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Most important element of Vikings' defense could be a rookie linebacker

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The position battles are about to begin in Mankato as the Vikings report to training camp in just one week.

Players will arrive at camp on Sunday. The first day of work is Monday, July 26. For rookie linebacker Eric Kendricks, Minnesota's second-round draft pick out of UCLA, it could mark the beginning of a career that has him commanding the middle linebacker position from the start.

The question is: Will Kendricks get an opportunity to start?

“I don’t know if he’ll start but I know he’ll have a role for us defensively," Zimmer said, according to the Star Tribune. "He is a terrific pass-cover guy. If he’s not starting in the base there is a good chance he could start in the nickel.”

Zimmer said Kendricks will likely be battling Audie Cole for the starting middle linebacker job.

Monday Morning Quarterback's Peter King called Kendricks the "most important element" of Minnesota's defense.

"Amazing to think a second-round pick could be the most important element of Mike Zimmer’s defense. But everything around the middle seems bolstered (cornerback is a strength, and there will be enough pass-rush), and the instinctive Kendricks needs to show in training camp that he can be trusted to be at least a two-down player in the Minnesota defense."

Fellow rookies, cornerback Trae Waynes, wide receiver Stefon Diggs and tight end MyCole Pruitt are also expected to push for immediate playing time, Zimmer told the Star Tribune.

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