Unheralded Vikings LB Kendricks on verge of breakout season

Published 7:29 am Thursday, October 17, 2019

EAGAN — For an accomplished, experienced group like the Minnesota Vikings’ defense, maintaining that edge is more of the goal than plowing new ground.

If there’s unheralded one player still primed for a breakout, though, middle linebacker Eric Kendricks would be the guy. He’s the most prominent member of the defense yet to procure any of those postseason awards, and his performance in 2019 has put him on such a track.

“I always feel like I’m just a little underrated. It is how it’s going to be,” Kendricks said. “I’m trying to be the best person I can be and trying to accomplish things that I’ve never accomplished before.”

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The defense under coach Mike Zimmer has consistently been one of the best in the league, and the Vikings have largely kept up with the standard this season. Their average allowances in yards per play (4.8), yards per game (310.3) and points per game (15.5) rank fifth, fifth and sixth in the NFL, respectively, and they’re tied for eighth in the league with a 50% red zone touchdown rate with seven surrendered to opponents in 14 opportunities.

More than half of the lineup has played in at least one Pro Bowl: defensive ends Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter, nose tackle Linval Joseph, outside linebacker Anthony Barr, safety Harrison Smith and cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Another established starter, cornerback Trae Waynes, was a first-round draft pick.

Kendricks would love to be the next name on the list.

“I would definitely say it’s on the list of things to do, but it doesn’t take over my motivation or anything like that. It doesn’t consume my thoughts,” Kendricks said. “That’s kind of an afterthought. I’m just trying to get these wins with this team and do damage and just whatever happens, happens.”