The last year and a half has been a rollercoaster for the Philadelphia Eagles. For one man in particular, that rollercoaster is only just beginning; Mychal Kendricks. After a disappointing season in which which he failed to register more than 4 tackles in a single game and amassed a career-low 36 tackles and for the first time in his career, Kendricks appeared in just 26.8% of snaps. Determined to override the trade rumors and fall from grace, Kendricks had an impressive offseason and dominant preseason.
From interceptions and sacks to some hard hits, Kendricks stood out in preseason and rolled that form over into week one. While he still wasn’t playing as much due to the amount of nickel formations ran by the Eagles, Kendricks continued to hammer away. A sack against the Chiefs made a firm statement, but a 17 tackle game against the Panthers showed the world that the 27-year old isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
The linebacker missed last week’s MNF clash against Washington but will return to action on Sunday which for the Eagles is a huge sigh of relief. Losing a starting linebacker to injury is horrible, but losing the heartbeat of a Defense can be excruciating. Nigel Bradham was left to call the shots and ensure a depleted group of linebackers were lined up correctly. Reinforcements have now arrived…and there may be no better chance for Kendricks to prove his worth.
“It’s a great opportunity for Mychal Kendricks.” Doug Pederson told reporters today. “He’s been a big part of the success on defense already this year. I know his role’s limited because of the style of offenses. A lot of nickel and dime personnel on defense and obviously he was the guy coming out. But now this is a big opportunity for him, and we fully expect him to rise to the occasion just like Big V.”
“He’s going to have to just, again, detail his work. This is a great opportunity for him.”
The opportunity presented to the former Cal Bear goes far beyond Sunday however. The Eagles are in a position of linebacker uncertainty. Nigel Bradham’s contract expires at the end of the season and Jordan Hicks has sustained four substantial injuries in the last six years of his college/professional career. To make things even more enticing for Kendricks, the Eagles have a potential “out” on his 4-year extension he signed back in 2015. If the linebacker fails to impress or the Eagles just want to move on, they can cut Kendricks and actually make a net saving of roughly $1.2M next season (including dead cap space) should they fail to find a trade partner.
The ball is in the court of Mychal Kendricks. After a career-low year that was preceded by having to play in the fourth preseason game, he has bounced back well. But now the team will be relying on his services in the absence of Jordan Hicks. If Kendricks can come in and blow up the run as he did against Carolina and then sustain that for the rest of the season, the Eagles will have no emergency need to replace Bradham if they decide to let him walk. But if he doesn’t, the rollercoaster may be heading for a free fall.
“Just do his job in the defense. And that’s all I ask any of our guys: make plays that come to you, do your job on defense, be a good tackler, play tough, play with effort, and he can do all those things.” Those were the words said by Jim Schwartz earlier this week.
He’s been shopped, he’s been dropped, he’s been knocked down. But now it’s time to see if Kendricks can rise up and overcome the odds one last time to secure his place in this Defense for years to come.
Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports