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Lunchbreak: 'Elite' Eric Kendricks Tabbed by PFF as 'Most-Improved' Viking

View the top photos of Vikings LB Eric Kendricks from the 2019 season.

Eric Kendricks received First-Team All-Pro honors in recognition of his performance in 2019.

Kendricks has been a playmaker since being drafted by Minnesota in 2015, but he seemed to take even another step forward this past season. He led the Vikings in tackles with 130 (coaches' stats) during the regular season and also had 0.5 sacks, four tackles for loss, four quarterback hits, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 12 passes defensed.

Analytics site Pro Football Focus recently highlighted Kendricks on its list of “most-improved players” from every NFL team. PFF's Ben Linsey wrote:

Kendricks coverage numbers in 2019 are absurd. The 90.0 coverage grade that ranked second at the linebacker position is one thing, but his forced incompletion numbers are another thing altogether. Kendricks forced 14 incompletions in 2019 — two more than the next closest linebacker (Luke Kuechly) and five more than the next closest competitors. He forced an incompletion on [more than 20 percent] of his targets. Only five other players with 50 or more targets did that regardless of position, and they were all cornerbacks. That strong play in coverage, along with a run-defense grade north of 80.0, gave Kendricks an elite 90.4 overall grade for the 2019 season, well above the 64.6 grade that he earned in 2018.

As far as the rest of the NFC North, Linsey opined that Za'Darius Smith was the Packers most-improved player. Smith's pressure rate of 18.1 percent led the league among qualifying players, and he received a run-defense grade of 78.1 by PFF.

Linsey also spotlighted a pair of offensive linemen in the division, saying that Chicago's most-improved player was tackle Cornelius Lucas, whereas center Frank Ragnow shined in Detroit. Linsey wrote the following of Ragnow, who attended Chanhassen High School:

We talked about it before the season, and Ragnow's move from guard in his rookie season to center in 2019 did, in fact, make all the difference. It was his more productive position at Arkansas, and it is his more productive position through two years as a professional, as well. Ragnow's 64.4 overall grade in 2018 was a respectable mark, ranking 15thamong qualifying left guards, but his 74.9 grade in 2019 bordered on the center position's elite and ranked sixth among 38 qualifying centers. There was an improvement from Ragnow across the board as both a pass blocker and as a run blocker. He should only continue to improve in the middle of the Lions offensive line, given his track record of success at the position in college.

View photos of the best custom cleats created for Vikings players in 2019 by designer Mache and Salvatore.

Gopher Sports highlights Rallis' brothers journeys

Vikings defensive quality control coach Nick Rallis might be a familiar name in Minnesota, having played linebacker for the University of Minnesota from 2012-16.

But there's also a connection you might be less familiar with: Nick's older brother, Mike, also played linebacker for the Gophers (2008-12) but now is a WWE star who goes by Riddick Moss.

The U of M this week published a story on the Rallis brothers and their paths to success. According to the article, Nick "doesn't see many differences between the brother he grew up with and the WWE persona he embraces in the ring."

"That's who he is, so it's not weird at all," Nick told Gopher Sports. "That's him. He has the Riddick Regimen. Well, that all started with the Rallis Regimen, and that was our lifestyle."

The Rallis Regimen connected Mike and Nick together as they grew up avid football fans. Mike was dedicated to watching football film when he was in college and made a process for breaking it down that he shared with his teammates and brother. Nick was even more consumed by watching film. A trait he has had since he was young.

"Back then, film was on DVDs. I pushed my brother to get his hands on them and bring them home," Nick said. "I would study them hard. Your only limitation in this sport is the amount of work you put in."

Mike told Gopher Sports how proud he is of his younger brother and recalled the way he was a "total coach on the field." Mike also said that Nick "had a chance to find a path in the WWE profession as well" but is confident that Nick will be a great football coach.

"I think that's what his passion is," Mike said. "I knew when he got into coaching that he was going to do great. He is a natural with it. Not only his work ethic, but also he has a knack for the Xs and Os, for teaching and for preparing. It's a pleasure to sit back and watch him grow as a coach."