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Gerald Hodges gets his shot in the middle as Zimmer, Vikings try to narrow in on starter

With rookie Eric Kendricks drawing the starting assignment at middle linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings in Saturday’s third preseason game, the second-round draft pick seemed to be inching closer to securing to the starting spot many believed he would fill.

After several weeks of playing behind Audie Cole, Kendricks was getting his chance. Then Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Monday the team had decided on a starter for this week, who could potentially keep the job. Zimmer withheld names because he hadn’t told the team yet.

“I’m just trying to get through this week,” Zimmer said, indicating he knew who would start Saturday’s preseason game at Dallas. “We’ll see, if it goes good this week, then maybe we will go with it the rest of the way. If guys are playing good, they’ll keep playing and if they’re not…I just haven’t told the players yet so I don’t want to tell you.”

It appeared Kendricks was finally getting the job he was drafted to fill.

Not so fast.

Andrew Krammer from 1500ESPN reports Gerald Hodges saw most of the reps at middle linebacker in Monday’s practice.

Kendricks started for the first time last weekend and previous starter, Audie Cole, was third in line in the middle during Saturday’s win. Hodges got his first game action as a middle linebacker during the middle two quarters, playing parts of several series as the middle linebacker in the base defense.

Hodges ended up playing 26 snaps on defense in last week’s game, second among all linebackers to the 33 snaps played by Brandon Watts. Hodges was credited with three tackles.

Kendricks played 20 snaps, including several in the nickel defense where he seems to be a preferred option with the No. 1 nickel unit. Kendricks had one tackle.

“I think he did good,” Zimmer said of Kendricks in last week’s game. “Yesterday, (assistant general manager) George (Paton) and (linebackers coach) Adam (Zimmer) and (general manager) Rick (Spielman) and myself sat down and put all of the middle linebackers on the tape and watched every play, just to kind of get a gauge, make sure we’re all seeing the same thing with where we are at; I mean, throughout the whole course of the preseason. As far as the other night, (Kendricks) fitted one thing wrong and then they got basically the same play again later and he got it right after we corrected him on the sideline, but for the most part he did alright.”

Zimmer said Kendricks “punched guys pretty good the other night, probably better than I anticipated after watching all of preseason.”

Cole had been the starter in the first two preseason games, but he was relegated to third in line on Saturday and played 16 snaps.

Hodges had played mostly on the outside until recently. Trying to solve the starting spot between Anthony Barr and Chad Greenway, Zimmer is giving Hodges a chance. Hodges is an athletic linebacker who can be a big hitter as well. In 14 games and seven starts last season, Hodges had 66 tackles, seven pass deflections and an interception.

Zimmer said he has decided who will start this week but there’s a good chance the player could keep the spot. The competition between Kendricks and, now, Hodges, should be one to watch.

 

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Brian Hall

Brian Hall was the Vikings beat reporter for FOX Sports North for four years and had previously covered the team for the Associated Press and PA SportsTicker. He’s seen many big moments (most of which have involved Adrian Peterson) during his time. Brian developed a connection with the team he couldn’t let go of as he faces his first season since Brett Favre was around in which he hasn’t been on the Vikings beat. A University of Minnesota graduate, Brian has worked in the sports media in the Twin Cities, covering everything imaginable, for more than 13 years, making many connections along the way. He’s looking forward to contributing to Vikings Territory and continuing to interact with the Vikings fans who have followed him along the way @MNBrianHall on Twitter.

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Carl K
Carl K
5 years ago

At some point Eric Kendricks will be handed the keys to the starting MLB position. When that happens, Hodges will then push Greenway for his job. No need to be in a hurry. We have good depth, so any kind of rotation will help keep the linebackers healthy and fresh.

WTFVikesfan
5 years ago

What depth????

Carl K
Carl K
5 years ago

Barr, Greenway, Kendricks, Hodges, Cole, Watts… Can all start in the NFL. They many not be All Pro but they can get the job done. Lots of starting experience and talent mixed in that bunch. Depth to me means guys that can step in as starters and get the job done when called upon, Hodges and Cole have proven that on many occasions.

Oh, and please send me a selfie of you telling Michael Mauti, Brian Peters, and Edmond Robinson they can’t play football… I would like to see that.

If they don’t make the Vikings roster, they will land somewhere… They have enough talent and work ethic to some team’s roster.

WTFvikesfan
WTFvikesfan
Reply to  Carl K
5 years ago

Cole may not make the team according to the radio guys.

skollvikings69
skollvikings69
5 years ago

Cole will make the team I think they just wanted to get hodges some reps incase he needs to fill in at some point in the season

WTFVikesfan
5 years ago

Both AJ, on the power trip, and PA, on his show, were saying they didn’t think Cole would make the team. PA laid it out each linebacker keeping 6.

WTFVikesfan
5 years ago

AJ was at Vikings practice today and he said Cole was practicing with the 3’s.

Carl K
Carl K
Reply to  WTFVikesfan
5 years ago

If Zimmer feels good about Kendricks and Hodges in the middle, and if Zimmer likes what he sees from Brandon Watts and Brian Peters as backups at OLB, than yes, Cole could be on the cut bubble.

Jake
Jake
5 years ago

Are we taking cues from Paul Allen now? Is Paul Allen now the authority? Seriously? Paul Allen? If Paul Allen thinks Cole may not make the team that means Cole is probably going to be the new starting quarterback. Cole is the best option at MLB on this roster with Hodges right behind him. Honestly at this point they should switch to a 3-4 and line Barr, Cole, Hodges, and Kendricks behind Griffen, Joseph/Floyd, and Robison.

ccarterhof
Reply to  Jake
5 years ago

I think in a few more games Kendricks will get quite a bit of playing time. They’re each getting a shot, that’s good. Not a bad idea about a 3-4, I was always a 4-3 dude. But there have been some great 3-4 teams.

WTFVikesfan
5 years ago

Vikings will be playing a lot of nickle. In the nickle Kendricks will be with Barr. Zimmer likes to play the 3 safety set a lot. Gives the team a ton of flexibility. They were saying Robinson will make the team, because he will never make it to the practice squad without somebody picking him up.

Matt Russ
Matt Russ
5 years ago

3/ 4 interesting, need the right size guys up front,could get all four on field If Kendricks could play safety, I think Thomas Davis switched from LB to Safety for Carolina, could potentially solve safety uncertainty, learning curve not withstanding, and gets all four on field

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