Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said earlier this week that Ben Gedeon would “probably” be the backup middle linebacker to Eric Kendricks for the first four games with Kentrell Brothers suspended.
In this scenario, backup linebacker Eric Wilson, who had a standout scrimmage on Saturday, would take over the vacant weak-side spot from Gedeon as he fills in for Kendricks.
An important part of the offseason is parsing through coach’s comments and early depth charts to figure out the starting unit in various scenarios, and a scenario where Kendricks is injured and misses time highlights the importance of Gedeon—and how they’re one linebacker injury away from Wilson having increased importance.
The progressiveness of Zimmer committing in early August to being open to moving Gedeon to a different starting spot than his own—if an injury to Kendricks were to take place—reflects the confidence he has in the second-year linebacker, who was a fourth-round pick out of Michigan in 2017.
Zimmer was wary when quoted in the 2016 offseason—after Kendricks' sophomore NFL season—of moving Kendricks around to a different position than middle linebacker, even though he was drafted to be a weak-side linebacker.
But Gedeon, who has natural NFL size for playing middle linebacker (6-foot-2, 245 pounds), already has well-placed trust from Zimmer of being the candidate to move around if Kendricks hypothetically were to go down with an injury.
Kendricks has played in 45 of 48 possible regular season games since joining the Vikings in 2015, and started all 16 games last year for the first time in his career. It's hard to imagine him leaving the field outside of a freak injury, playing in 97.2 percent of the Vikings defensive snaps last season.
Gedeon played only 224 defensive snaps last year, or 24.4 percent of the total defensive snaps, but started throughout the entire year and even opened his 2017 rookie season as the Week 1 starter at weak-side linebacker—becoming one of three defensive rookies ever to ever begin the season as a starter in a Zimmer-led defense (linebackers Anthony Barr and Rey Maualuga being the others).
The Vikings defense often faced teams last season that fell behind on the scoreboard early and needed to pass their way back into the game, so Gedeon's part-time role as the run-stopping linebacker in Zimmer's 4-3 base defense—which Zimmer expects the defense to be in somewhere around 30 percent of the the time in an average year—was more part-time than expected, but the second-year linebacker will enter his sophomore season surely ready whenever—and wherever—his team needs him to be.
Practice, August 9: News and notes
--Linebacker Anthony Barr, right guard Mike Remmers, wide receiver Brandon Zylstra, and offensive guard Colby Gossett all were inactive at today's practice.
--Wide receiver Adam Thielen went off to the side of the field during goal-line drills to get his left arm or hand examined, but returned to the field shortly after.
--Wide receiver Jeff Badet left the practice field after participating in individual drills.
--Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said his first-team offense and defense will get "two series max … the second team will go through until middle of the third quarter, and third-team will take the remainder" when discussing the plan for the first preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings tomorrow, which begins at 8 p.m. CST.
--Zimmer said on left guard Nick Easton being placed on injured reserve, "We're going to figure out a way to get it done, so: Calm. Tweet that. It's my new saying. We're going to get a bunch of Mike Zimmer Foundation T-shirts that say, 'Tweet that.'"
--The Vikings have reportedly reached out to retired offensive lineman Joe Berger about a potential return in light of the news earlier today Nick Easton would miss the entire 2018 season after undergoing surgery to fix a herniated disc in his neck, but Berger plans to stay retired. Berger told the Pioneer Press after attending July 28th's training camp practice that "I don't miss [playing], I honestly don't."
--Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller, who has the fifth-best odds of winning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, will play tomorrow against Minnesota, according to Broncos head coach Vance Joseph.
--Cornerback Tramaine Brock, who joined Minnesota late in the offseason last year, will be a game-time decision against the Vikings Saturday with a hamstring injury.
--Speaking in regard to he and wide receiver Stefon Diggs Wednesday absences from practice, cornerback Xavier Rhodes' said after walkthrough today that he and Diggs are "two competitors who don't want to lose."
--Stefon Diggs said on the story, "Sometimes brothers fight. Me and [Rhodes] still love each other … For me, going out today, I'm excited to be practicing. I'm pretty sure [Rhodes] is. We're just excited to be back to work."
--Zimmer, upon hearing Diggs and Rhodes described their on-field disagreement with the word 'siblings', said "'Juvenile' is maybe better."
Joe Perovich is an on-air announcer and writer at KFAN, and can be reached on Twitter (@JoePerovich) or by email (JoePerovich@iheartmedia.com)