Minnesota Vikings impressed with linebacker Eric Kendricks


When the Minnesota Vikings selected linebacker Eric Kendricks in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Vikings fans everywhere were interested.  The Vikings had already invested a lot in their linebacker grouping with recent picks of Anthony Barr and Gerald Hodges.  Some folks felt that the starting middle linebacker job would go to Audie Cole following the departure of Jasper Brinkley, but the drafting of Kendricks may have changed that.

Aug 15, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Kaelin Clay (14) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) during the first quarter in a preseason NFL football game at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Kendricks has the kind of athleticism that the Minnesota Vikings lacked at the linebacker position in recent years.  Before the youth movement for the team, linebackers were primarily all ‘thumpers’ and had the main job of stopping the ball carriers as they attempted to rush past them.  Now, these players are being asked to do a lot more.

Under head coach Mike Zimmer, these linebackers are dropping into coverage, blitzing, and getting in passing lanes far more often and with more success than under previous leadership.  While much of that has to do with the coaching and schemes, you can’t discount the physical ability of these players.

In fact, Eric Kendricks has performed so well in my eyes that I gave him my ‘game ball’ during this week’s episode of the Purple People Podcast.  He seemed to be everywhere on the field and even recorded a sack against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the week 1 preseason game.

But I wasn’t the only one that was impressed by Kendricks.  Here’s what head coach Mike Zimmer had to say about him in a recent article on the ESPN website:

"“He flew around well. Has some ability and flies around. Has good speed, made a good tackle on a guy going out in the flat.” Mike Zimmer said. “He seemed more settled down to me during the game when I was talking to him. He’s an excitable guy. There’s nothing wrong with that, just have to understand you have an assignment before you go.”"

Settling down is one thing that Eric Kendricks will have to pay close attention to.  He will need to be much more disciplined in the NFL than college if he wants to succeed and earn a starting role in the Minnesota Vikings defense.

"“It’s always hard for me to stay patient,” Kendricks said. “Sometimes I see things and I try to jump them. But I know that patience is what allows me to make the plays and that’s what I’m working on.”"

As of now, it looks like the starting middle linebacker job will belong to either Kendricks or Audie Cole.  And, to be honest, Mike Zimmer isn’t too worried about which one of them wins the job.

That’s Mike Zimmer for you.  He doesn’t pull punches.  But it sure is nice to be in a position where two talented guys are fighting for a spot that used to be a major liability for the Minnesota Vikings.

Next: Minnesota Vikings 2015 Game By Game Previews

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