The Vikings defense has remained mostly intact under the guidance of Head Coach Mike Zimmer, who took the helm in 2014.
Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks teamed together at UCLA before being drafted by Minnesota in 2014 and 2015, respectively, and the two were recently highlighted by analytics site Pro Football Focus as the NFL’s fifth-best linebacker duo. PFF’s Connor Price wrote the following:
The 2018 Vikings defense may not have presented the same sting it maintained in 2017, but they continued to sustain their top-ten status. The tandem of UCLA alums, Barr and Kendricks, has been a mainstay of a defense that is full of superstar talent.
Barr has been pestering opposing quarterbacks as much as anyone at his position since he joined the league. His 116 total pressures generated since 2015 rank second among linebackers, which largely contributes to his third-ranked 90.0 pass-rushing grade in that same period. Even when he doesn’t successfully pressure the quarterback, he is still effective against the pass. His nine batted passes rank second at his position over the last five seasons.
The duos ranked (from No. 1 to No. 4) above Barr-Kendricks by Price were: (Cowboys Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch; the Seahawks Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright; the Panthers Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson; and the Jets C.J. Mosley and Avery Williamson.
Continuing with the position group breakdowns, PFF’s Mark Chichester ranked the league’s best safety tandems, and the Vikings were listed fifth there, as well.
Harrison Smith has been in place since being drafted in 2012. While Andrew Sendejo signed with the Eagles in free agency, Anthony Harris should be able to smoothly step into that starting role after being a reliable reserve the past two seasons.
His overall grade dropped from 91.8 in 2017 to 79.7 last season, but Harrison Smith remained elite against the run with a 91.3 run-defense grade in 2018 — the best mark among safeties. He was also one of the most reliable tacklers in the NFL with a 21.5 tackle efficiency rating, again, best among safeties who logged 400 or more snaps.
Harris came in for the injured Andrew Sendejo in Week 6 and immediately put forth one of the best single-game performances of the 2018 season. Keeping the starting job for the remainder of the campaign, Harris made his most significant impact in coverage, where he saw just 13 targeted passes. Still, he recorded three interceptions and two additional pass breakups and allowed a passer rating of only 24.0 on throws into his coverage.
The Bears Eddie Jackson and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, the Rams Eric Weddle and John Johnson, the Ravens Earl Thomas and Tony Jefferson, and the Jets Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye were ranked ahead of Smith and Harris.
Rudolph to serve as celebrity judge at FedEx ‘Junior Business Challenge’
Kyle Rudolph is on break from the football field until the team returns for Vikings Training Camp in July, but he isn’t quite in vacation mode.
Rudolph is staying active with community events, including a nation-wide program that inspires young entrepreneurs. Forbes contributor Micheal Lore wrote about the tight end’s upcoming opportunity as a celebrity judge at the FedEx Junior Business Challenge.
The only business experience Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph had in high school was a personal finance class. Rudolph took the class, where he learned things like balancing a checkbook, as an elective.
Today, there are more and more opportunities for students to explore business and finance, and Rudolph is trying to help promote that.
Begun in 2017 in partnership with Junior Achievement (JA) Worldwide, the FedEx Junior Business Challenge provides young entrepreneurs between the ages of 15-18 with a platform to pitch original business ideas to a panel of judges consisting of PGA Tour players, celebrities, business leaders and FedEx Small Business grant winners, with the chance to earn a $75,000 donation from FedEx.
“For these kids to have this opportunity to think outside the box and come up with an innovative, entrepreneurial idea is pretty cool. Most people don’t get to do that until they’re in their mid-20s and studied business in college,” Rudolph told Lore. “For these young men and women to have that opportunity to do that in high school puts them ahead of the game.”
Each of the three FedEx Junior Business Challenge qualifying events are held in conjunction with a PGA Tour event; Rudolph will be a celebrity judge on July 2 at the 3M Open in Blaine. One winner from each of the three events will advance to the final, which will coordinate with the Tour Championship in Atlanta.
Ep. 1 of Robison’s ‘The Transition’ series features retirement, surprise Vikings guest
As former defensive end Brian Robison makes the move from full-time Viking to full-time fisherman, he’s taking fans along for the ride.
Robison announced during his retirement press conference in May that he is rolling out a new YouTube series titled The Transition, which will give viewers an inside look at his “first steps … from one chapter of life to another.”
Episode 1 was released Wednesday and features a recap of Robison’s retirement at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center as well as an outing on Mille Lacs Lake with former teammate Everson Griffen.
Click here to watch the 20-minute episode.