It had been a trouble area for the Eagles for years. They had been getting great play at almost every position except for the three linebacker spots.
For years, the linebacker positions had been like a jigsaw puzzle, with different players being mixed and matched in to try and find the best combination of players, but nothing seemed to work—until this year. And especially at the strong side linebacker spot.
With the 46th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Eagles selected former California linebacker Mychal Kendricks. Kendricks was a very productive player at Cal, playing in all 51 possible games from 2008-2011, while starting 29 games from 2009-2011.
Kendricks compiled 258 total tackles in his four years, where he played outside linebacker his first three years, before moving to inside linebacker his senior year.
So it's not like Kendricks doesn't have experience playing outside. And after two preseason games, Kendricks looks every bit the part playing on the outside, proving Mike Mayock right, who felt pretty confident Kendricks would line up outside for this year, saying via NFL.com:
I thought he was one of the most productive and active linebackers in college football. He's instinctive, he can run, and I think he fits what the Eagles do. They have DeMeco Ryans inside. I wouldn't be surprised to see Kendricks outside.
Kendricks just seems to fly around the field. He just seems to have that instinct of knowing where the ball will be. He has been one of the team leaders in tackles so far this preseason. He posted four solo tackles and one assisted tackle against the Steelers, and three solo and three assisted against the Patriots.
There were knocks about Kendricks' size, some saying he is too small at just 5'11", which may make him a bit undersized. But he is using his incredible speed to his advantage, he has tackling well, almost negating his size disadvantage.
Early on in the draft process, there was talk that the Eagles should go after Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, should he fall to 15 overall. Kuechly, of course, was selected by the Panthers at nine, but so far, the Eagles have found great value in Kendricks at 46.
DeMeco Ryans has played well at middle, but the most impressive linebacker so far has been Kendricks, and it shouldn't be too long (perhaps a couple years) before Kendricks slides in as the middle linebacker.