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State of the Vikings: Linebackers


EAGAN, Minn. — Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks have rarely missed a minute. They are talented, well-versed in the system and versatile enough to play in base or sub packages.

Ben Gedeon, a rookie in 2017, started in the base defense last season. The Vikings also have a handful of younger players.

Returning players: Anthony Barr, Kentrell Brothers, Ben Gedeon, Eric Kendricks, Antwione Williams, Eric Wilson

New Additions: Reshard Cliett, Garret Dooley, Devante Downs, Brett Taylor

Stat from 2017: According to the analytics website Football Outsiders, the Vikings ranked first in the NFL by limiting opposing running backs to 30.6 receiving yards per game on 6.9 pass attempts per game in 2017. The league average was 44.1 receiving yards allowed per game to running backs on 7.3 pass attempts per game.

From the Position Room: Vikings linebackers are asked to do a little bit of everything in the Vikings defense.

They play the run, drop back in coverage and pressure the quarterback, usually while roaming the field from sideline to sideline.

That’s just the way Vikings linebacker coach Adam Zimmer wants his unit to play.

“The first thing we always talk about is [being] relentless to the ball. Everybody running to the ball. Not just as linebackers, but as defense as a whole,” Adam Zimmer said. “It’s everyone running to the ball.

“I want the offense to say, ‘Well, that group plays hard.’ And the other thing is physicality,” Zimmer added. “We’re going to go and take on blocks and we’re not going to let an offensive lineman pancake us or anything like that. We’re going to be the most physical, tough, hard-working team that [an opposing] offense plays that year.”

Barr has shown his versatility over the past four years while Kendricks has led the Vikings in tackles in each of his first three seasons in Purple.

In addition to playing base defense, Gedeon was named the Vikings Special Teams Player of the Year. Wilson and Brothers also made an impact on special teams.

Behind those returners are a host of young players looking to make their mark in training camp and the preseason.

Williams spent time on the practice squad during the 2017 season, while Cliett was signed earlier this offseason. Downs was a seventh-round selection in 2018 out of Cal, and Dooley and Taylor were undrafted free agents.

Quotable: “Our mindset now is that last year is last year and that our record is 0-0. We have to prove something again this year.”

— Gedeon on being the NFL’s top-ranked defense in 2017

“It meant a lot. This is the place I wanted to play, place I wanted to be, defense I wanted to play on, people I wanted to play with … it’s a good thing.”

— Kendricks, who signed a contract extension in April, on his love for Minnesota

Tickets are still available for 2018 Verizon Vikings Training Camp at the TCO Performance Center for select dates. Click here to access more information.

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