Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Why I'm not worrying about who plays middle linebacker for the Vikings in 2013

I never bought the rumors that Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher would sign with the Minnesota Vikings, nor did I want him to be signed by the Minnesota Vikings.

So the news that he has decided to retire strikes me as a good thing for the Vikings and for Urlacher.

I always find it hard to watch a very good player who has been associated with one team hang on a year or two (or three) too long and spend that time bouncing from different team to different team - a gun for hire, but not a particularly effective one. So I'm fine with Urlacher retiring as a Chicago Bear.

I also think the Vikings will be better served playing someone at middle linebacker other than a guy who will be 35 years old on May 25. This is not a team that is one player away from contending for a Super Bowl. It's not a team that needs a veteran presence to help guide it through the playoff wars one more time. This is a team that needs to develop young players and find future Pro Bowlers rather than play ex-Pro Bowlers. And as Pacifist Viking pointed out at the beginning of the month, the Vikes will be playing with only two linebackers the majority of their defensive snaps in 2013 anyway. Is Urlacher a better player at this stage than Chad Greenway or Erin Henderson?

I'm also less worried about this issue in 2013 for the Vikings because the team's success is more dependent on improvement from Christian Ponder, and the wide receivers and defensive backs than on who is playing middle linebacker.

I'm also not as worried about this spot because I think the Vikings starting middle linebacker is already on the roster. For now, the starter is - apparently - Henderson. But at some point this upcoming season you'll see seventh round draft pick Mike Mauti starting at MLB. That might seem a stretch for a 7th round draft pick. But Mauti is no regular seventh rounder. His college stats tell the tale of a player who was productive and made impact plays at Penn State. He was viewed as a second or third round pick until he had a third serious knee injury towards the end of his 2012 senior season.

But while the injuries are worrisome, it doesn't negate that Mauti has talent, and if he can stay healthy, that talent has not disappeared. He might even end up being the Vikings draft pick who had the biggest impact on the team during the 2013 season when we look back on the year. Hopefully, he's got a few of the plays you'll see in the video below in him between September and January.

 

   

4 comments:

  1. Didn't know much about Mauti prior to the draft but liking everything I'm seeing and reading about him.

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  2. Loved that Mauti pick. Awesome player if he can get healthy. Plus his off field stuff is off the charts. He was a great leader for Penn State during a time of upheaval, has worked hard to comeback from injuries, and his Dad played in the NFL. He's buddies with Sean Lee from Dallas, I hope he can follow in his footsteps. Let's not get upset though if he can't bounce back from an ACL as fast as Superman. Not everyone has alien DNA. If not him then I hope Hodges can contribute this year. How can you go wrong with two guys from Linebacker U?

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    1. Hodges may contribute at OLB with Henderson and/or Mauti in the middle, but I can't see Hodges playing MLB.

      I really like Mauti, and while he may not return from his ACL the way Peterson did, he certainly has a good medical team in his corner lead by the legendary Eric Sugarman.

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    2. The "legendary Eric Sugarman." Well, there is one of Chilly's hires that turned out pretty well.

      I'm figuring by about game five or six, Mauti will take over the starting MLB if he's healthy. I admit I've never seen him play, but I've yet to read a scouting report on him that wasn't glowing, aside from noting those three little knee surgeries he's had.

      I also shouldn't discount Audie Cole. Tom Pelissero seems to think he's not built to play MLB and might have a hard time making the team this year, but I have a soft spot for the guy.

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