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EJ Henderson to be tried at WLB (1 Viewer)

Aussie Cowboy

Change is good for Henderson

Judd Zulgad, Star Tribune

August 10, 2005

MANKATO -- E.J. Henderson's refusal to pout when he lost the starting middle linebacker job to veteran Sam Cowart this offseason paid off only 11 days into training camp.

Henderson was moved to weak-side linebacker with the first team for Tuesday's morning practice, and the plan is to start him at the spot in Friday night's preseason opener against Kansas City. He had been playing middle linebacker with the second unit.

"We'll see how he adapts, and if he does a good job at the Will linebacker position, we'll keep him there," defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell said. "But we're trying to find him a spot because he's having a good, strong camp and we're very pleased with the way Sam Cowart is playing. So we're trying to get a spot where E.J. will be a little bit more available to us out on the field and give him some opportunities for some more snaps."

Henderson, who replaces Dontarrious Thomas, never has played on the weak side before, but the Vikings coaching staff has been adamant that the team's three best linebackers will get on the field.

Henderson, who made 14 regular-season starts in the middle last season, admitted to being a bit apprehensive about shifting but said his former position helped to prepare him. "As the Mike linebacker you should know [everybody's job]," he said. "So it was just a matter of getting some reps in and getting used to it."

Henderson lost his previous starting assignment in March when Cowart was acquired from the New York Jets. But instead of taking the trade as a slap in the face he used it as motivation. "When you work, good things happen," Henderson said. "I'm just going to keep working, try to make some plays, eliminate the mental mistakes and see how things pan out."

Cottrell said no three times when asked if Henderson's promotion was a reflection on Thomas' play. Thomas also didn't seem upset about going to the second team.

"The coaches are here to put the right combination together, and they are going to keep working and switching us around until we find the right fit," said Thomas, who remains a starter in the nickel package. "I've just got to go out, continue to make plays and play my game."

The move also forced another move in the depth chart on the second and third teams. Raonall Smith, who was expected to compete for the starting job with Thomas on the weak side, was demoted to third team because a middle linebacker had to take Henderson's spot with the second unit.

