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Lunchbreak: Hicks & Kendricks Continuing to Grow Chemistry on Vikings Defense

From teammates and roommates at UCLA to a dynamic duo on the Vikings defense, Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr established nearly a decade of cohesiveness in Minnesota.

So when Barr left via free agency earlier this year, the Vikings were left with a significant hole at linebacker.

Minnesota signed veteran linebacker Jordan Hicks in March, and so far the former Cardinal and Eagle is soaring in Vikings training camp.

Will Ragatz of Sports Illustrated said both Kendricks and Hicks are already getting a solid chemistry going. He wrote:

Building chemistry was a process that began back in OTAs and has ramped up during training camp. Both Kendricks and Hicks have raved about how easy it's been to get on the same page and create a relationship.

"It's special because you don't always get that opportunity to play next to somebody that sees things the way you do and thinks the way you do and plays football at such a high level for that long," Hicks said. "It's been great. Part of the reason I came here was for that opportunity to play next to EK. We came in the same year, I followed his career, I played with his brother (Mychal Kendricks in Philadelphia).

"We have a really good background together," Hicks continued. "It's all jelling and we're still working and we're still growing. Every day is a new learning curve that we're trying to battle through. As long as the process is fine and we continue to jell, we'll be fine."

Both Kendricks and Hicks were drafted seven years ago and only 39 selections apart. Now, not only are the two linebackers getting used to each other but to a new defensive scheme entirely.

The addition of Ed Donatell at defensive coordinator brings a 3-4 base look at defense for the first time since 1985 when Bud Grant coached his final season.

Ragatz said Kendricks and Hicks share a similar vision when they step onto the field, no matter what the scheme is.

Kendricks said he and Hicks have the shared experience of spending much of their careers in 4-3 schemes, so they're learning this defense from a similar baseline of knowledge. Whether the Vikings knew this or not when they signed Hicks, Kendricks said the two of them see the game in similar ways._

"We definitely see things a lot in the same way," he said. "We both kind of were playing 4-3 for a while, so a lot of the 4-3 nickel schemes, we see the gaps exchange and stuff like that the same way. Our progression reads are very like-minded. Things that make sense to us, they make sense to both of us. And things that don't make sense, usually we can agree on that as well."

As the Vikings prepare for their first preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders at 3:25 p.m. (CT) Sunday, Kendricks and Hicks know that every rep in camp is just another chance for them to strengthen their foundation.

"It's good," Kendricks told Ragatz. "Maybe we get beat on something, but we both know at the same time why we got beat and then we get another chance and we get a different look at it and we're like 'OK, let's talk about that now.' Each day we're out here, we're getting beat but we're also making plays and they're all things to talk about, regardless.

"That communication off the field, as well as the adjustments on the field, are really important, and we both kind of have the same lingo, we both are eight years in the league, so we both really know what's going on," Kendricks added.

CBS Sports notes '1 thing to watch' in Preseason Week 1

As the Vikings prep for their first preseason game, what should be fans be most paying attention to?

Jared Dubin of CBS Sports recently noted "one thing to watch" for every preseason game this weekend, including Sunday's matchup between Minnesota and Las Vegas. Interestingly, the Raiders have already notched one exhibition contest this summer, having played in last week's Hall of Fame Game.

Dubin wrote:

After last week, I guess we have to pay attention to the Raiders backfield and how snaps are doled out between Josh Jacobs, Kenyan Drake, Ameer Abdullah, Zamir White and Brandon Bolden. Plus, there's the Derek Carr-to-Davante Adams connection, if they end up playing. =


Minnesota's rookie defensive backs, Andrew Booth Jr., Lewis Cine and Akayleb Evans are also worth watching.