A combination of veteran leadership and young playmakers is critical for success in the NFL.
The Vikings have used recent high draft picks to add talent at the linebacker position, and the pair of budding stars has benefitted from a player with more than a decade of NFL tenure.
Anthony Barr, the No. 9 pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, was the first player picked by the Vikings after Head Coach Mike Zimmer's hire. Barr has made the selection look like the right one, especially after a 2015 season in which he made his first Pro Bowl after notching 80 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
Barr was recently ranked as one of the NFC's top 10 defensive players by Pro Football Focus.
Eric Kendricks was drafted a year later in the second round and put together an impressive rookie campaign.
Kendricks led the Vikings with 105 tackles in 2015 from his middle linebacker spot, adding 4.0 sacks and 11 tackles for loss.
Both linebackers have been mentored by veteran Chad Greenway, who is entering his 11th season with the Vikings after being a first-round pick in 2006.
Greenway recorded 86 tackles and 2.5 sacks last season. He is a two-time Pro Bowler and three-time Vikings Community Man of the Year.
View the best images of the linebackers from the Vikings' offsesaon program.
Linebackers need to have a wide range of skills to defend passes, stop runs or blitzing quarterbacks.
Zimmer's scheme often incorporates linebacker blitzes, as well as bluffing the activity. Barr, Kendricks and Greenway had a knack for getting to the quarterback last season.
The group combined for 10 of Minnesota's 43 sacks in 2015 and added 25 quarterback hurries.
Besides being teammates with the Vikings, Barr and Kendricks were roommates and teammates at UCLA.
With the duo poised to anchor Minnesota's linebacker corps for years to come, Greenway said he will leave the meeting room in good hands when he decides to hang up his cleats.
"I think it's just such a unique experience to be playing with a guy you played with in college – a guy you've grown with from the time you were 18, 19 years old to come in now and be professionals together," Green way said. "They've done so well, and the way they've stepped in and been pros early, and it's my job to teach them and to help them and to watch them grow and know they're going to take this position over as I leave, and to leave it in good standing.
"I think those guys are tremendous athletes, but they're great people and great leaders, and I think those are the types of people that we want in this organization," he added. "They're going to be the reason that this organization continues to take the next step and can win year after year, because we have the right people that are good players."
Vikings linebackers coach Adam Zimmer said Kendricks, who started 11 games as a rookie, flourished as the 2015 season went along.
The 24-year-old Kendricks took over as a starter in October and never looked back.
"I think those last two games, Seattle and Green Bay, were his best two games," Zimmer said. "He came into this offseason and picked up right where he left off.
"He's understanding the defense, he's more vocal and he's becoming more of a leader," he added.
The Depth Chart
The Vikings depth at linebacker is boosted by a trio of former seventh-round picks. Audie Cole was drafted in 2012 while Brandon Watts was added in 2014 and Edmond Robinson was seventh-round pick in 2015.
Emmanuel Lamur signed as a free agent in March after a four-year stint with the Bengals. The 27-year-old recorded seven tackles during his rookie season in 2012 when Zimmer was Cincinnati's defensive coordinator.
The Vikings drafted linebacker Kentrell Brothers in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. The former Missouri standout led the nation in tackles in 2015 with 152.
Minnesota also added Jake Ganus as an undrafted free agent after he played at UAB and Georgia during his collegiate career.