December 31, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Kendall Wright (13) is facing Minnesota Vikings defensive back Harrison Smith (22) and linebacker Anthony Barr (55) and linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) in the third quarter at US Bank Stadium. Compulsory Credit: Brad Rampel – USA Today Sports
PFF places players in each position at a certain level.
Despite playing better than most of the players above him in the PFF, Kirk Cousin was ridiculously low on a level called ‘Play-Action Merchants’. Thematic Vikings not only by fan opinion, but according to PFF grade.
Justin Jefferson, meanwhile, was part of the elite. However, it seems disrespectful to place him as the seventh-best receiver in the NFL. Jefferson led the yards league in the last two seasons with 3,016. He was the second and fourth best receiver in PFF grade in just two seasons in the league. One of the most consistent players on the Vikings roster of the last decade, though kept at an elite level.
Since Eric Kendricks was drafted in the second round of the 2015 draft, he was the Vikings’ middle linebacker. And he’s not just that. He is the backbone of the defense. Without him, the unit is disconnected. The star linebacker has missed seven games in the last two seasons. In these seven games, the defense allowed an average of 30.86 points per game. Surprisingly, the team still won three matches but only against the sub-competition. The three wins came in 2020 against the Jaguars, before Trevor Lawrence, in the same season against the Lions in meaningless Week 17 games and in 2021 against meaningless Week 18 games against the Bears.
PFF’s respect for Kendricks is nothing new. In 2019, he was the company’s ranked player in his position. In 2020, he played at an elite level again and was the third-ranked linebacker. 2021 was a low year for him, as he dropped to 37th place. However, his coverage grade remained in the top ten.
The level at which Kendricks landed is called ‘The Elite Few’. The author of the article, Sam Monson, begins his explanation with the following words:
“The best linebackers in today’s league are elite coverage players, but they can influence the game in other ways as well.”
Sam Monson, PFF about elite linebackers
Kendricks is one of the league’s elite coverage linebackers, as he covers hard edges and running backs like an elite cornerback. In some plays, he is asked to cover slot receivers and does a great job and doesn’t look like a linebacker. Cover skills are truly at an elite level. He has blocked the opposition quarterback five times in the last two seasons. In addition, he leads the team in tackle every season.
“Kendricks is one of the best coverage linebackers in the game, able to consistently hold the throwing lanes and play on the ball once in the air.”
Sam Monson, PFF, It’s fair to keep Kendrick at the elite level
A new running mate
Since his college days at LSU, Kendricks has played alongside Anthony Barr. Barr is still a free agent and probably won’t be Viking in 2022. Kendricks will have a new running mate. As his successor, the company has signed Jordan Hicks to the free company. Hicks was the 24th ranked linebacker for every PFF run, when his coverage grade was not very high. He will be a perfect complement to Kendrick in the new defense plan implemented by the new defense coordinator, Ed Donatel.
The Vikings need to play at a higher level to turn the struggling defense of the last two seasons. Hicks was not the only acquisition in the offseason to reach that goal. The top two picks in the draft addressed the secondary. Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth Jr. could have an immediate impact on defense. In addition to them, the team has signed Zadarias Smith, a long-time free agent. On the defensive line, Quesi Adopho-Mensah Harrison brought a new defensive tackle while signing Phillips. A good defensive tackle is a linebacker’s best friend, because his job is to keep offensive linemen away from him. Without an offensive lineman in his face, Kendricks’ instincts take over and he can play in the backfield and stop the run.
Kendricks will be a big reason for a successful year on the defensive side playing at his 2019 and 2020 All-Pro level.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who has a myth of numbers and statistics. Despite Christian Ponder being a quarterback at the time, he chose the Vikings as his favorite team. He has a walking football encyclopedia and his favorite music genre of classic rock. Arguing about the Vikings on Twitter is one of his favorite things. If you like Vikings, follow him on Twitter: িকJanicEcard