Dalvin Cook is getting most of the credit for Minnesota’s unlikely win against Green Bay. We aren’t here to tell you that this perspective is misguided. Cook was sensational on Sunday, and he is rightly receiving praise for what was a historically-great performance. That being said, plenty of Vikings had great games (shout-out to the OL). In this week’s Unsung Hero article, we are focusing on Minnesota Vikings’ star linebacker Eric Kendricks.
Minnesota Vikings LB Eric Kendricks
Kendricks played a complete game on Sunday. On Green Bay’s opening drive, Kendricks was involved in six tackles. He consistently held the Packers to modest gains, giving Mike Zimmer’s defense a chance to get off the field. He held Jamaal Williams to a short gain on the opening drive, forcing Green Bay into a 4th & 1 situation. On the second drive, Kendricks similarly limited Williams, again forcing a 4th & 1. In both instances, the Packers not only converted, but they also went on to score a touchdown in each instance.
The main takeaway, though, ought to be that Kendricks consistently put the Vikings in favorable positions. Quite often, the defense didn’t take advantage. Aaron Rodgers is an incredible talent, and Minnesota’s defense is lacking several of its best players. Despite this reality, Kendricks found ways to put the Vikings’ defense in a position to succeed.
One of the aspects of his game that is often overlooked is his elite intelligence. Kendricks is rightly credited for being a tremendously gifted athlete (just watch his PBU on Davante Adams). A large reason why his athleticism shines, though, is because of his intelligence.
Kendricks evidently puts in a ton of time studying film, a habit that allows him to be so instinctive on the field. In the third quarter at around the 8:15 mark, Rodgers tried to complete a swing pass to his running back on 2nd & 10. As the ball was snapped, Kendricks was sprinting toward the running back. His play forced the incomplete pass. There’s simply no way Kendricks can make that play apart from an elite combination of intelligence, work ethic, and athleticism.
If the Minnesota Vikings handed out an award for team MVP around the midway point, Eric Kendricks would be among the main candidates. True, Cook has been amazing, and Harrison Smith has been his usually brilliant self. Kendricks, though, has also been consistently excellent. He is a great tackler, amazing in pass coverage, and effective in blitzes. In short, Kendricks is a joy to watch play football, and the Vikings are lucky to have him on their team.