Minnesota’s E.J. Henderson was arguably the best Mike linebacker in football last season. But in December, the seventh-year pro suffered the type of broken leg that television networks hesitate to even show viewers. Henderson, entering his eighth season, has vowed to be on the field in Week 1, but the sad reality is such a scenario is unlikely.
Thus, replacement Jasper Brinkley will have the weight of his world back on his shoulders. He told the Star Tribune that he’s “definitely” preparing as if he’ll be the starter. The hope is that the world isn’t quite as heavy this time.
As a fifth-round rookie last year, Brinkley was often slow to diagnose run plays and was vulnerable in coverage. Whereas Henderson took advantage of playing behind the Williams Wall by attacking downhill, Brinkley had a tendency to drift east and west.
But on the bright side, Brinkley showed good explosiveness when he trusted his recognition. And he proved he can operate in trash.
Brinkley has had a good offseason. “I definitely feel like I came a long way," he said after a June minicamp. "Last year was a whole lot of learning for me. I call it teach tape. So definitely got in here this offseason and critiqued myself really hard because you’re your [own] worst critic. So [there were] a lot of things I wanted to work on and I came out here and got better.”
Expect a successful ’10 campaign for the ex-South Carolina Gamecock. He’s fortunate to be playing behind the NFL’s best four-man line and between to two rock-solid outside linebackers, Chad Greenway and Ben Leber.
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