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Anthony Barr, who returned to the Minnesota Vikings starting lineup for the first time in over a year, was a welcome sight for Vikings fans. The linebacker garners a mixed reaction amongst Vikings fans. Some rate him highly. Others don’t. What there should be little doubt over, in my opinion, is after Eric Kendricks, he’s the best option we’ve got at linebacker. Nick Vigil has made some nice plays deputizing for Barr in the early games, but he also had a lot of struggles. 

If the Vikings can get back the Anthony Barr of pre-2019, then that will be a massive boost for this defense. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t look like that player straight out of the gate against Detroit. After being injured so long, it will likely take Barr some time to get back to full sharpness. See Danielle Hunter, who keeps getting sharper every week after being injured for a similar amount of time.

Barr looked a step off the pace against the Lions. Coach Zimmer said, “He seemed to be in all the right places.” He didn’t look entirely up to speed, though. Pro Football Focus gave him an overall grade of 50.8. You’d want to see this increase by 20 in the coming weeks, at least. They graded him at 58.5 run defense, 54.7 pass rush, and 50.6 in coverage.

Run Defense and Communication

A key area singled out that Barr should significantly improve the defense is in the run game. Nick Vigil struggled to play in his stead and has been a problem for the Vikings throughout his absence from the team. Statistically, his run defense has been declining the last couple of years, but he has spent much of that time injured. A fully healthy Anthony Barr absolutely should improve this team’s run defense.

The other key area is communication. Barr has always been Zimmer’s communicator on defense. The fact that he came back in his first game with the green dot indicating the player receiving radio communication from the sidelines tells you all you need to know about how highly coach Zimmer regards him for that role. It meant he played every single defensive snap on his return to the team, which was a tough ask. Something Barr acknowledged himself.

Injury Report and the Future

It is a slight concern that his name still appeared on the injury report on Wednesday. Hopefully, it’s just a case of still managing the previous injury, rather than a case of him aggravating the injury on Sunday. We will see how that unfolds over the next couple of days. 

Having restructured his contract before the season starts, this is now a contract year for the former number nine overall pick. In his eighth season with the Vikings, he needs a good run of heath and a good run of games — to either convince the hierarchy in Minnesota he is worth another contract here or persuade other teams to come and get him. There will be an offer out there for a four-time pro bowl and second-team all-pro linebacker. How good that offer is will depend entirely on his performance over the coming months.

The Vikings, as a team, and Anthony Barr himself need him back to his best as soon as possible. This week’s game at Carolina will be the next step.

Christian Darrisaw

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