but he's done enough for where we are to watch him to see if he continues to grow," Frazier said.
Specifically, the Vikings are 3-8-1 and capable of plugging in a young linebacker and battle through any youth-driven mistakes. While Henderson led the Vikings in tackles before missing his first start a couple weeks ago, the Vikings like the disruption Cole causes - whether it be his two pass deflections or sack in two starts.
Henderson hasn't divulged why he missed the game at Lambeau, if it were separate from his arrest. But he said technically being a 'starter' doesn't soften the blow of losing the job he wanted.
Linebacker Marvin Mitchell will be benched in favor of Henderson, who will be removed during the Vikings' often-used nickel packages that leave just Cole and linebacker Chad Greenway on the field.
"Nah, not really. It doesn't really make it that much easier as a competitor and the person I am. I still want to play that [MLB] position. I think I was doing a pretty good job at it," Henderson said. "I think I was coming into my own, the defense and all the guys were starting to rally around. Unfortunately incidents happen and the next guy up."