Leading up to the Eagles playing the New England Patriots on February 4, Sports Talk Philly will be taking a look at the underdogs on the Eagles roster that have made their run to become the underdogs in Super Bowl LII possible.
In this edition, we will focus on linebacker Mychal Kendricks.
Mychal Kendricks entered Cal as a three star prospect, and nearly immediately began to showcase his value. Over his four-year career, Kendricks played in all 51 of the Golden Bears’ games, starting 29 of them.
In his final year, he lead the Pac-12 in solo tackles with 69. He also registered 37 assists for 106 total tackles (14.5 for loss), three sacks, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries en route to being named the 2011 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the year.
Perhaps the biggest boost to Kendricks’ draft stock was his play in Bowl games. Over his four-year career, Kendricks played in two Bowl games registering 17 tackles (4.5 for loss), a sack and a defensed pass in those big games.
2012-14 Philadelphia Eagles Campaigns
After the Eagles selected Kendricks in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, he rewarded the Eagles with strong play. Playing in 15 games his first season, he started 14 times, registered 88 tackles, one sack and 11 passes defensed while playing 88% of the team’s snaps. The only issue that Kendricks had in his rookie campaign was a concussion that held him out of the season finale in New York.
Veteran DeMeco Ryans had plenty of great things to say about the second-year linebacker entering the season.
“Mychal has really grown as a player from year one to year two. His understanding of the game, understanding what’s going on around him, what the other safeties and linebackers are doing around him. He’s doing a better job of communicating, and he’s just growing as a pro.”
Kendricks had plenty of time to recover and came back stronger in his second season. He again played in 15 games, getting the start in all 15. He was an absolute ball hawk with 137 tackles, four sacks, three interceptions, a defensed pass, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. In addition to that, he missed a game mid-season with a knee injury, but still played 83% of the snaps. Add that to the 10 tackles he had playing every snap in the Eagles lone playoff game, and there was great optimism what Kendricks could do if he could remain at full health for an entire season.
2014-17 Philadelphia Eagles Campaigns
Unfortunately, Kendricks was once again not able to remain healthy. He appeared in only 12 games and 66% of defensive snaps due to a calf injury. He registered 108 tackles, four sacks, two defensed passes and three forced fumbles. It wasn’t a bad season, but after his third injury (none of them being the same injury) raised concerns about how Kendricks would be able to hold up in the coming years.
Training camp was a roller coaster for Kendricks in 2015. The entire offseason was filled with trade rumors about the Eagles trading Kendricks. It may be hard to believe from where we sit now, but the acquisition of Kiko Alonso, the signing of veteran Brad Jones, extension of DeMeco Ryans and the drafting of Jordan Hicks made the Eagles seem to have an excess of players at the position. A trade never materialized and, just before the season, Kendricks signed a four-year extension. While Alonso and Jones never really produced, Kendricks again suffered a new injury; this time it was a hamstring. The injury caused him to be limited in two games and miss another three entirely. He was only able to play 52% of snaps, but registered 91 tackles, three sacks, one defensed pass and one forced fumble.
Despite his above average play when he was able to get on the field, Kendricks seemed to suffer from a coaching change in 2016. Jim Schwartz was brought in to be the defensive coordinator and Schwartz likes his guys. Kendricks was not one of his guys. Perhaps this was compounded with the Eagles’ switch to a 4-3 defense as Schwartz told the media that, “It is a little bit new for him, but it’s starting to get toward the end of being new.”
Whatever the reason, Kendricks was only used on 27% of snaps, despite only being inactive for the season finale with a quadricep injury. Due to this, he posted career lows of 29 tackles, no sacks and one defensed pass and his name once again appeared in trade rumors.
2017-18 Philadelphia Eagles Campaign
The low usage did not sit well with Kendricks and he requested that the Eagles trade him. The Eagles told him that they would rather hold onto him and stood firm. Despite his request being denied, Kendricks gave it his all and did well in training camp – so well that Schwartz used him on 59% of snaps during the regular season. The Eagles hanging onto Kendricks proved vital. He missed one game with a hamstring injury, but he and Nigel Bradham have held down the linebacking corps all season despite injuries to Jordan Hicks, Joe Walker and minor injuries to Daniel Ellerbe.
During the regular season, Kendricks posted 72 tackles, two sacks and six defensed passes. He has also registered 15 tackles and a defensed pass in the Eagles two playoff games this season. The season has made Kendricks glad that his request to be traded was denied. He told reporters just days ago that, “If I would have been in a different predicament, we wouldn't be talking about this. I'm obviously sitting here today talking to you, going to the Super Bowl. I don't think I'd want it any other way.”
For a player that has suffered six injuries (five different) over his six-year career and has been dangled in trade rumors nearly every year since he signed an extension with the team, Kendricks has played extremely well for the Eagles. Despite this, he seems to be the forgotten man in the Eagles front seven. With a rotation of defensive lineman, it’s fair to argue that, out of the Eagles front seven, he is the ninth most talked about person that makes up that unit. Yet, his play has been key to the success of the team and is a big part of the reason that the Eagles will be playing in Super Bowl LII.