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Chargers 90-in-90: LB Eric Kendricks

Eric Kendricks, the former All-Pro with the Vikings, will now lead the Chargers defense in 2023.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers Training Camp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Kendricks was born in Clovis, California to Yvonne Thagon and Marvin Kendricks. His father played running back at UCLA and played professionally in the Canadian Football League. His brother, Mychal, played linebacker in the NFL from 2012-2021, mainly for the Eagles (2012-2017) and Seahawks (2018-2020).

His prep football career took place at Herbert Hoover High School in Fresno where he was a do-it-all player as a linebacker, quarterback, running back, punter, and kicker. He was a two-time captain and two-time all-league selection as both a junior and senior. Across that span, Kendricks collected 202 tackles on defense and 24 touchdowns on offense. He would earn a three-star ranking by and the 60th-ranked outside linebacker in the country. Kendricks also earned first-team all-league honors as a senior on both the basketball and baseball teams which led him to being named the 2010 Male Tri-Athlete of the Year at his school.

Kendricks followed in the footsteps of his father buy choosing to continue his football career at UCLA. After redshirting his first season on campus, Kendricks earned three starts during the 2011 season while playing in all 14 games. He finished second on the team with 76 tackles to go with two sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. He hit the ground running as a full-time starter in 2012 where he became the first Bruin to lead the Pac-12 in tackles since 2004 and the first to record 150 or more tackles since Jerry Robinson in 1978. Despite all of this production, Kendricks was only named Honorable Mention All-Pac 12.

As a junior, Kendricks led the Bruins in tackles for another consecutive season with 106. He also added four more tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception, and three pass breakups. he was once again named an honorable mention selection in the Pac-12.

Kendricks punctuated his time as a Bruin with a career year in 2014 in which he recorded 149 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, three interceptions, five pass breakups, and a forced fumble. His efforts earned him the Dick Butkus Award, given to the nation’s top linebacker, which made him the first Bruin in program history to earn the honor. Kendricks was also named a First-Team All-American by numerous publications and ended his career as the school’s all-time leader in tackles with 481.

At the NFL Combine, Kendricks ran an impressive 4.61 40-yard dash at 6’0 and 232 pounds. He also posted a strong 38” in the vertical and a 4.14 in the short shuttle.

Kendricks was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the second round of the 2015 NFL draft. He started his pro career with a strong outing as he recorded 92 tackles and four sacks while starting the year behind Gerald Hodges on the depth chart. He was named to the PFWA All-Rookie team, as well.

Over his next seven seasons with the Vikings, Kendricks accumulated 827 total tackles, 46 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, nine interceptions, two pick-sixes, 50 pass breakups, four forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries, and one fumble returned for a touchdown. Kendricks earned his only All-Pro nod and Pro Bowl invite following a 2019 season where he notched 106 tackles, 12 pass breakups, and two forced fumbles.

On March 14th, 2023, Kendricks signed a two-year, $13.25 million deal to join the Chargers.

Basic Info

Height: 6’0
Weight: 232
College: UCLA
Experience: 8
Years with team: 0

Contract Status

“Eric Kendricks signed a 2 year, $13,250,000 contract with the Los Angeles Chargers, including a $5,500,000 signing bonus, $6,750,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $6,625,000. In 2023, Kendricks will earn a base salary of $1,250,000 and a signing bonus of $5,500,000, while carrying a cap hit of $4,000,000 and a dead cap value of $6,750,000.” -

The Good

Kendricks has been one of the steadiest, most-productive linebackers in the NFL during his eight-year career. He’s best as a cover linebacker where he can use his range and athleticism to disrupt passing lanes and make life hard for quarterback to throw in the short and intermediate areas. While not the biggest linebacker physically, he’s a tough and rugged player with a natural nose for the football. His experience will be huge for a young linebacker room in 2023.

The Bad

Oddly enough, Kendricks recorded his worst coverage grade (46.4) by Pro Football Focus during the 2023 season. While it shouldn’t be brushed aside, the needed context is that he played in Ed Donatell’s system which was so bad this past season that he was fired immediately once their season came to an end. I expect Kendricks to bounce back, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Kendricks is slowing down now that he’s on the wrong side of 30.

Odds of making the roster/What to expect in 2023?

Kendricks will be the top linebacker on the Chargers in 2023 and one of the team’s two starters on the inside along with Kenneth Murray. The team lost Drue Tranquill during free agency but what they lost in youth and potential they got back in experience, leadership, and proven production.