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Lunchbreak: Cook, Kendricks Included in NFL.com’s Midseason All-Pro Squad

Nearly half a season remains for players to make their case for Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors.

But who are the early front-runners?

Chris Wesseling of NFL.com on Thursday released his 2019 Midseason All-Pro team and included a Vikings player on each side of the ball. He named Vikings running back Dalvin Cook his flex player on offense, saying his “all-around excellence can’t be overlooked.” Wesseling wrote:

The league leader in carries (177) and rushing yards (894), Cook needs just 31 rushes and 76 yards to pass his totals from his first two NFL seasons combined. He’s the fastest running back from the handoff to the line of scrimmage (11.04 mph, per Next Gen Stats), while also stressing the edges of defenses with game-breaking ability on outside runs. Only [Christian] McCaffrey [42.5] has a higher percentage of his team’s scrimmage yards (Cook: 34.3).

Wesseling put McCaffrey in the running back spot, Russell Wilson (Seahawks) at quarterback, Michael Thomas (Saints) and Mike Evans (Buccaneers) at receiver, and George Kittle (49ers) at tight end.

On the offensive line, Wesseling highlighted tackles Ryan Ramczyk (Saints) and Mitchell Schwartz (Chiefs), guards Quenton Nelson (Colts) and Brandon Brooks (Eagles), and center Rodney Hudson (Raiders).

Wesseling included Eric Kendricks in his group of linebackers, joining Jamie Collins (Patriots) and Luke Kuechly (Panthers).

While the Vikings secondary has slipped, Kendricks is the beating heart of a front seven that has returned to heights of 2017. A playmaking machine, Kendricks has been a menace behind the line of scrimmage as a run-stuffer and blitzer while polishing up his pass-coverage skills.

A pair of Vikings were also mentioned as an afterthought in the edge rushers category, not quite making the cut behind Nick Bosa (49ers) and Cam Jordan (Saints):

This is an especially crowded class with many deserving names such as Joey Bosa, Shaq Barrett, [brothers] J.J. and T.J. Watt, the Vikings duo of Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter, the Packers duo of Za’Darius and Preston Smith (no relation) and the Browns duo of Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon. It won't surprise me if a couple of those names land atop this list by season's end.

The remaining defenders on Wesseling’s list were as follows:

Interior: Aaron Donald (Rams) and Calais Campbell (Jaguars)

Cornerbacks: Stephon Gilmore (Patriots) and Richard Sherman (49ers)

Safeties: Justin Simmons (Broncos) and Devin McCourty (Patriots)

Defensive back: Minkah Fitzpatrick (Steelers)

And don’t forget about special teams! He spotlighted kicker Justin Tucker (Ravens), punter Brett Kern (Titans) and returner Cordarrelle Patterson (Bears).

Vikings highlighted in USA TODAY’S ‘All-Breakout’ team:

Don’t look now, but Cook and Kendricks were also praised by USA TODAY, both making the outlet’s 2019 “All-Breakout” team.

Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz wrote:

Though the NFL is often defined by its mainstays, the annual emergence of new standout players highlights how quickly the league can be reshaped.

In 2018, for instance, the Pro Bowl welcomed 24 performers receiving the nod for the first time, including MVP Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs. With this season already past the halfway point, the latest class of breakout players already has begun to come into view.

He listed Cook, along with NFC North rival Aaron Jones (Packers), as this season’s breakout players at the running back position.

After injuries derailed his first two years as a pro, Cook took on the role of offensive centerpiece this season without any hiccups. … He’s also buoyed inconsistent QB Kirk Cousins with his prowess on screen passes.

Kendricks was joined by Shaq Thompson (Panthers) and Raekwon McMillan (Dolphins).

Though Minnesota brought back Anthony Barr on a pricey deal this offseason, Kendricks looks like the gem of the linebacker corps and the one deserving of top honors this year. His size (6-0, 232 pounds) hasn’t prevented him from becoming a force in the box, and his aggressive-yet-calculating coverage approach is reflected by his 10 passes defensed, the most of any non-cornerback.

Also noteworthy on Middlehust-Schwartz’s list was the including of Cowboys tackle La’el Collins, whom the Vikings will face this weekend on Sunday Night Football (assuming he is healthy and active).

Middlehurst-Schwartz said Collins’ five-year extension “might prove to be a bargain” for the Cowboys.

[The] fifth-year veteran has made substantial improvements both in keeping top pass rushers at bay and opening up holes in the run game.

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