The Minnesota Vikings will look a lot different at linebacker this upcoming season. One of the reasons is because of injuries last season. Additionally, they made some moves in free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.
The linebacker position is very important in the Mike Zimmer system. He likes to run a 4-3 base with three linebackers that are very versatile. Two of those linebackers will often line up in both A gaps so the offense has to respect the potential of constant pressure. The Vikings have a couple guys Zimmer already trusts. They need someone to step up to the plate after that to complete the unit. Especially if they want this to be a Super Bowl caliber defense.
Lets looks at the Minnesota Vikings 2021 Linebacker situation.
Eric Kendricks – You can’t talk about underrated players in the NFL without mentioning Eric Kendricks. He has been a top linebacker in the NFL the last few years despite only one all pro recognition.
Kendricks is elite in all facets of the game. He is excellent at tackling, can cover like a defensive back, blitzes very well, and is almost always in the right position to make the play. Kendricks being on the roster allows Mike Zimmer to call games exactly the way he wants to. Especially when paired with another athletic linebacker.
Anthony Barr – While not as good as Kendricks, Anthony Barr is a very good linebacker. I don’t think he gets the respect he deserves from the Vikings fan base. He has taken a lot of criticism for his recent struggles in coverage. While that may appear like the case, it was more an issue of a bad matchup that was never adjusted for during the game.
Barr missed last season due to injury and his loss showed just how valuable he is to this Vikings team. What they could do on defense with their backup linebackers was very limited. With Barr back, the 1-2 punch between him and Kendricks will make the Vikings have a top LB unit in the league again.
Ryan Connelly – The 3rd starting linebacker position for the Vikings is very important. This player is going to have a big impact. I think the success of this unit rides on this player. Right now Ryan Connelly is a serious contender to start heading into camp.
That could obviously change as the Vikings get a closer look at new additions in Nick Vigil and draft pick Chazz Surratt. Connelly was picked up by the Vikings in 2020 after being waved by the New York Giants. He actually started a few games for the Giants in 2019 before suffering a season ending ACL injury. The Vikings are hoping to pick up where he left off prior to his unfortunate injury.
Nick Vigil – It’s good to have players that are starting material that are not currently projected to start. Defense rotates a lot of players in and out in addition to injuries as the Vikings saw last year. Nick Vigil is just that.
He is definitely a candidate to start. He comes to the Vikings with great experience. Last season for the Chargers he played in 15 games, two of them being starts. His career is trending in a great direction as he joins the Vikings.
Chazz Surratt – It’s always difficult to predict where a rookie is going to enter the mix. Especially in a Mike Zimmer defense that is known for making rookies “earn it.” The Vikings drafted Chazz Surratt with the 78th overall pick of the 2021 draft. It was a move that puzzled some but the Vikings must really see something in him.
Surratt actually entered the University of North Carolina as a quarterback. He switched to linebacker and had a great career. The Vikings feel he is an instinctual player that can bring a lot to the table. He truly is a wild card for this upcoming season.