Smith doesn't play the middle, so he will be on the weak side with the third string. Rod Davis was promoted to the second team to play in the middle, and Heath Farwell shifted to the middle for the third team.
EJ was a monster at maryland... he was behind biekert his rookie year, started last season amidst criticism of mental errors... he also didn't look as explosive & seemed more tentative, but i think he dinged his knee last season.if not for the stenosis diagnosis b4 the '03 draft, he might have been the first LB taken ahead of barnett... boss bailey also plummetted due to health concerns (in this case due to two reconstructed ACLs between HS & while at georgia), or otherwise he also could arguably have claimed a stake to best LB in the land... b4 barnett rocketed up the scouts boards, there was a broad consensus that they (henderson & bailey) were by far the top MLB/ILB & OLB prospects in their draft class, according to ability. i admire the creativity of cottrell in trying different combinations of LBs to get the top three on the field at the same time. he moved current MLB cowart from ILB he had played at BUF (when they were 3-4) to a 4-3 WLB with NYJ, than back to the inside & MLB for the jets b4 he got hurt after one game and lost his job to the brilliant DROY vilma (no shame in that... vilma might be best MLB prospect in past half decade or so, and may soon be talked of as a peer of the best in the game... if he isn't in fact already). is henderson going to be playing out of position & miscast at WLB? i'm not so sure. the top three MLB/ILBs from last year... vilma, courtney watson & daryl smith were thought by some scouts to be better fits at WLB... smith was immediately moved to OLB (some think he will be groomed as incumbent, star MLB peterson's eventual successor), there is talk that watson could end up there as his more natural position, & vilma no doubt could be a monster from WLB, though he certainly acquitted himself well in the middle & overcame the undersized label.a common denominator with these guys is they all clocked 4.5... as did dontarrious thomas, teddy lehman & DJ williams... former two also had background on inside in college & have played on outside in pros.don't think EJ is close to that fast... maybe he can make up for it with instincts, taking proper pursuit angles & knowing what his role is within the scheme & playing with discipline. he flashed a nice burst and was a downhill playmaker as a terrapin... when he was a sophomore, some scouts thought he was one of the most dominant defenders in the nation at any position, even then.it should help that the defense has been dramatically upgraded all around him... DL could be better three different ways... best DT in the NFL kevin williams (i would say best DL in the NFL if not for supremely gifted julius peppers) is the constant... run stuffing freak pat williams has been added, highly regarded udeze (might have been top 10 pick in 2004 if not for shoulder questions) was playing with one arm & is now at full strength & year more experienced, & 2005 prized DE erasmus james (one of consensus top 2-3 rush ends in class with demarcus ware).imo, harris is close to wash with claiborne at SLB, but if he can stay healthy that could translate to superior production as the rams new MLB missed 8 games since '03... harris has also been an underachiever, though... cowart should be a big upgrade over an inexperienced & lost henderson from last season... with the caveat... IF HEALTHY.smoot is obvious upgrade at CB opposite winfield, & if he has recovered from last seasons injury plagued season, if darren sharper is not a declining player, when on his game he is a vast improvement over brian russell, who is just an average talent despite the 9 INTs in '03... sharper has been one of the top 3-5 playmaking safeties in the game b4 last years forgettable season... he is high up on active INT leaders and should be a surer open field tackler than russell. we would be remiss to not mention that henderson could fail horribly at the position switch :) ... in which case thomas would most likely be right back at WLB. also, cowart is getting a bit long in the tooth (though i think he can play at high level for another season or two?), so in dynasty leagues, henderson may yet end up at MLB, & that would again clear the path for thomas to start at WLB, so i am not ready to give up on either of these guys yet.imo, henderson will prove up to the task, be the starting WLB week one & play well enough to keep the job... barring injury. they can talk about experimenting & things being in flux (& they no doubt are to a degree)... but i don't think they would lightly take on the disruption this late in the game unless they were serious about the move. and this latest development does jibe (not jive) with information emanting from camp a few weeks ago that if in vikings estimation thomas was not enough improved over last season's up 'n down effort & mixed bag, that would set the dominos in motion, with henderson & cowart most likely to play WLB/MLB, but with some uncertainty over who would end up where if it came down to that. adam schefter even covered hypothetical that if cowart played WLB, harris might end up at MLB (presumably contingent on henderson's development & progress as well as thomas').

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E.J. Henderson has been praised thus far in training camp for his hard work and unwillingness to relinquish his starting middle linebacker job to Sam Cowart without a fight. That hard work paid of in an unexpected way on Tuesday, as Henderson was put on the first team next to Cowart at weak side linebacker."E.J.'s had such a good camp," linebackers coach Pete Bercich said. "You want to reward him. So we found a spot for him with the ones."The weak side position was a battle to watch coming into camp, as Dontarrious Thomas and Raonall Smith were supposed to be neck-and-neck throughout camp. But Thomas showed last week he was well ahead of Smith and looked like the clear-cut starter.But that changed Monday, although Bercich said the move was not a knock on Thomas."We're going to put the best three linebackers on field in base," Bercich said. "May the best man win."Henderson has never played the position, but said that middle linebackers should have the ability to switch to either side."It will take some time, it might take a little bit," Bercich said. "But that kind of stuff, you've just got to kind of see what happens."Henderson made his presence on the weak side felt during the Vikings scrimmage Tuesday night as he stopped Moe Williams behind the line of scrimmage in a goal-line situation.- The Vikings defense, after being edged in the first scrimmage of training camp on the final play, used a dominating showing on the goal line to win Tuesday night's scrimmage 56-39.The defense kept the offense from scoring on 10 of 15 plays inside the five yard line, gaining a 48-18 advantage it would not relinquish.
So much for the rumor of the week from last week of Cowart riding the pines & Henderson starting in the middle...

also read that newman might challenge harris for the SLB job? i know harris has a lot to learn to be ready to play SLB...lots of uncertainty at LB for the vikes.

So much for the rumor of the week from last week of Cowart riding the pines & Henderson starting in the middle...
Well the rumors were right that Henderson and Cowart would start, we just got the positions wrongTom

Any updates on Henderson at WLB? How's he faring there?
EJ was only credited with 1 tackle so far but I thought he had 2.On a blitz in the early part of the 3rd he crushed I think Fieldler who rushed the throw which went incomplete.


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