Minnesota Vikings: What Impact Will Audie Cole Have on the Vikes D in 2012?
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Audie Cole was on top of the world after his two-interception, two-touchdown performance against the Buffalo Bills in Week 2 of the preseason.
Cole, a seventh-round draft pick from North Carolina State University, was dubbed by many as a long shot to make the Minnesota Vikings' 53-man roster.
He was declared an undersized, unpolished linebacker competing to make a team in serious need of quality depth at an otherwise thin position.
Cole, a 6’5” and 239-pound linebacker, played safety and quarterback in high school and was converted to linebacker upon his arrival at N.C. State.
But those two interceptions for two touchdowns in a 13-second window opened up the eyes of Vikings fans across the country and the coaching staff.
The athleticism that made him a standout prospect in high school has been apparent during his days in purple and gold. It’s that athleticism that should earn him a spot on Minnesota’s 53-man roster.
That same athleticism has many fans, commentators and media members excited about Cole’s prospects for the 2012 season.
While it’s great to “ooh” and “ah” over what a player does in the preseason, it’s important to remember to keep it all in perspective: It is the preseason.
Will Audie Cole start one game at middle linebacker for Minnesota in 2012?
Now, I’m not saying Cole will be like the Lions of 2008 and be a complete and utter bust. But it is important to remember it’s the preseason. And while it is only the preseason, it is certainly better for Cole’s future that he does well now rather than perform poorly.
Fans, coaches and media members should expect more of Cole because of his exceptional preseason. They just have to keep those expectations in check.
Expect Cole to be a major contributor on special teams. The Vikings can use his speed and athleticism to benefit a special teams unit that hasn’t always been among the league’s best.
However, Cole will not be Minnesota’s starting middle linebacker. That role is reserved for Jasper Brinkley—until he proves himself otherwise incapable.
Brinkley has never been a full-time starter in the NFL. Many have questioned his credentials to be Minnesota’s starting middle linebacker prior to Week 3 of the preseason when he recorded two sacks and four tackles.
It’s not as if Cole projects as Minnesota’s backup middle linebacker either. Should Brinkley falter, the Vikings could look to move outside linebacker Erin Henderson inside or promote Tyrone McKenzie to starter.
Enjoy what Cole has done this preseason. Enjoy what he may do in extended playing time in Friday’s preseason finale. But don’t expect him to make or break Minnesota’s season.
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