In a similar vein to how fans felt when Mike Zimmer took over for Leslie Frazier, the excitement is palpable for the beginning of the Kevin O’Connell era.
While the team prepares for the season, we are doing the same at the Vikings Wire. We will be producing previews breaking down both each position and the team as a whole.
Today, we continue with our preview series by talking about the defensive line.
Starter: Eric Kendricks
Jan 11, 2020; Santa Clara, California, USA; Minnesota Vikings middle linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) walks off the field after an NFC Divisional Round playoff football game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.The 49ers defeated the Vikings 27-10. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
For only the second season since 2011, Kendricks will be playing without Anthony Barr lining up next to him. While Barr moved on and has taken a massive step back due to injury, Kendricks is still playing relatively well.
Last season, PFF didn’t view the middle linebacker with an overall grade of 59.2 which is honestly average. Already at the age of 30, Kendricks is just about ready to start a full-blown decline. The new defense that defensive coordinator Ed Donatell brings in will allow Kendricks to be more focused and dialed in.
With Jordan Hicks next to him, Kendricks will be in a position to slow down his inevitable decline.
Starter: Jordan Hicks
Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Keelan Cole (84) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) during a preseason game at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
The Vikings upgraded their linebacker room this offseason by signing a two-year/$10 million deal.
A former Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals linebacker, Hicks has been a stalwart player throughout his tenure. When you look at his PFF grades, it tells the tale of two players. His best overall and coverage grades came in his first two seasons while last year had his best tackling and pass rush grades. What these lean toward is his football IQ is improving. He won’t be used in a pure pass rushing role but this could drastically help the Vikings as a blitzer.
Backup: Brian Asamoah
Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Brian Asamoah (33) reacts after making a stop during the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
The rookie who just won Mr. Mankato was a star throughout the preseason and training camp. Asamoah has been all over the place using his electric speed and quickness. Pair that with his ability to react gives the Vikings a future start at the position.
The issue with Asamoah is with how he sees the field. While his reaction time is quick, he doesn’t always make the best decisions. That is an element that will come with time and it can be taken advantage of. Being that he is the backup, that will give him time to learn and develop.
Backup: Troy Dye
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Troy Dye (45) celebrates after returning an interception 33-yards for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
A fourth-round pick in 2020 out of Oregon, Dye was thought that he could potentially replace Anthony Barr due to his frame and length. Unfortunately, he hasn’t developed well.
Dye struggles across the board. From read and recognition skills to block shedding and tackling, Dye simply isn’t a good football player. I’m surprised that he ended up on the roster over Blake Lynch.