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Offseason | 2024

Kendricks: Zimmer D suits Dallas 'very well'


FRISCO, Texas — It's been nearly three months since veteran linebacker Eric Kendricks surprised the masses and decided not to return to his home-state of California to play for the San Francisco 49ers in 2024, opting instead to lead his former mentor's new defense in Dallas under Mike Zimmer once again.

While he is the new guy in the building to most, it's not a foreign experience to Kendricks. After eight seasons in Minnesota — seven of which alongside Zimmer — Kendricks spent the 2023 season with the Los Angeles Chargers. That experience, he says, has him prepared for this one.

"It's been good," Kendricks said of his new environment. "A lot of new faces. I'm the new guy. I did it last year, so I'm familiar with it a little bit. Everyone has been welcoming. The locker room is great."

The beginning of OTAs last week allowed Kendricks to finally put the helmet on and begin the install phases of what Zimmer's defense will look like in 2024. While most of it is Kendricks recalling his former days with Zimmer, new iterations keep him eager to learn like the rest of his defensive teammates.

"Obviously, I have a lot of experience with it," he said. "We're doing things a little bit differently. We've added some new things. I'm still learning. I'm still trying to check my ego, I don't know all the answers."

While that may be mostly true, there won't be a player on the field in 2024 that will be more important to the system's success than Kendricks.

His experience making the calls for previous iterations of Zimmer's defense has allowed him to know exactly what works in certain situations — and what doesn't work. In his eyes, the personnel in place in Dallas has the ingredients for a recipe of success under Zimmer.

"I know the strengths and weaknesses of this defense," he said. "I know what it's capable of. There are a lot of guys on this team that haven't played in this defense, and they don't know it yet, but it suits them very well. I can't wait to see it."

Kendricks and Zimmer did not part ways in Minnesota on the best of terms, if Kendricks’ words in the days following Zimmer's firing were any indication. But these days with a new opportunity ahead for both, the respect remains the same as it did when Zimmer drafted him out of UCLA back in 2015.

"Life's hard," Kendricks said of Zimmer's hard coaching style. "I respect him fully. We had a talk this last weekend, we're excited to have the opportunity to work together again. We're going to play off each other."

"We've had some good years and I can't wait to continue that."

With a 2024 season that has a lot of question marks going in, Kendricks is only trying to be the "constant voice" for a young defensive unit. After a season where physicality lacked in big losses, an approach is being taken to rectify that this time around.

"It's in the meeting rooms, it's a little bit of technique, it's a little bit of guts," he said about what goes into physicality. "It's a mentality. Everybody knows what's going on and being said coming into the offseason. It's up to us to have that mentality to come in and change the narrative. Put the opportunity on our shoulders, put the responsibility on our back, and let's go be physical."

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