Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports

Assessing Minnesota Vikings linebackers through metrics

The perception of Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks matches some of the metrics and grades, but the interesting comparison for the Minnesota Vikings linebackers comes between Chad Greenway and Emmanuel Lamur.

Anthony Barr may be one of the most confounding players on the Minnesota Vikings defense.

The 2015 first-round draft pick made the Pro Bowl as an alternate this year despite head coach Mike Zimmer’s admission that Barr “has a tendency to coast a little bit.” Even so, no one played more defensive snaps than the rangy outside linebacker.

Barr played in just over 99 percent of the snaps (1,025 of 1,053 on the season), but it wasn’t always with Pro Bowl-caliber results. The analytics site Pro Football Focus gave Barr a poor grade of 43.1 but his results according to NFL data were very minimally below average. There was almost no difference between the Vikings defense with Barr on the field compared to the NFL’s net yards over average statistic that uses the net yardage gained by the team while the player was on the field over a rolling six-year NFL average factoring in field position, down and distance. (Example: for the 2011 season the league average gain for first-and-10 on the offense’s 20-yard line was 5.99 yards. If the player participated in a play at first-and-10 on his own 20 that gained 8 yards he’d earn 2.01 net yards over the league average. The defenders on that play would each earn minus-2.01 net yards over the league average.)

Middle linebacker Eric Kendricks was marginally on the positive side of the net yards over average, but received an above average grade of 80.3 from PFF while playing in almost 84 percent of the defensive snaps.

Those were generally the perceptions of Barr and Kendricks in 2016 among fans and media, but perhaps the most interesting comparison occurs when comparing veteran Chad Greenway’s marks to the very limited sample size of his backup, Emmanuel Lamur. That information is relevant as Greenway appears likely to retire and Lamur could be moved into a starting role – at least in the base defense – in 2017.

Greenway played in almost 39 percent of the snaps and Lamur played in less than 4 percent, so there is plenty more that would need to be seen from Lamur in the Vikings than was presented last year.

With Greenway on the field, the Vikings defense was 0.69 yards better per run play than the NFL net average in similar situations but 1.2 yards worse than the NFL average on pass plays. Like Barr, he got an overall poor grade from PFF but was graded better in pass coverage than run defense.

While Lamur was given a better grade in run defense vs. pass coverage by PFF, according to the NFL stats he had the worst run-defense differential among all Vikings linebackers when he was on the field at minus-2.86 yards and the best pass differential at plus-0.56 yards. The problem is that he had about a 3-to-1 ratio of passing snaps compared to playing the run and only had 39 defensive snaps in total, according to the game stats.

What it means is that according to the very limited data, he was better against the pass than the run, but if he were to replace Greenway he would likely see far more snaps in the base defense and running plays.

  Snap Counts
  Off Off % Def Def % ST ST %
Players 1053   1035   429   Rush Diff Pass Diff PFF Grade
E Kendricks 0 0.00% 869 83.96% 55 12.82% 0.07 0.09 80.3
A Barr 0 0.00% 1025 99.03% 70 16.32% -0.01 -0.04 43.1
C Greenway 0 0.00% 403 38.94% 72 16.78% 0.69 -1.2 48.5
A Cole 0 0.00% 35 3.38% 275 64.10% 1.38 -1.18 52.9
E Lamur 0 0.00% 39 3.77% 262 61.07% -2.86 0.56 47.9
K Brothers 0 0.00% 0 0.00% 182 42.42% 0 0 60
E Robinson 0 0.00% 0 0.00% 160 37.30% 0 0

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