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Eric Kendricks now the man in the middle of Vikings' defense

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It only took four games and five weeks of the NFL regular season for Eric Kendricks to convince the Vikings that he should be starting.

The rookie from UCLA will make his first career start Sunday when the Vikings host the Chiefs. He's the de facto starter since Minnesota traded Gerald Hodges to the 49ers last week. But Kendricks isn't just the, as football guys like to say, "next guy up."

Kendricks was Minnesota's second-round draft pick and head coach Mike Zimmer on Monday said Kendricks "basically" has been a starter, despite logging only one official start at Denver when the Vikings opened the game in the nickel defense, Vikings.com notes.

The Star Tribune says Kendricks has been on the field more than Hodges through four games: 123 snaps to 89.

“I’m getting more comfortable out there, getting used to the speed of the game, but I have a lot to improve. I’m excited for this challenge,” Kendricks said Monday.

"He is a very instinctive football player," Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said of Kendricks last week, according to FOX Sports North. "Each week, as you see the more reps he's getting, the more comfortable he's getting with the speed of this game. And he makes plays when he's out there."

Kendricks and Anthony Barr started on the same defense two years ago at UCLA and now they have the opportunity to be a dynamic duo for years to come in the NFL. Kendricks recorded his first career sack against Peyton Manning while Barr picked off Manning for his first career interception.

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