During Thursday’s OTA session for the Minnesota Vikings, Kendricks made an athletic play, tipping and nearly intercepting a Teddy Bridgewater pass that was appreciated by his defensive teammates. Following the practice session, head coach Mike Zimmer spoke about the progress Kendricks is making.
One of the things the Vikings touted on draft weekend was Kendricks’ football smarts. Asked at his post-practice press conference if he thinks the college intelligence Kendricks has shown will translate immediately to the NFL, Zimmer pondered.
“That’s a hard one,” Zimmer said. “I think he’s further ahead than most rookies, I would say, but they’re all different. (Anthony) Barr was pretty sharp last year when he came in. They’re all different. Eric’s been doing a good job. He’s obviously got a lot of athletic ability. He’s studying real hard. I think has a chance to be a good player.”
Kendricks said he doesn’t like making the same mistake twice and works hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. Zimmer said that should be the way every player thinks, whether he’s a rookie or a vested veteran.
“I don’t like it from any of the players if they make the same mistake twice,” Zimmer said. “That’s good, and that’s something we preach to the players – you make a mistake, OK, let’s learn from it. Let’s move on. Let’s not continually make it. That’s when you have problems. He’s probably made the same mistake a couple of times here and there. It’s hard for the linebackers with alignments and different coverages and different things that they have to do, because they’re involved in so many different things with the run and the pass. They have a lot of things on their plate and with a young guy who has to make calls, who has to make adjustments and checks and the things that we ask of our linebackers. It will take a little while, but I’m more encouraged by the things he’s done.”
One of the shining spots in the early portion of the offseason program has been Kendricks demonstrating his ability in pass coverage, which is critical for linebackers in the NFL.
Although it’s difficult to gauge when players aren’t wearing pads, Zimmer is happy with what he has seen in Kendricks’ ability to make plays and cover big chunks of ground in the passing game, but added that he is a complete player who won’t be pigeon-holed as a run defender or his skill in pass coverage.
“He’s a good athlete,” Zimmer said. “He’s got very good quickness, very good acceleration. He can run fast and he’s got instincts, so that leads to being good in a lot of places, not just pass coverage.”