Eric Kendricks is one of the most underrated defensive players in the league. Kendricks was drafted by the Vikings in 2015. Since then, Kendricks has provided stable play at the linebacker position. Kendricks has been elite since 2019. He earned an all-pro selection after the 2019 season. Kendricks also helped keep a terrible Vikings defense together in 2020, before leaving with a season ending injury. In 2021, Kendricks is back to his elite form. Kendricks was selected by PFF to be on the midseason all-pro team. Despite that, Kendricks is currently last in odds to be the defensive player of the year. Eric Kendricks deserves more respect than that. Here’s why Kendricks deserves to be defensive player of the year.
Eric Kendricks is elite at stopping the run. His PFF score has taken a dip this year and currently sits at 78.6. That’s in large part due to the Vikings run defense overall. The Vikings have struggled against the run this season. But Eric Kendricks hasn’t. Kendricks currently leads the team in tackles at 92. That’s also fifth in the league. He also has been credited with 28 defensive stops. Kendricks is elite in the trenches, swarming to the ball and making tackles. That’s just the beginning however. Kendricks is a Swiss army knife, excelling at every job you could ask a defensive player to do.
Rushing The Passer
Kendricks has 4 sacks this season, which is third on the Vikings for this year. It also ties a career high that Kendricks set in 2015. With 7 weeks left in the season, Kendricks will likely break his personal record. His sacks speak for themselves. This is his most recent sack in a game against the Chargers.
When the Vikings blitz, Kendricks has proven he can get to the quarterback. His speed and athleticism ensures that he can get past most offensive lines. Kendricks has proven that he’s elite in the trenches, stopping the run and constantly getting pressure on the quarterback. But where he truly excels is in coverage.
Eric Kendricks is the best coverage linebacker in the entire league. Considering how fast he is and his ability to get interceptions, he looks more like a free safety at times. His 2 interceptions this season have looked excellent. Here’s one of them against the Lions.
His diving interception against the Chargers also looks impressive.
What might be more impressive is Kendricks’ current PFF grade in coverage. It’s currently 90.6. Kendricks can go toe-to-toe with almost any wide receiver as well. Here’s a clip from a game in the 2020 season, against Green Bay.
What other linebackers can keep pace with Davante Adams? Kendricks has proven time and time again that he is elite at defending the pass. Quarterbacks should avoid throwing to anyone covered by Kendricks for the rest of the season.
Eric Kendricks can do everything you could ask a defensive player to do. He’s proven he can run block, rush the passer, and is excellent in pass coverage. He’s the heart and soul of the Vikings defense as well. In 2020, Kendricks was the glue that kept a bad defense together. In 2021, Kendricks is still playing at an elite level. Despite that he’s last in current odds to be DPOY. The names before Kendricks are great players. Myles Garrett, Trevon Diggs, and TJ Watt have all been great this year. All of those players however only excel in 1 or 2 areas of defense. Myles Garrett is an amazing pass rusher. Trevon Diggs has some spectacular splash plays, but can be beat in coverage. TJ Watt is elite at run blocking and pass rushing.
To put it simply, no other defensive player on the odds list can do what Kendricks does every game. The Vikings recent game against the Chargers is a perfect example. In that game Kendricks had a sack, an interception, and 8 total tackles. Kendricks played all over the field and ensured that Justin Herbert had a bad day. This is the kind of all around threat that Kendricks is every time he steps onto a football field. No other defensive player can be that kind of threat. It’s time to give Kendricks the respect he deserves. He deserves to be seriously considered for DPOY.
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