Sun, 24 Jan 2021

Eric Smith

Dalvin Cook produced one of the best seasons by a Vikings running back in team history and was rewarded with his second straight Pro Bowl selection.

Cook is also up for another noteworthy yearly honor, as he has been nominated for the FedEx Ground Player of the Year.

Fans can vote here for Cook, who is one of three finalists for the award.

The 2017 second-round pick rushed for a career-high 1,557 yards in 2020, which ranked second in the NFL and is the third-highest total in Vikings history.

He also scored 16 rushing touchdowns, which tied for second in the league and is the second-highest total in franchise history. Cook also tallied 361 receiving yards and a score on 44 catches.

He recorded 1,918 total yards from scrimmage, which ranked second among all players in the 2020 season and is also second in franchise history. Cook amassed eight 100-yard rushing performances this past season.

"He's an unbelievable football player, one of the top players in the NFL, in all of the NFL," Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen said of Cook after the 2020 season. "To have him on our team, it's just so fun to be around him, see him work, see him play in games. The things he does, it's like every game you're kind of surprised, like, 'Wow, that was impressive.'

"Him as a locker room guy, as a leader, it's just really fun to be around him and, like I said before, it's fun to see guys like that have success, and I know he will moving forward," Thielen added. "He's a big reason why I'm excited for next year."

Titans running back Derrick Henry (2,027 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns) and Saints running back Alvin Kamara (932 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns) are the other two finalists for the FedEx Ground Player of the Year.

Henry won the FedEx Ground Player of the Week five times in 2020, and Cook won the honor three times.

A trio of quarterbacks - Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes and Buffalo's Josh Allen - are up for the FedEx Air Player of the Year.

Smith, Kendricks named to The Athletic's All-NFC North Defensive team

The overall play of the Vikings defense might have dipped a bit from the recent standards, but there were still a handful of standout performances on that side of the ball.

A pair of them came from veterans Harrison Smith and Eric Kendricks, both of whom were recently named as unanimous picks to The Athletic's All-NFC North defense team.

The unit was compiled by Bob McGinn, who wrote:

The following is the All-NFC North Division defense and special teams as selected by four NFC executives in personnel for The Athletic during interviews Dec. 30. At each position, scouts were asked to rank the players. They were not permitted to vote for their own players or comment about their own players.

A first-place vote was worth 3 points, a second-place vote was worth 2 points and a third-place vote was worth 1 point. There were 24 points available per position. The maximum total per player was 9 points; the minimum total was 3 points.

Kendricks earned the maximum of nine points at middle linebacker despite playing in just 11 games. He missed the final five games with a calf injury.

McGinn wrote:

Kendricks was third as a rookie in 2015 behind Chicago's Shea McClellin and Detroit's Stephen Tulloch. "He's kind of the heartbeat of that defense," said one scout. Kendricks has made the first team for five straight seasons, including three as a unanimous choice. "He's one of the better middle linebackers in the league," said another scout. "Super instinctive, very good in coverage. This guy knows how to play zone defense, and he can actually play some man, too."

Kendricks was credited with 107 total tackles (according to coaches' stats), along with three interceptions and six passes defensed in 2020.

Smith was also a unanimous selection on a team where he has become a familiar name.

McGinn wrote:

This was Smith's eighth time on the first team in his nine-year career. The only time Smith didn't make it was 2014 when he finished as runner-up to Detroit's Glover Quin. This was his fourth unanimous selection. "He disrupts in the passing game," said one scout. "He gets his hands on the ball. He blitzes and affects the quarterback, and he can still tackle. He's the guy you've got to know where he's at."

Smith, who is set to play his 10th NFL season in 2021, led the Vikings with five interceptions this past season. He also recorded 0.5 sacks and helped provide stability to a young secondary.

Eric Wilson and Anthony Harris tied for second at their respective positions at outside linebacker and safety.

Dan Chisena also tied for second as a special teamer.

McGinn wrote:

"Of the next three vote-getters, another scout said: "Chisena's a really fast gunner. Young guy, throws his body around..."

Chisena played 258 special teams snaps in his rookie season, the second-most on the team.

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