View the top 30 images of Vikings linebackers from the 2014 season.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Chad Greenway continued to be a tackling machine, Anthony Barr made an immediate impact and other linebackers contributed for the Vikings in 2014.
Greenway's streak of consecutive games played ended at 115 because of a rib injury that sidelined him Weeks 4-6. He returned to the lineup and had double digit tackles in six of the next seven games, but suffered a knee injury that sent him to the sidelines at Miami and forced him to miss the season finale against the Bears.
Greenway still finished with 115 tackles (by coaches' tally), which was second. He was five shy of leader Harrison Smith in an attempt to break Scott Studwell's franchise record of six consecutive seasons of leading the Vikings in tackles. Greenway also was helpful in leading a relatively young group of linebackers through a new defensive system under first-year Head Coach Mike Zimmer and was named the 2014 Vikings Community Man of the Year.
Greenway is under contract, but multiple scenarios regarding Greenway's future have been mentioned in media reports. Zimmer said during his end-of-season press conference that he believes Greenway is good enough to continue to be a starter.
"I love Chad. Chad's a good guy. You'd have to ask him, but I think even at his stage in his career, he probably learned some things this year," Zimmer said. "We asked him to do a lot of different that he probably hasn't done before. He's the kind of guy that we'd like to have. Now, I don't know what's going to happen with him, or anybody else. I would be the first one, if it wasn't going to work out or Chad didn't want to be here, I'd expect that him and I would have the first conversation of anyone. I have total amount of respect for him and I will treat him with the same kind of respect."
Barr, who became the second-highest drafted linebacker in franchise history (ninth overall; Hall of Famer Chris Doleman was selected fourth in 1985), showed the ability to make steady plays and deliver splash moments.
Barr capitalized on pass-rush situations with 4.0 sacks and 13 quarterback hurries and showed he can cover in the passing game and be strong against the run. Barr's forced fumble, recovery and 27-yard return of the football for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage in overtime at Tampa Bay will be one etched in the memory of Vikings fans for years to come.
Barr was the first player to record that trifecta in overtime in team history and first rookie to return an opponent fumble for a touchdown since the late Orlando Thomas in 1995.
Jasper Brinkley returned to Minnesota after a season in Arizona, and thumped running backs from the middle linebacker position. Brinkley, who was selected by Minnesota in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft, also delivered on special teams, when he had one of two blocked punts against Carolina. Everson Griffen recovered the ball and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown.
After Barr suffered a knee injury that sidelined him for the final four games, second-year pro Gerald Hodges, who filled in for Greenway earlier in the season, slid into Barr's role and intercepted Jets quarterback Geno Smith on the first play of the game and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown. Hodges' score, which occurred just 12 seconds into the game, was the quickest defensive score in franchise history and tied Percy Harvin's record (on a kickoff return in 2012 at Detroit) for the fastest points put on the board by the Vikings.
Audie Cole contributed on special teams throughout the season and made the most of his start in place of Greenway at weakside linebacker in the finale. Cole was challenged by Chicago early, and the former Golden Gloves boxer* *answered the bell. He recorded 14 tackles (11 solo, one for loss) and defended a pass late to help put the game away. Reserve Michael Mauti added four tackles on special teams but finished the season on injured reserve.
The chart below includes statistics of the linebackers (tackles and quarterback hurries are coaches' tally):