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Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.

270204211

Brinkley, Cole still battling for starting middle linebacker spot

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated August 18th at 7:28am 271559821

Quarterback Matt Cassel maintained his steady play against the Cardinals on Saturday in a competition against rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Strong safety Chris Crocker started at strong safety in a four-way battle with Andrew Sendejo, Jamarca Sanford and Kurt Coleman.

But there’s also an ongoing competition at middle linebacker involving Jasper Brinkley and Audie Cole. Both linebackers played well into the second half with Brinkley receiving the start with the first team. Head coach Mike Zimmer said he wanted to rotate Brinkley and Cole every two series, but it was a challenge due to the personnel grouping the Cardinals used on offense for most of the game.

Zimmer said both Brinkley and Cole didn’t get too many reps, likely due to the Vikings countering with the Cardinals’ three receiver sets with their nickel package. Cole had 31 snaps while Brinkley finished with 17. He’ll have the same plan again next week against the Chiefs.

Brinkley finished second on the team with five tackles. Cole finished with two tackles.

“I see mistakes more than I see when everything is perfect,” Zimmer said. “There was a couple of those by both of them but for the most part they were all right.”

Brinkley brings the run stopping ability Zimmer seeks on defense but during a drive in the third quarter was subbed out for Cole on third downs in pass situations. Cole doesn’t have the experience like Brinkley, starting in five games in his previous two seasons, but looks more comfortable at middle linebacker than when used as an outside linebacker. It’s something to keep an eye on over the next week.

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