Mike Zimmer not ready to declare Eric Kendricks the starter


Saturday night Mike Zimmer played Eric Kendricks at the Mike with the first team, then went to Gerald Hodges and then former starting Mike Audie Cole.

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On Monday, the Vikings practiced with Kendricks in the middle with the first team base defense and in nickel, then had Cole in with the second team.

So clearly, Eric Kendricks has won the starting Mike linebacker job, right? Not so fast.

Mike Zimmer says he hasn’t settled on a starting Mike for this weekend’s preseason game vs. Dallas. It’s even possible that Gerald Hodges will get a look with the first unit.

[Update: Zimmer has revealed that Hodges will indeed play with the top unit vs. Dallas.]

So the Mike competition is still wide open, right?

I don’t buy it for a second. I think Zimmer has already made up his mind about Kendricks starting but is just playing it out with his rookie.

To me, Kendricks already looks like a starting-quality player.

Kendricks was drafted in the 2nd round this year and has done nothing but improve on a weekly basis. He has shown his talent and his ability to learn.

Zimmer himself expressed how impressed he was by Kendricks’ adjustments on Saturday (via Star-Tribune):

"“He fitted one thing wrong and then they ran basically the same play later and he got it right after we corrected it on the sideline,” Zimmer said."

The only reason we’re still talking about Gerald Hodges and Audie Cole is because Mike Zimmer likes to test rookies by making them battle in camp and preseason.

Zimmer isn’t just trying to see his rookies’ talent, he wants to see how they handle being used in different roles, having different things thrown at them.

Basically, Zimmer is deliberately trying to frustrate these guys to see if they actually get down on themselves. It’s a character test as much as a skill test.

From the outside, it certainly looks like Eric Kendricks has passed the test.

Zimmer may not be ready to declare Kendricks the #1 Mike today, but it won’t be long now. Soon Zimmer will confirm what we’ve all known for a little while: Eric Kendricks is a rookie starter.

Next: Mick Tingelhoff enters Hall of Fame

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