Despite having solid performers in linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr, the Minnesota Vikings added Darnell Sankey on Saturday from the Denver Broncos and picked up Elijah Lee in the 7th round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
“They have done a nice job of starting to become leaders of the defense. They are doing a great job of communicating and getting guys lined up. They both had really good seasons for us in the past and they are only going to get better. I think the sky is the limit on how good both of them can be,” Linebackers Coach Adam Zimmer said before Training Camp.
The UCLA Bruins teammates have proven to be one of the best pairs of linebackers in the league already.
“Playing with a guy like Anthony, he comes into every season with a goal in mind and he tries to achieve it and he doesn’t let anyone stop him. Compete with everybody, compete with each other and compete with himself and play well,” Kendricks said of fellow starter Barr.
Barr totaled 61 solo tackles, two sacks and five passes defended in his second year as a Viking. The second-highest linebacker drafted by the franchise was selected for the 2015 and 2016 Pro Bowl. He believes that the team has big potential to be a solid defense in the 2017 NFL season.
“Critical situations, third down, spread zone, two minute situations, all areas to improve on. So, I think if we can improve in those areas, we will improve as a unit,” Barr said about how to improve the group for the upcoming season.
Not only does he have big plans on how to improve the already third-ranked NFL defense, he has worked in the offseason on self-improvements.
“I got a long ways to go. Starts with my effort, and I’ll continue picking that up, that was a big emphasis for me this offseason and I feel good right now,” Barr said.
With the newest addition in Sankey, the team hopes to see more consistency from both the veterans and the new additions. Sankey spent time with practice squads for Oakland and Kansas City after beginning his career in Denver.
“I think the biggest thing is just consistency. The thing we are preaching with everyone right now is high energy, high effort to the football, consistency in the play, and be the impact player that you are,” Defensive Coordinator George Edwards said when asked what he wants to see out of Barr and the rest of the linebackers.
Some of that consistency will have to come from Missouri native Elijah Lee. Drafted in the second round out of Kansas State, Lee earned First Team All-Big 12 honors in 2016 as well as Second Team All-Big 12 in the same year.
“Elijah Lee showed up as a really good athlete, he can run, he can get to the perimeter fast. He is still swimming a little bit mentally but, the more and more he gets it and the more reps he gets he’s going to do really well,” Zimmer said before camp.
Another name to watch will be Ben Gedeon. Picked up in the fourth round by the Vikings from the University of Michigan, Gedeon will add depth to the squad but will focus heavily on his special teams performance.
“Ben Gedeon is just a pure football player. He’s tough, he’s really smart, he picks things up quickly, very instinctive and can read plays fast,” Zimmer said.