Eric Kendricks – LB
Eric Kendricks was named an All-Pro and it was well deserved. He’s been playing out of his head this season racking up 110 tackles, half a sack, and two forced fumbles. Kendricks has been excellent in coverage also as he has broken up 12 passes this season.
He’s really been the heart and soul of the Vikings 2019 defense, making clutch plays every single week. The question that remains is if he’s truly recovered from his quad injury.
It is always scary when a player has a non-contact injury. In Minnesota’s Week 16 game against the Packers, Kendricks’ leg buckled as he went to scoop up a loose ball. It caused him to miss the remainder of the matchup and he also sat out the Vikings’ final game of the regular season against the Chicago Bears.
Kendricks has been able to practice this week, so all indicators are pointing to him being recovered. If he’s even slowed down a bit this week though, it could be disastrous for Minnesota.
The Saints have a couple of weapons that Kendricks could find himself matched up against. The first is New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara. This guy is a great pass catcher out of the backfield and the Saints will probably be looking his way often. Kendricks has to be on Kamara like glue and not let him make any big plays.
The other is their tight end, Jared Cook. He’s a big-bodied pass catcher who Drew Brees looks to often. Cook, on paper, is a mismatch against Kendricks but the linebacker’s technique has been so good this year, the size doesn’t matter.
The Vikings have to have their All-Pro middle linebacker healthy this week. If he isn’t, New Orleans will be able to work and exploit the middle of the field. If he can play the way he has all season long, Minnesota’s chances of winning go up dramatically.