Remember all of the hype that surrounded then Philadelphia Eagles rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks just 14 months ago? The athletic, versatile No. 46 overall pick out of Cal was already being declared a draft steal as he put on a show during offseason activities.
Some headlines from those days of unbridled promise and optimism:
That entire defense was bad, though, and Kendricks was forced to start from the get-go with Juan Castillo and the Wide 9 certainly impeding some of his progress.
He still managed to finish third on the team with 88 overall tackles, while collecting a solid eight tackles for a loss, according to CSN Philly's Geoff Mosher, and a lot of people believed he'd excel as a starter in Bill Davis's 3-4-oriented unit in 2013.
Nope. Not thus far, anyway.
Three weeks into the season, Kendricks has earned the second-worst PFF grade in all of football and the worst at the linebacker position by a wide, wide margin.
|Colin Brown||Guard||Buffalo Bills||-25.7|
|Mychal Kendricks||Linebacker||Philadelphia Eagles||-15.9|
|Cortland Finnegan||Cornerback||St. Louis Rams||-12.4|
Pro Football Focus
Poor Angles and Missed Tackles
One year after missing 14 tackles in 15 games, Kendricks is already more than halfway to that total with eight missed tackles three games into the 2013 season. Sometimes, he just isn't smooth or confident in his approach. Other times, he's almost too confident, lacking control. Either way, the results aren't pretty.
Second Quarter, Week 3
Some great players have missed tackles on Jamaal Charles in the open field over the years, so I won't hold this against him too strongly. Still, it's a whiff:
Later in the same game, he has Charles in his grasp. This is tougher to forgive, because it's not an open field situation.
Second Quarter, Week 2
You can't miss Danny Woodhead when he's already being slowed down by a teammate and he's squared up in front of you, right?
First Quarter, Week 3
On paper, this was a good play. Kendricks is credited with a tackle for a loss when he does a nice job reading and aggressively pursuing a sweep to Dexter McCluster toward the right flat. But his angle was actually bad. He over-committed inside of McCluster, despite the fact he had a teammate in place to defend against a cut inside.
Here, I've drawn up Kendricks' angle in red, along with the angle he should have taken in blue:
Kendricks also has the league's worst pass coverage rating, per PFF. In his defense, he faced Antonio Gates in one of those three games, but he just leaves too much space. On the 25 passes thrown his way thus far, 21 have been completed.
First Quarter, Week 2
Against Antonio Gates, he easily gets beat right off the snap:
It got a lot worse against Gates:
The future Hall of Famer was relentless. Here, he again posts up on Kendricks and causes him to fall to the turf:
Kendricks is undersized. That alone doesn't always hold players back, but when it is combined with other factors, it's a problem. At 5'11", 240 lbs, he had a lot of trouble getting off blocks as a rookie and that hasn't changed this season.
First Quarter, Week 3
Here he is getting manhandled by Chiefs tight end Sean McGrath on a Charles run:
Fourth Quarter, Week 3
And another example on a Charles run later. This time, he's being completely controlled for the entire play by fullback Anthony Sherman:
Gates didn't just burn him as a receiver, but also as a blocker:
It Also Just Feels Like He's Constantly Either Lost or Falling Down
This happens to young lads in the NFL, but it happens too often to Kendricks.
First Quarter, Week 2
At the outset of this play, it looks as though Kendricks has a chance to take down Ryan Mathews after a relatively short gain:
It Hasn't Been All Bad
Again, that first game against Washington wasn't shabby. At that point, it looked as though Kendricks was well on his way to becoming a solid starter in his second season, as many had anticipated. He had 10 tackles and made a couple big plays.
First Quarter, Week 1
On the second defensive play of the year, he took a great angle and again made a great read, taking Alfred Morris out of bounds for a three-yard loss.
He also flexed his muscle as a pass-rusher, whacking Robert Griffin III and forcing an intentional grounding penalty near the end of the first half.
The bad, though, clearly has outweighed the good. Right now, Kendricks is a huge liability. That being said, the Eagles might have to suck it up.
If Mychal Kendricks continues to perform at this level, should the Eagles bench him?
First, it's not as though they have better options with Casey Matthews and Jake Knott in the bullpen. And second, it's still a little too early to give up. Even though Kendricks ran in a 3-4 D at Cal, this one isn't the same. And he spent the entire 2012 season trying to adjust to another unfamiliar scheme.
He was miscast as a SAM linebacker for the majority of that ugly rookie campaign. And once he was given a shot on the weak side in December, he showed some signs of progress. He's in the middle now, but there's a chance he'll turn it around late in his sophomore season as well.
So Eagles fans should keep in mind that the dude is only 22 years old, and the coaching staff should—and probably will—give him three more months.
But if he doesn't become someone the Eagles can trust and rely on by the time the 2014 offseason has arrived, it'll be time for the Eagles to look for alternatives.