Notebook: Audie Cole switches back to MLB as competition heats up
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MANKATO, Minn. -- As a young NFL player, Audie Cole understands his opinion doesn't carry much weight when it comes to personnel placement.
It just so happens that Cole's preference aligns with what Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer wanted in moving the third-year linebacker back into the middle after an experiment as the strong-side linebacker.
"He's a big thumper guy and he also has pretty good range in there," Zimmer said. "It's good to have tall linebackers, because it's harder to throw in the seams. I think he feels more comfortable there, to be honest with you. I've talked to him a little bit about that and he likes it."
Cole, 25, started five games for the Vikings at middle linebacker last season in place of Erin Henderson. After rotating nearly every linebacker at every position, Zimmer has settled the carousel down to mainly Jasper Brinkley and Cole in the middle.
Brinkley will start off as the team's middle linebacker in base packages for Friday's preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders, per defensive coordinator George Edwards. However, that simply signals the beginning of actual competition.
"I think it's going to stay [a competition] too," Cole said. "I know Jasper ain't going to lay down. We're both going to show up in the preseason, we're both competitors."
The Vikings tried Chad Greenway in the middle earlier in training camp; they brought Michael Mauti along with the second-team defense in the middle, but now are trying Mauti out on the weak side behind Greenway.
Cole worked ahead of rookie Anthony Barr on the strong side during June OTAs and minicamp. Barr saw his initial first-team reps last week and hasn't given them up as his fast, athletic style seems better suited for sticking to tight ends and running backs in coverage.
For Cole, the move back to the middle is about taking advantage of what his 6-foot-5, 239-pound frame does well - which is hit.
"I like it in the middle," Cole said. "I don't know if that really matters what I like. But I like it in the middle...you're not really worried about receivers and re-routing people as it is on the outside. You're just going downhill."
Preseason action for Peterson?
It's been nearly three years since Adrian Peterson carried the ball in a preseason game.
Zimmer's not about to break that streak as he will 'probably' hold out the star running back for Friday night's preseason opener at TCF Bank Stadium.
"Maybe 10, 15 carries this game," Peterson said. "I'm joking...With the new offense, I might want to get out there and get a few plays in, but that'll be something I talk with Zimmer about."
Peterson saw two snaps in the third preseason game of 2013, which is a likely target for Peterson again should he see any snaps this preseason.
'What I'm looking for'
Chris Crocker, who the Vikings signed on Monday, has 85 games worth of experience playing for Mike Zimmer; while there's no guarantee he'll play another, Zimmer brought the veteran in to help off the field.
"I thought him being in that defensive back room would help the communication," Zimmer said.
"Get these guys to understand exactly what I'm looking for."
Crocker worked with the first-team defense at times on Tuesday, including in a hybrid 3-2-3-3 package that included the nickel cornerback, removed a defensive lineman and added another safety (Crocker) to the mix for a dime package that still features two linebackers.
"It's kind of been a plan all along," Zimmer said of signing Crocker. "I thought it would be good to have him be around some of the young [players]."
• Robert Blanton (hamstring), AC Leonard (head) and Josh Robinson (hamstring) all sat out on Tuesday. Said Zimmer: "[Robinson] is real close...we're just trying to be extra careful."
• Charting quarterback passes: Matt Cassel completed 8-of-10 with both the first and second team; Teddy Bridgewater threw 9-of-11 with the first and second team, while Christian Ponder completed 7-of-12 throws.
• Ponder was put into tough situations as he ran mostly with the third-string offense, but was facing the first-team defense for most of his throws. Ponder finished 3-of-7 against the first-string defense, with three of his passes batted down and one intercepted by Captain Munnerlyn.
• Chad Greenway, Jasper Brinkley and Xavier Rhodes all had pass deflections off Ponder passes. Cornerback Derek Cox also deflected one of Bridgewater's throws intended for Rodney Smith.
• Practice stopped for a brief moment as Zimmer ordered the entire team to do pushups following an offside penalty by Everson Griffen. Said Zimmer: "It wasn't pre-planned, spur of the moment. Play before there was a couple guys that jumped offsides and I got tired of it."
• Both of Cassel's incompletions were passes batted down - one by defensive end Corey Wootton and another by Greenway. Cordarrelle Patterson saved what should've been a Cassel incompletion with an impressive catch along the sidelines.