New Vikings Reinforcement Will Make Debut vs. Broncos

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There is a multitude of fascinating storylines in Week 11’s matchup between the Vikings and the Broncos. It will be the first meeting in almost two years with former Saints’ head coach Sean Payton, a persona non grata among many Vikings fans. It will also be another game against Russell Wilson, a quarterback who had a lot of success against the Vikings in a Seahawks uniform.

New Vikings Reinforcement Will Make Debut vs. Broncos

The Vikings are coming into the game red-hot after winning the last five games despite missing some key players. It will be one more week without Justin Jefferson, who was close to playing but will get another week to regain strength. In addition to Kirk Cousins, the Vikes will also be without Jordan Hicks. The linebacker has been a key to the improved defense coordinated by Brian Flores but is now scheduled to miss the next four games as he was placed on injured reserve following a procedure on his lower leg.

New Vikings Reinforcement Will Make Debut vs. Broncos
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To compensate for his absence, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah welcomed a player back to the organization he let walk out of the building a year ago as one of his first moves in charge. Anthony Barr, a longtime Viking, signed with the franchise’s practice squad on Monday. On Saturday, the Vikings announced his elevation to the gameday roster, and he is available Sunday night.

Barr was the first draft pick during Mike Zimmer’s reign. He was handpicked to be the centerpiece of his defense, a unit that would be one of the league’s best for roughly half a decade. At UCLA, Barr was used as a pass-rusher, but he became an off-ball linebacker in the NFL, making four straight Pro Bowls between 2015 and 2018.

Here's Where "Other" Vikings Landed in 2022
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Throughout his tenure in Minnesota, Barr played in 98 games, recording 495 combine tackles, 17.5 sacks, and one touchdown, a game-winner against the Buccaneers in his 2014 rookie season. In the final years of his time with the Vikings, it became obvious that he had lost a step, and the new regime decided to let him enter free agency. He later signed with the Cowboys and played a significant role in their scary defense, playing over 600 snaps.

Now, at age 31 and another year removed from that season, it can be questioned if he can be a significant contributor. However, the depth in the linebacker room is a problem, and the Vikes will certainly need to rely on him at times.

While he has surely lost some of his once-excellent athleticism, he is still a powerful and big linebacker with a frame that is different from the other rostered guys. Ivan Pace, Brian Asamoah, and Troy Dye are all smaller linebackers. In some instances, Flores needs Barr’s size, especially in run defense and as a pass-rusher. Barr can still be an effective player in the versatile defensive scheme.

Eric Kendricks / Anthony Barr
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Rookie Pace will take over from Hicks as the designated green dot player. He will receive the calls from Flores and try to get his teammates lined up in the right spots while also calling audibles. Usually, that role belongs to more experienced players, but Pace called the plays in the preseason, so he has at least some sort of experience.

Regardless of how good he still is, Barr’s comeback is a sweet throwback. The main difference is that he will not wear number 55, which belongs to Andre Carter, but number 54 instead, the jersey number of his friend and longtime teammate, Eric Kendricks.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt