In the last few weeks before the Minnesota Vikings begin training camp, we're going to take a look at a number of players on their roster with something to prove this season, excluding rookies. We will focus primarily on veterans or players being asked to assume a larger role this season. Today: linebacker Chad Greenway.
Why he has something to prove: Greenway took a paycut after a disappointing 2013 season with the Vikings, and he has just one year left on his contract after this season. The Vikings would have to count only a $1.7 million bonus proration against their 2015 cap if they cut Greenway after this season, and they'd save $7.1 million, meaning Greenway could be looking at another contract restructure or a release if he doesn't pick things up at age 31 this season. He was playing with a broken bone in his wrist for much of the season, which contributed to the issues Greenway had wrapping up ball carriers, but he also struggled in pass coverage and will have to adapt to a new role in Mike Zimmer's defense this fall. Greenway could still have plenty in the tank, but he'll have to show that to the Vikings to secure a spot on the 2015 roster.
What he must do: Greenway will be asked to be more active in Zimmer's defense than he was in the Vikings' old Cover 2 scheme, and he's making a scheme change for the first time in his NFL career. Greenway's old strongside linebacker spot is technically the same as a weakside linebacker position in Zimmer's defense, meaning he'd be lining up where Vontaze Burfict did in Cincinnati, if Greenway stays outside. The Vikings worked him out at middle linebacker during organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp, and it's possible he could see some time there. Wherever the Vikings put him, Greenway will have to cover more ground, and probably hold up better against the pass, than he did last year. He stayed on the field during most of the Vikings' nickel work during minicamp, and it's possible he'll end up running the defense in that package if Jasper Brinkley winds up at middle linebacker on first and second down. Zimmer and defensive coordinator George Edwards have been complimentary of Greenway, and there's no doubt the veteran will have a thorough understanding of his responsibilities in the defense. The question will be whether he's able to execute them.
Projection: Greenway starts at weakside linebacker, with Anthony Barr on the strong side and Jasper Brinkley in the middle. He'll get pushed by some of the Vikings' younger linebackers, but if he eliminates some of the missed tackles, he'll keep the starting spot for the entire season. Time will tell if he plays well enough to convince the Vikings to keep him around in 2015 at his scheduled $8.8 million cap number.