The preseason is over, and it is time to prepare for games that matter. Although the preseason can be boring, it is always fun to watch the development of young players. One player I had my eye on was Vikings rookie linebacker Brian Asamoah.
Asamoah is one of my favorite players selected in the draft, second only to Andrew Booth Jr. The main reason for this is Asamoah’s ability to fly around the football field. This dude is a lightning bolt when he recognizes the play.
However, he is still a rookie and gets caught overpursuing, in a poor position, or being manhandled by an offensive lineman. This problem will work itself out over time. For now, we will have to deal with his struggles to unlock his full potential. Based on what we observed, the sky is the limit for Asamoah.
Asamoah Is Full Steam Downhill
One of the most impressive things about Asamoah is how he shoots downhill. Take a look at this play from the 49ers game. When he recognizes the play, he is in the backfield before the offensive lineman even has an opportunity to touch him.
This quick trigger will translate well when he learns to diagnose plays better. What do I mean by this? It means that he needs to “not get caught” biting on play-action so much.
The best linebackers in the league move toward the line of scrimmage just a little bit. This is usually a single step, but they get back to defend the pass and not vacate their zone. Asamoah is so eager to make a play that he is two steps or more toward the line of scrimmage. This leads to him being out of position if it is not a run play.
As he advances in the league and can recognize a play before it happens, his speed will be a difference maker. He has quite a bit of learning to do but working besides Eric Kendricks every day will help, especially since Kendricks is one of the least likely to bite on play action in the league.
Biggest Downside to Vikings Linebacker of the Future
Asamoah’s ceiling appears to be ridiculously high with his range. However, there is one significant downside to Asamoah. He is small and gets bullied in the run game.
While watching some of the running plays against the Broncos, it was clear that he needs to add some weight. There were a few plays, one of the longer runs, where Asamoah was attacking his gap responsibility and got cleared out with a one-arm push by a lineman. The lineman looked like he barely even tried to move him.
Now look, linemen are obviously bigger than linebackers, but the LBs must be able to stack and shed. They need to get off the blocks and maintain their gap responsibilities. If they don’t, bad things happen, like 20-yard run plays.
This is a skill that Asamoah will need to learn as he never really had to do it in college. In college, he would simply dip underneath or run around the linemen. In the NFL, the linemen are much more athletic, so this technique is difficult to maintain. Stacking and shedding will need to be learned, and it will help to add some weight.
However, for now, he is intriguing to watch. His ability to cover ground at lightning speed is a necessity in today’s NFL. If we are honest, we would prefer a linebacker who can cover sideline to sideline. This is a skill that requires speed, which many people have. Asamoah’s run fits and shedding of blocks will come over time.
Mitch Massman is a life-long Vikings fan. His first heartbreak was the 1998 NFC championship game. His full-time job is as an economic development professional in rural Minnesota. He fantasizes about the Vikings winning a Super Bowl one day, but until then he will write about the Vikings. Follow him on Twitter @skol_vikings3