In a league where change makes headlines – injuries, player movement, coaching trends and coaching changes – the Vikings always have Eric Kendrick.
Since joining the Vikings as a second-round draft pick in 2015, the linebacker has played in 90 of 101 possible games, always played well, and shows football fans every other week or so how good he is. Is.
Last week it was with his third-quarter interception in a 19-17 win over the Detroit Lions at US Bank Stadium, driving the Lions from inside the Vikings’ 30-yard line with a hand-grab on Jared Goff’s pass.
After the game, Kendrick explained that he was hiding from the quarterback, trying to trap him in the pass.
“That’s Erik Erik,” co-defensive coordinator Adam Zimmer said on Thursday. “We teach them not to bow down and hide.”
The Vikings will need Kendrick to be Kendrick on Sunday in Charlotte, NC, where they will meet a 3-2 Carolina team with a strong defense and new quarterback in Sam Darnold. The Panthers also appear ready to welcome Christian McCaffrey back with a hamstring injury that left him out of both defeats in the previous two games.
“You’ve got to know where he is,” Kendrick said. “There’s always some player from every team that you have to focus on and obviously he’s one of them.”
Since joining the Vikings, it’s been easy to find Kendricks, a model of consistency and consistency on a team that’s on its sixth offensive coordinator and has started six different quarterbacks since his arrival. Since 2015, only safety Harrison Smith has played several games on the defense of coach Mike Zimmer.
In more than six seasons, Kendrick has recovered four fumbles, recorded 10 sacks and intercepted eight passes, two of which returned for touchdowns. Last year he was Vikings’ nominee for the Walter Peyton Man of the Year Award for his philanthropic work in the Twin Cities.
Adam Zimmer said, “He has great feel for the game, and that comes from studying what you’re getting, reading the quarterback’s eyes, anticipating things — and he’s tremendous at it.” “Actually, I talked to Cleveland’s coaches after (the 14-7 Vikings’ loss on October 3) and they said, ‘He’s the best we’ve gone against.’ ”
Kendrick was named an All-Pro and selected for the Pro Bowl after the 2019 season, when the Vikings last advanced to the playoffs. They have an uphill climb to make a comeback with a 2-3 lead in Sunday’s game.
Going to .500 in a goodbye week would have been a good time for a reset, but Kendrick declined to overstate it when speaking to reporters on Thursday.
“All I’m trying to do is win this game, you know what I mean?” he said. “That’s all we can do at the moment. You can’t really dwell on what happened in the past. But it would be really cool, and I think next week is also goodbye week. I’m really about to I’m not worried until it gets here.”
The Vikings started the previous season 1–5, but were able to break out of that hole and return to post-season contention, winning five of their next six games. One of them was a 28–27 win over Carolina at US Banks Stadium in Week 12.
Kendrick also made a significant interception in that game, picking Teddy Bridgewater with the Panthers running from the Vikings’ 12-yard line, a huge game. The Vikings rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit of 24-13 to keep their playoff hopes alive.
That play was a defense revisited while watching the sports movie this week.
“It wasn’t even his play,” said Adam Zimmer. “It was Eric Wilson. So, he’s used to finding football.”
Last week was Kendrick’s first game in more than a year with longtime teammate Anthony Barr. The two were a year apart at UCLA and Kendricks has played linebacker with each other since following the bar here.
Barr missed most of last season due to a pectoral injury, and the first four games of this season due to a knee injury, and immediately saw his longtime teammate coming in with another major interception, a hand grab.
“He was amazing. I’ll just say that, right? It was lovely,” Barr said. “He’s just that guy. It’s that man, man. great player. I don’t think there is much more to say about it. He knows where to be, when to be, (has) crazy instincts and crazy athleticism. He just throws his hand out there and it’s like he’s stuck to it. Have seen it 100 times, and it’s good every time.”