Kendricks ‘further ahead than most rookies’

Rookie linebacker Eric Kendricks is making a positive impression in offseason practices.

There are few beneficiaries when injuries sideline players, even during OTA workouts. But, for rookie Eric Kendricks, having fellow linebackers Anthony Barr, Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti all sidelined with injuries, he has been able to get a lot of reps and show what he can do.

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.”

  • A verdict is expected today in a Hennepin County courtroom concerning Vikings defensive tackle Tom Johnson. A jury trial has been held this week concerning a misdemeanor charge of trespassing and disorderly conduct. Johnson was arrested Oct. 5, 2104 outside Seven Steakhouse in Minneapolis after allegedly refusing to leave when the restaurant closed. He was subsequently pepper sprayed and shot with a Taser by police. Johnson denied a plea bargain offered by prosecutors in December, claiming he had cell phone video that shows his innocence to the charges. The case went to the jury yesterday and the verdict is expected to be handed down today.

  • Chip Kelly’s blood-letting of veteran players continued Thursday as the Eagles released veteran guard Evan Mathis, who skipped OTAs in Philadelphia because he was unhappy with his contract. Only in the NFL can players be cut for skipping voluntary workouts. But given the question marks for the Vikings at guard, Mathis might garner some consideration. He played for Vikings O-line coach Jeff Davidson when both were in Carolina and spent three season in Cincinnati when Zimmer was the Bengals defensive coordinator.

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