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Offseason | 2024

Kendricks on Zimmer's style, state of Cowboys LBs 


FRISCO, Texas — The decision to acquire Eric Kendricks in free agency is already beginning to pay some dividends for the Dallas Cowboys. The pre-draft addition from outside of the building, Kendricks called an audible after agreeing to terms with the San Francisco 49ers and instead decided to bring his talents to North Texas to reunite with Mike Zimmer.

It's a move the former All-Pro linebacker could not be more pleased with having made.

"At the end of the day, I had a choice to make," he said, speaking from this year's Reliant Home Run Derby to benefit The Salvation Army. "It was a good program [in San Francisco] but I think I would've taken more of a reserve role. I feel like I have a lot left to give, and I want to be here and with Mike [Zimmer].

"As a middle linebacker, I want to show my experience and to show my leadership, and command a huddle."

Zimmer is returning to Dallas as defensive coordinator following the departure of Dan Quinn to the Washington Commanders, bringing a hard-nosed, old-school approach that Kendricks is very familiar with from their time together with the Minnesota Vikings.

As the green dot (the player who communicates plays in the huddle), Kendricks will have the ear of every Cowboys' defensive player on each snap but, for now, it's all about helping everyone acclimate to both Zimmer's playbook and expectations going forward.

"I've been in this system for seven years," the former Pro Bowler said. "It's something I'm very familiar with. We're gonna be doing different things here and there, especially with the personnel that we have here. I think it's good that, especially from someone who's giving the calls in the huddle, it can be a singular voice right now — especially as everyone is learning [the playbook].

"I'm already getting more comfortable talking with the guys, communicating, alerting checks and things like that. We're only gonna get better at it as it goes. Obviously, we're still inputting a new system, and it's a complicated one as well, but we're starting off slow and we're doing it the right way."

With the 2024 NFL Draft and undrafted free agency now concluded, the once bare cupboard at linebacker in Dallas is now brimming with bodies.

The current depth chart reads as follows:

  • Micah Parsons (EDGE)
  • Eric Kendricks
  • Damone Clark
  • (R*) DeMarvion Overshown
  • (R) Marist Liufau - 87th-overall selection
  • Damien Wilson
  • Tyrus Wheat
  • (R) Brock Mogenson - undrafted
  • (R) Jason Johnson - undrafted
  • (R) Byron Vaughns - undrafted
  • Buddy Johnson

*indicates redshirt 2023 season

"The room is very talented," Kendricks explained. "[It's] a bunch of good guys. That's what I've noticed about the locker room since I've been here — everybody's really cool, really accepting but everybody also knows how to win games. It's gonna be a real tight-knit group.

"A lot of competition, but we're gonna elevate each other's game."

It'll all begin, and end, with how quickly everyone involved can come together under Zimmer's system and tutelage, a Super Bowl-winning defensive backs coach in Dallas who garners a ton of respect from around the league — now returned to try and again elevate the team to heights it's not enjoyed since the mid-1990s.

The first rule of Zim Club is a simple one: don't make him "grumpy", as the 67-year-old described it in his initial press conference after rejoining the Cowboys.

From there, the rest should quickly fall into place, defensively.

"That guy's a true football guy, through and through," Kendricks said of Zimmer. "He watches [game] film on his off days. He really enjoys it. It's good to be back with him.

"… He has a high standard of performance. He's strict, personality-wise, but he always says, 'You take care of me, I'll take care of you.' I've talked to the guys about Zim but, at the end of the day, ball is ball and we've got to be disciplined and on our cues."

With offseason conditioning now underway and OTAs (Organized Team Activities) and minicamp up next, and training camp to swiftly follow, the work in the latest era of Zimmer has officially begun.

And Kendricks is captaining the transition.

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