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2019 Vikings Position Recap: Linebackers

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings again boasted of one of the top linebacker duos across the NFL, as Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr led the way for that position group for the fifth straight season.

Kendricks wasn't initially selected to the Pro Bowl, but he did participate in the game as an alternate. Regardless of his path to Orlando, Florida, the fifth-year linebacker from UCLA had his best season as a pro and was rewarded with First-Team All-Pro honors.

A second-round pick in 2015, Kendricks had 130 combined tackles (according to coaches' stats), leading the team in tackles for the fifth season in a row.

He also recorded 12 pass breakups, and added four tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in 15 games. He suffered a quad injury in Week 16 against Green Bay and then sat out in Week 17 against Chicago.

Barr tested free agency in the offseason but chose to return to Minnesota. He was named a captain for the second season in a row.

The linebacker finished second on the team with 96 combined tackles (according to coaches' stats), adding six tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception.

Eric Wilson and Ben Gedeon both spent time as the third linebacker in Minnesota's base defense.

Gedeon began the season as the third linebacker, but was limited to eight games (five starts) due to injury. He was placed on Injured Reserve with a month left in the season after recording 18 total tackles (according to coaches' stats) on the season.

Wilson was a special teams standout who made his presence felt on defense, too. He started eight games while playing on defense in every regular-season and playoff game. He recorded 66 total tackles (according to coaches' stats), with six tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks.

Kentrell Brothers was once again a key special teams player, while rookie Cameron Smith — a fifth-round pick out of Southern California — provided depth on special teams in his first season.

Notable Number

12 — Kendricks totaled 12 passes defensed in 2019, which tied him with Demario Davis and Luke Kuechly for first among NFL linebackers in 2019. Kendricks also tied a Vikings single-season franchise record for pass breakups by a linebacker, equaling the mark set by Matt Blair in 1981 and tied by Ben Leber in 2008.

Memorable Moment(s)

Kendricks made perhaps the defensive play of the season when he recorded one of the aforementioned pass breakups in Dallas. With the Vikings leading by four points and the Cowboys in the red zone, Kendricks stretched out to knock away a fourth-down pass from Dak Prescott to Ezekiel Elliott.

The play, which came in front of a national audience on Sunday Night Football, helped the Vikings secure a win against a conference foe and eventually helped Minnesota claim a Wild Card berth.

The athletic play also helped put Kendricks on the national radar, even if the Vikings have known about his play-making ability for years.

And for an added bonus, Kendricks was instrumental in helping Ifeadi Odenigbo score on a 56-yard fumble return in Week 15 against the Chargers. Although Kendricks never touched the ball or received a stat on the play, he kept running back Austin Ekeler from scooping up a fumble, which then allowed Odenigbo to pick up the pigskin and get into the end zone.

Regular-Season Statistics

Eric Kendricks

130 combined tackles, four tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 12 passes defensed; 947 defensive snaps; 86.64 percent of total defensive snaps

View the top photos of Vikings LB Anthony Barr from the 2019 season.

Anthony Barr

96 combined tackles, six tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one interception and seven passes defensed; 929 defensive snaps; 85.00 percent of total defensive snaps

Eric Wilson

66 combined tackles, six tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks; 379 defensive snaps; 34.68 percent of total defensive snaps

Ben Gedeon

18 combined tackles; 102 defensive snaps; 9.33 percent of total defensive snaps

Cameron Smith

5 combined tackles; 33 defensive snaps; 3.02 percent of total defensive snaps

2 Highest highs

1. Barr's best game came in Week 5 against the Giants, when the Vikings linebacker stuffed running back Jon Hillman in the end zone for a safety to push the Vikings lead to 15-7.

And even though the game was out of reach in the fourth quarter, Barr capped off his big day with picking off rookie quarterback Daniel Jones for his only interception of the season.

2. Barr looked as if he wasn't going to be a Viking in 2019, then changed course and suited up in Purple for his sixth season. He started the 2019 campaign with a bang, sacking Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan on the Vikings very first defensive play of 2019.

That helped force a quick three-and-out before Wilson raced in to block the first punt against Minnesota in 2019. The splash plays helped the Vikings get off to a quick start and get a season-opening win over the Falcons.

The Lowest low

1. The Vikings defense didn't have much of an answer in the run game in Week 13 at Seattle, as the Seahawks racked up 218 rushing yards against Minnesota.

That was a season-high allowed by the Vikings, who gave up more than five yards per carry on Monday Night Football in a 37-30 loss.

Quotes

"I feel like I had a very consistent year. Ever since I've been in the league, I feel like I've been a consistent player. Stat-wise, [this] wasn't really my best year. But my performance on the field helped my team win games."

— Kendricks on his All-Pro play in 2019

"We were prepared and knew what they wanted to do. They just stuck with it and did a good job."

— Wilson after a playoff loss to the 49ers in which San Francisco ran the ball 47 times

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