Eric Kendricks on Injury Report Thickens Plot at Arizona

Jan 11, 2020; Santa Clara, California, USA; Minnesota Vikings middle linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) waits for the snap against the San Francisco 49ers in the second quarter in a NFC Divisional Round playoff football game at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

A bit of advice for folks forecasting the Minnesota Vikings chances against the Arizona Cardinals: Eric Kendricks must play.

Out of nowhere on Thursday, Kendricks was listed on the injury report with a quad muscle issue. And that was mere hours after the Vikings All-Pro linebacker spoke to the press with absolutely no mention of injury.

Anthony Barr, the Vikings other Pro Bowl linebacker, likely will not play this weekend as he nurses a nagging knee malady. Without Barr in Week 1, Joe Mixon ran for more yards than any other single player in the NFL. Ergo, Barr is needed for Minnesota’s defense to achieve its zenith.

Slicing Kendricks out of the mix – on top of Barr’s probable absence – is an invitation to an offensive heyday for the Cardinals. The upstart Kyler Murray, who slaughtered the Tennessee Titans less than a week ago, would probably thrive versus the Vikings defense with Kendricks and Barr fully healthy. He’s maturing at a quick clip, implementing his legs and his right arm as deadly tools down in the desert. But subtract Barr almost assuredly and perhaps Kendricks, well, let us introduce you to the Week-17-of-2020 Vikings defense.

Last year when Kendricks was hurt down the stretch, the Vikings simply stopped winning games. To that point, Mike Zimmer’s group was effectuating a season about-face, forging ahead to a possible seventh seed in the NFC playoffs as the San Francisco 49ers and these Cardinals inexplicably kept losing games. It opened the January door to the Vikings. But Minnesota never walked through it. The defense was bad with Kendricks in the middle of it due to a lack of talent (several key players were, you guessed it, injured). When Kendricks was lost for the Jacksonville Jaguars game and thereafter, the defense was flat-out abysmal.

The Vikings cannot have an abysmal defense against the Cardinals. It will not do the trick for a team seeking avoidance of an 0-2 record.

Thankfully, Kendricks is practicing on Friday.

 

Mystery is the aura of his quad injury. What the hell happened? Nobody knows. However, if Kendricks is on the field Friday – he is – the news is less than grim than Thursday indicated.

Nevertheless, Kendricks must remain healthy and trend toward playing on Sunday. He’s the cardiovascular system of the Vikings defense. If, for some reason, Kendricks is a no-go, the linebacking corps is reduced to some piecemeal of Troy Dye, Ryan Connelly, and Nick Vigil (who is also on the injury report).

Todd Davis ain’t walking through that door.

Just 12% of NFL teams reach the playoffs after an 0-2 start throughout NFL history. That percentage is skewed a bit because the seven-teams-per-conference format is new. Regardless, the odds of reaching the postseason self-destruct if an 0-2 record hits a team’s clubhouse.

The bright side? Following the Vikings tilt in Arizona, they travel home for three straight games at U.S. Bank Stadium. Those could be season-saving affairs.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).