Last week I wrote about the Eagles coaching staff. I talked about how the coaches were veterans and good teachers. These guys might be new to the NFL, but they know football. They can teach technique. They are experts in the fundamentals of good football.
Young players stand to benefit the most from the new assistant coaches. Think about Mychal Kendricks. Last year he had to learn to play 4-3 SAM. He had to learn Juan Castillo’s unusual system. Mike Caldwell was his position coach. Caldwell was a good NFL LB, but was new to coaching. Caldwell was learning how to coach, while simultaneously teaching Kendricks how to play. Now Kendricks gets to learn from Rick Minter. Things should be better. Kendricks is playing ILB, a role that is a more natural fit. He is playing in a conventional system. And Kendricks will learn from a man who has been teaching kids how to play football for more than 30 years.
Kendricks needs that coaching. Anyone who watched him last year could see his natural gifts. There were times when Kendricks looked like a star. He was able to cover TEs, RBs and even some WRs. According to the Eagles in-house stats, Kendricks was 3rd on the team in both total tackles and solo tackles. He had 8 TFLs and one sack. He deflected 11 passes. Those are solid numbers for a rookie LB.
Anyone who watched Kendricks could also see some issues. He missed too many tackles. He took poor angles at times and was caught out of position in space. The worst moment was when he failed to contain RG3 on a scramble and let Griffin get wide for a good gain. There were some poor moments in coverage. Kendricks failed to force a fumble, recover a fumble or pick off a pass. He’s still got plenty to work on.
His issues have nothing to do with talent. Kendricks needs work on technique and fundamentals. Think about the resources he can now draw upon. Minter has an extensive background as a coordinator and assistant. Bill McGovern is here to focus on OLBs, but he developed Luke Kuechly into one of the best MLBs in recent college history. He might have a nugget or two that could help Kendricks. And while Bill Davis track record as DC is only slightly better than Les Bowen’s as a polka dancer, Davis does know how to coach LBs. He got great results from D’Qwell Jackson last year. Karlos Dansby thrived under Davis in Arizona. Keith Brooking thrived under Davis in Atlanta. You could counter that all those guys were stars anyway, but that’s part of the point. Kendricks has that kind of talent. He needs the right coaches and system to bring it out of him. Kendricks should develop into a top shelf LB.
Most players make their biggest jump from Year 1 to Year 2. If Kendricks can do this, he could become a key player in 2013. He will be in a role that is designed for him to be a playmaker. Kendricks has the skills and athleticism for that. He covers a lot of ground. He can rush the passer. He can cover in the flat or downfield. Kendricks is a tough, physical player. There is no reason he shouldn’t become a star player. I can’t promise that will happen in 2013. He should get headed in the right direction, but it may take another season before he’s able to process everything and shine.
* * * * *
41 – The pass-tackle stop rate for both DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks in 2012, according to Football Outsiders.
What’s pass-tackle stop rate? It goes back to the success rate mentioned above and is the percentage of pass-tackles that prevent the offense from having a successful offensive play. In other words, tackling a tight end after a 27-yard completion is different than tackling him after a 7-yard completion on 3rd-and-9.
The good news is Ryans and Kendricks ranked tied for fourth overall in this category. The Eagles were the only team that had two linebackers with a rate of 40 percent or better.
In a previous edition of Three Eagles Numbers That Matter, we noted that Kendricks missed a lot of tackles last year. But this shows another side: He was around the ball a lot and has big upside, especially in coverage.
* * * * *
Zach Berman had a good piece on Fletcher Cox and Kendricks from a while back. This is a good quote from Kendricks.
Both have noticed a marked difference between their first and second seasons. Kendricks remembered the veterans telling him how much easier the second season is compared with the first, and he is “astounded” by how accurate they were.
“The speed of the game has completely slowed down to the point that I’m thinking a whole lot more faster, seeing things a whole lot more clear,” Kendricks said. “Just the general understanding of the game, of the way the NFL game works.”
There is also a funny bit about how Kendricks taunts Chip Kelly in regard to the 2010 game when Cal and Kendricks played stifling D against the Ducks and shut down LaMichael James.
* * * * *
One change for Kendricks this year is that he will be making the defensive calls. I was surprised when heard this. DeMeco Ryans is a veteran player. Surely you would want him making calls and adjustments. Then it hit me. Only one player can have a radio in his helmet. The Eagles must feel that while both guys will be on the field most of the time, there will be some situations when Kendricks will be the only ILB out there. Give him the radio. Have him make the calls.
I don’t know for a fact this is the reason for him to make the calls, but it certainly makes the most sense.
* * * * *
Chip Kelly certainly likes Kendricks. Check out this quote from a previous piece from Sheil Kapadia.
“He excels in pass coverage, but he’s physical enough to play on first and second down,” Kelly said. “He’s one of the more athletic linebackers in this league, so really excited about his future and what he can do. He can do everything we’ve asked him to do.”
* * * * *
Finally, PE.com has a couple of videos that are worth checking out.
First up, Dave Spadaro talks to Kendricks.
The highlight they show of him tackling DeMarco Murray is a thing of beauty.
It is funny to hear how excited the college coaches are to get to the NFL. No recruiting. No worries about kids going to class (or not going to class). Football. Just football.
* * * * *
Dr. James Bama has up some notes worth checking out. Jerry Jones and Hulk Hogan are now in-laws? Not exactly, but close enough for us to make lots of jokes.