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2017 Vikings Position Recap: Linebackers

Posted Feb 13, 2018

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — If the Vikings defense was on the field, it was a good bet that Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks were playing.

In fact, the Vikings linebacker duo rarely came off the field at all.

For the first time since the former UCLA roommates became teammates with the Vikings in 2015, both Kendricks and Barr started all 16 games together in the NFL. 

All-Pro safety Harrison Smith led the Vikings in defensive snap counts with 970 (97.49 percent), but Kendricks’ 967 snaps (97.19 percent) and Barr’s 923 snaps (92.76 percent) were next in line in terms of playing time.

Kendricks took another step forward in his third year in the league. The 2015 second-round pick led Minnesota’s defense in tackles for the third straight season.

Kendricks finished with 136 total tackles (according to coaches’ tally) with 10 tackles for loss, one sack, one interception and nine passes defensed.

The California native took his lone interception back for a score. Kendricks is now tied for second all-time among Vikings linebackers with two career interception returns for touchdowns along with Mike Merriweather and Chad Greenway. Rip Hawkins, an original Viking, set the record with three.

Barr, meanwhile, put together a third consecutive Pro Bowl season for the Vikings.

He recorded 98 total tackles (according to coaches’ tally) with nine tackles for loss, one sack and six passes defenses.

And while each player has his strengths, they combined to create one of the top linebacker duos in the NFL.

According to the analytics website Football Outsiders, the Vikings ranked first in the NFL by limiting opposing running back to 30.6 receiving yards per game on 6.9 pass attempts per game. The league average was 44.1 receiving yards allowed per game to running backs on 7.3 pass attempts per game.

While Barr and Kendricks presented problems all over the field, including in Viking Head Coach Mike Zimmer’s patented Double-A gap scheme, rookie linebacker Ben Gedeon was the starter in the Vikings base 4-3 defense.

Gedeon, a fourth-round pick in 2017 out of Michigan, had 33 total tackles on defense (according to coaches’ tally) with one pass defensed.

He was also a standout on special teams with a team-high18 tackles (according to coaches’ tally).

Gedeon was one of a handful of linebackers who chipped in on both defense and special teams.

Emmanuel Lamur had 14 total tackles on defense (according to coaches’ tally) with one pass defensed. He also had four special teams tackles (according to coaches’ tally) and a fumble recovery.

Kentrell Brothers had 16 special teams tackles (according to coaches’ tally) in his second season with Minnesota.

Rookie Eric Wilson made the 53-man roster as an undrafted free agent and had two total tackles (according to coaches’ tally) and one pass defensed.

The former University of Cincinnati linebacker also recorded 11 special teams tackles (according to coaches’ tally) and forced the lone fumble on special teams in 2017.

Notable Number

16 — All six of Minnesota’s linebackers appeared in all 16 games.

Memorable Moment

Only one Vikings defensive player — Kendricks — has scored a touchdown in each of the past two seasons.

The linebacker showed his nose for the end zone and provided one of the defensive highlights of the season in Week 15 when he picked off Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton at the Cincinnati 31-yard line and raced down the sideline for a score.

Kendricks, who had a 77-yard pick-6 in the 2016 season opener against the Titans, received solid blocking from Barr on the play for his second career touchdown.

The play helped spark the Vikings to a 34-7 win, a victory that clinched the NFC North title for Minnesota.

Regular Season Statistics 

Anthony Barr

16 starts, 16 games played, 98 total tackles (according to coaches’ tally), nine tackles for loss, one sack, six passes defenses

Eric Kendricks

16 starts, 16 games played, 136 total tackles (according to coaches’ tally), 10 tackles for loss, one sack, one interception, nine passes defensed 

Ben Gedeon

9 starts, 16 games played, 33 total tackles on defense (according to coaches’ tally), one pass defensed; 18 special teams tackles (according to coaches’ tally)

Emmanuel Lamur

16 games played, 14 total tackles on defense (according to coaches’ tally), one pass defensed; 4 special teams tackles (according to coaches’ tally), fumble recovery 

Kentrell Brothers

16 games played, 16 special teams tackles (according to coaches’ tally)

Eric Wilson

16 games played, 2 total tackles (according to coaches’ tally), one pass defensed; 11 special teams tackles (according to coaches’ tally), forced fumble

Quote

“I know he’s having a great year. He’s playing really good. He’s been very active. He’s on top of things, he makes a lot of checks for the defense and things going on. On the field, he’s been physical, very active in really all phases of the game.” —Zimmer in December on Barr’s steady play in 2017