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Installment 4 – 2009 Mid-Season Grades – Linebackers and Secondary

Linebackers –

Chad Greenway – Very fast for a linebacker with very good coverage skills and has flashed good blitzing ability. Has a penchant for making the Big Play and covers ground from sideline to sideline. Led the team in tackles last year and has 40 stops so far this season. He is also tied for the team lead in interceptions with 2. In addition, he’s forced 1 fumble and recovered 2 others. Greenway is currently performing at or near the Pro-bowl level this season. –     A –

E.J. Henderson – Boy, did the team miss Henderson last season after he suffered a horrendous foot injury. Before he was hurt, he was becoming a dominant middle linebacker. This season, he has been terrific in spurts. Still leads the team in tackles with 55 and has contributed a sack and a fumble recovery. I’m probably being a little too critical here, but he still seems a little hesitant at plugging run gaps. One of the reasons the team has slipped against the run and at the same time a reason the Vikings should be optimistic is because Henderson seems to be getting more comfortable as time goes by. Look for the former Terrapin to return to Pro-Bowl form and the Vikings to coincidently improve as well.   –    B

Ben Leber – The third Amigo in an extremely strong line backing corp. `Has 24 tackles and 2 ½ sacks. Another big play backer, who is having a very good season. Can run in coverage, can blitz, wraps up well when tackling. A bit underrated when compared to E.J. Henderson and Chad Greenway but a very solid player in his own right. Consistent and dependable , he is a high effort player who will play hurt and rarely misses playing time. – B +

Jasper Brinkley – He’s recorded 8 tackles, primarily on special teams. Made the team by virtue of his strong play at middle linebacker against the run. Very limited coverage skills. – C +

Heath Farwell – An Excellent special teams player. He was missed greatly last season when he was out with a knee injury. A real difference maker who is usually around the ball on Kick-offs and punt coverage. He has recorded 11 special teams tackles – B +

Kenney Onatolu – He just slipped onto the team after a solid pre-season. He has the look of a special teams monster. Another linebacker who plays faster then he times. He has a Kamikaze mentality and tends to go through blockers rather then negotiating. May never be a starting NFL linebacker, but does provide nice depth and versatility.

Erin Henderson – E. J’s little brother suffered a pre-season injury and has yet to play this year. – Inc.


Antoine Winfield – He showed just how valuable he is to the Vikings when he missed the last 2 games because of an ankle injury. Karl Paymah and Benny Sapp tried to fill in, but the drop-off is staggering. The defense has looked anemic as Ben Rothlesberger and Aaron Rogers made moving the ball through the air look easy. Leslie Frasier deserves credit for keeping the Packers off balance in the first half last night. Schemes are great, but eventually, you need talent to make plays. Without Winfield in the game, the Vikings had to resort to a lot more zone coverage then they really wanted to play. When Winfield is on the field opposite Cedric Griffin, the team can play press coverage on the outside and take away the short routes, giving the defensive line more time to pressure the QB. When the team plays zone, QB’s can sit and pick on the soft spots in the zone, which good Quarterbacks like Big Ben and Rogers do with relative ease. Winfield is not just a great cornerback, he’s a great player. He hits like a linebacker and has the reputation as the best tackling corner in the game. He is also a very good cover corner and is terrific at baiting the Qb and jumping routes to make the big play. Although he has only average hands, he still make a lot of spectacular plays. He is an incredible blitzer when coach Frasier cuts him loose. 30 tackles and 1 interception don‘t tell the whole story with this guy.    –   A

Cedric Griffin – The other starting corner opposite Winfield that makes up the best cornerback tandem this side of Green Bay. He has improved his game in almost every facet over the last couple of years. A very competent cover corner who is quicker then he is fast. He used to get picked on a lot as teams refuse to throw to Winfield’s side. That is no longer the case as Griffin more then holds his own now. He used to play a bit soft against the run, but now comes up quickly and decisively in support. He hits and wraps well but relies a lot on his safeties when having to run stride for stride with fast receivers. He’s recorded 43 tackles and 2 Int’s.     –     A –

