What To Expect From Vikings Linebackers in 2022

July 25, 2022
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In a season that will be Minnesota’s first without linebacker Anthony Barr, even more personnel and scheme changes will be affecting the Vikings’ linebacking core. Veteran mainstay, Eric Kendricks is joined by the experienced Jordan Hicks and youngsters like Troy Dye, Chazz Surratt and Brian Asamoah to form what could be a formidable group.

Known Quantities

The Vikings’ coaching staff will enjoy the smart, savvy presence of Jordan Hicks as they transition to a 3-4 base defense or “odd front” (odd number of defenders on the line of scrimmage). Hicks, who is likely to don the green dot this year, has played significant snaps at the NFL level in both even and odd front defenses in Philadelphia and Arizona, respectively.

The main difference that off-ball linebackers deal with when the front changes from even to odd is they have wider spread responsibilities in the box, with just two players at the second level inside the hashes.

Luckily, Eric Kendricks moves laterally like he’s been shot out of a cannon and Jordan Hicks does well reading offenses to be in the right position. Both players are 30 years old.

Less Than Proven Vikings

Another newcomer to the group who brings a welcome skillset to the Vikings is rookie, Brian Asamoah. His sideline-to-sideline speed and coverage ability will be extremely valuable if he’s able to make the correct reads. Asamoah is a very new-school, nimbler linebacker who thrives in space.

Ryan Connely is a veteran who enters the week on the PUP (physically unable to play) list which hurts his chances to make the final roster amidst a scheme change.

The fourth linebacker spot on the final roster will be won, in my opinion, by one of the following three players: Troy Dye, Chazz Surratt, or Blake Lynch.

Lynch is the most versatile of the bunch and that may just win him the job on a defense that intends to be very “multiple” in the front seven. a

Chazz Surratt (2021 3rd Round Pick) and Troy Dye (2020 4th Round Pick) remain on their rookie deals as well and will likely be sequestered to the practice squad if Lynch does win the job. Both backers are solid in coverage with decent physical tools so what it will come down to is who impresses the coaching staff the most in training camp.

Donatell’s Plan

When we aim to project how things will look for these linebackers on the field in 2022 we need only refer to the way guys like Alexander Johnson (Denver 2019) and Danny Trevathan (Chicago 2016-17) were deployed; expected to cover a lot of ground against the run and the pass behind an excellent defensive front.

Eric Kendricks is most likely to find himself in this true inside or middle linebacker role while Jordan Hicks will be better suited to play a strong-side or “SAM” linebacker. This will require Hicks to cover flats and set the edge in Nickel packages in some instances – alongside Kendricks, it could be akin to the Anthony Barr role with which we’ve become so familiar.

Asamoah should slot in as a true backup and understudy to Kendricks. Ideally, learning from the reaction time of Kendricks to maximize his athleticism.

Off-ball linebacker is such an important role in this scheme and has been touted by Donatell’s former mentor, Vic Fangio, as one of the most difficult positions to learn. Fangio was a Linebackers coach before he became a Defensive Coordinator and eventual Head Coach so he always looked for ways to leverage the talent he had in that position group.

Similar to the Alexander Johnson/Baron Browning pairing in Denver, the potential of Eric Kendricks and Brian Asamoah in the “Mike” role is something about which I’m sure Donatell is very excited. This group may not be the definite strength of the team but, barring injury, it certainly will not be a weakness.