Spotlight on: Eric Kendricks

Run or pass, he gets in the way

Number grade (out of 10): 9.0

The Vikings middle linebacker was all over the field, racking up 11 tackles (eight solo) within the Packers’ opening 28 plays. Perhaps the most impressive play of the game was Kendricks’ no-look deflection deep down the middle of the field while running stride for stride with Packers receiver Davante Adams. It was a first-and-30 play for the Packers, and Adams could have moved the chains more had Kendricks not covered perfectly without interfering.

Positive Best asset: versatility

Kendricks finished with 12 tackles, two being third-down stops on running back Jamaal Williams that forced fourth-and-1 attempts for the Packers offense. The problem was Green Bay converted both fourth downs on drives that ended in touchdowns. Kendricks’ coverage downfield was also crucial for a Vikings defense angling to take away intermediate to deep passes. He’s one of the NFL’s best linebackers because of his versatility, whether sideline to sideline or dropping deep into coverage.

Negative The stop that wasn’t

Kendricks argues he should have had a 13th tackle when he met the Packers’ Williams in the hole on Green Bay’s late two-point conversion. The play was initially ruled a Vikings stop before an official replay review ruled Williams crossed the goal line. “A questionable call,” Kendricks quipped postgame. “Let’s talk about that real quick.”

Extra Point mMissing a big gap-filler

Kendricks’ 2020 season should be considered all the more impressive because he’s doing it without Pro Bowl defensive tackle play in front of him. For years, Kendricks benefited from Linval Joseph clogging the middle and keeping blockers off him. Without Joseph this season, Kendricks continues to stand out as a run defender. He entered Sunday tied for sixth among all NFL defenders with 16 run stops, according to Pro Football Focus.

Quotable

“He’s one of my favorite players. I say that when my boys, Cooper and Turner, are old enough, I’m going to get them Eric Kendricks jerseys because he’s the player I want my kids to wear the jersey of. I just think he’s as good of a linebacker as there is in the league.” — quarterback Kirk Cousins