Karl Paymah – I felt the team should have kept Marcus McCauley as the nickle or dime back. His coverage skills had much higher potential then Paymah. But the coaching staff went with Paymah because of his special teams play and overall versatility. Paymah has been trying his best to fill in for Winfield. He is a high effort guy and you can see his frustration at being thrown to the wolves. He is being asked to do more then he really should be. Tough job, but someone needs to do it ! He seems to get himself into solid position, but fails to react to the ball. Maybe he just isn’t an instinctive player. Regardless, the opposition has exploited Paymah for 2-3 touchdowns that Winfield would probable handled. Has 16 tackles so far this year.     –     D +

Benny Sapp – Sapp lobbies and lobbies for playing time, then seems to disappear when most needed. When Winfield went down, that was an opportunity for Sapp to step up. But he was no where to be seen. Every time he gets his chance, he just plain comes up short. I like this guy, he makes plays and moves like a guy ready to get to the next level. Then he seems to become his own worst enemy by making a bonehead play, bad penalty, missed assignment, etc. He certainly has the ability to be a very good dime or even nickel back. But lapses in concentration keep him from making a bigger impact. Carries 16 tackles with him into the GB game.   –      C

Asher Allen – Inactive for the first 6 games, he finally got to play against Pittsburgh. Aggressive and promising, he had a very good pre-season. Looks like he could develop into a good defensive playmaker. He recorded a sack and a forced fumble and 3 tackles and that makes one wonder why he didn’t get a chance before. * See coaching.  –    INC.
( The Vikings have a strong need to develop a 3rd effective corner )


Madieu Williams – A good pick-up in free agency last year who when healthy has been as advertised. Covers more ground and comes up in support better then the previous safeties on this team. Good in coverage, and runs decently, but has only average hands. Drops a lot of potential interceptions. Currently has 29 tackles and 1 fumble recovery. – B

Tyrell Johnson – If you don’t hear a lot about him it’s because he’s doing his job. Covers quite a bit of ground and came with the rep. of a player who loves to HIT ! He is in just his 2nd season, and has been a bit hesitant in run support. Questionable hands and doesn’t create many turnovers. Currently a solid starter, but should eventually develop into an excellent safety. He has recorded 29 tackles and 1 Int. going into the GB game – C +

Husain Abdullah – Solid special teamer with 7 tackles in 5 games so far. Has decent but not great range. Can hit when in position. Biggest contributions are on special teams at this point. Splits time with Eric Frampton as the 3rd safety – C

Eric Frampton – Similar player as Addullah but has a little more range and seems to make more plays in pass coverage. Has contributed 5 tackles in 7 games. – C

Jamarca Sanford – 4 tackles in 5 games so far. Misses some tackles while trying to deliver the big hit. He is a work in progress, but the Viking staff likes this guy as a long term project. Has good albeit raw skills. Right now more of a hitter then tackler. Very raw in coverage and will need to work hard if he expects to see much playing time outside of special teams. – C –
Next up: Coaching

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One Response to “Installment 4 – 2009 Mid-Season Grades – Linebackers and Secondary”

  1. Fragile Fred says:

    To Fred’s old pal Chris,

    Where were you when Fred was was in school? You hand out good grades like Obama over spends our tax dollars!

    Chad – B. Fred enjoys Chads new choppers but he won’t get a higher grade until he covers better. He gets burned too often in the pass game

    EJ – You are right on the money. Fred wouldn’t say EJ has disappeared, but please knock someone out please. Show me something!

    Ben – B – having a good year.

    Tony Winfield – an “A” Chris? My man Tony has missed over two games so far. Nobody gets an A who has missed that much time. Fred agrees our guy is very very good, but that’s like saying your old Pal Fragile is a great sea captain if he could only keep the “ladies of the night” off the boat. That made no sense, but Fred’s going with it. Fred gives Tony a B, if he played in all games, he’d get an “A”

    Griff – Fred likes him, he’s come along way. Professor Freds gives Griff a B. Fred would like to see Griff learn how to catch, a few more pics would be nice.

    Safeties- Madieu & Tyrell. C. Both these guys…yawn. Whatever.

    Keep up the good work Chris, Fred enjoys your work.

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