There's a lot of pressure on rookie linebacker Eric Kendricks to step up for the Vikings.
Brace Hemmelgarn/Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport
The Minnesota Vikings traded Gerald Hodges to the San Francisco 49ers this week. All the Vikings got from the 49ers for their starting middle linebacker was rookie center Nick Easton and a sixth-round draft pick.
So, should Minnesota be at all worried about a hole in the defensive lineup?
Not at all. They have rookie Eric Kendricks ready to take over. In fact, his rising snap count over the past few weeks undoubtedly contributed to the decision to trade Hodges. The Vikings are now in position to start a younger, more athletic middle linebacker in Kendricks.
"I know [Kendricks] is a very instinctive football player," Spielman said. "Each week, you see the more reps he’s getting, the more comfortable he’s getting with the speed of this game. And he makes plays when he’s out there. We drafted him because of how strong we felt about him coming out. When we evaluated him in college, you’re starting to see all that come as he adjusts to the speed of the NFL. He’s a very instinctive linebacker who makes a lot of plays."
Kendricks mostly contributed in the nickel package through the first four weeks of the season, due to his expertise in pass coverage. Now that he’s a starter in Minnesota’s base defense, the young linebacker will likely spend a lot more snaps on the field.
There’s suddenly a lot of pressure on Kendricks to step up and take command of his new role.